US Dialtone wanted to attract a more upscale client base. A traditional phone service company catering to people with credit challenges, it needed to rebrand after it launched a new Internet-based service giving users complete control of their local, long distance and Internet service.
MC Communications (MCC) created a mystery campaign featuring US Dialtone's (USDT) president and CEO followed by national and statewide press tours to build awareness of the company's new focus.
MCC identified 150 top journalists to target with a four-part mystery mailing to generate interest and make a memorable impression for the reporters' first introduction to the rebranding attempt.
'Our approach was to design a fun, unique and somewhat mysterious method that would pique the curiosity of editors and reporters,' says Bruce McElroy, MCC account manager.
The contents of the mystery mailings included one plain brown folder, one manila folder (marked 'updates to follow'), one unidentified photo of USDT president and CEO Robert Mahler, one pink memo note, each posing a different question. The questions were increasingly puzzling, beginning with 'Who is this guy?' and continuing with 'What is he doing to control your phone service?' and 'Why should Southwestern Bell fear him?'
For the first four weeks, none of the mailings offered the name of either MCC or USDT. Mahler's identity was not explained, and none of the questions were answered. Because Mahler would be the spokesperson on the press tour, MCC hoped that putting his photo in the mailer would help spark recognition among journalists.
The mailings were sent out four consecutive weeks leading up to the press tour. The final mailing contained a mug shot of Mahler with a bio and information sheet on USDT stationery answering each of the questions previously posed.
Mahler headed up a national press tour with stops in DC, New York and Chicago. He also spoke with market and financial analysts via a three-day national teletour following the press tour.
To prepare the CEO to meet the press, MCC put him through an intensive media training program where staffers gave him talking points to follow.
The campaign yielded interviews with The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and USA Today. Locally, interviews were conducted with publications such as The Dallas Business Journal, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Chronicle, The Houston Business Journal, The San Antonio Express News and The Austin American-Statesman.
The campaign also garnered coverage in Telephony magazine, Xchange magazine and several stories in Interactive Week.
USDT is planning a dollars 47 million national ad campaign that will include radio, print, direct and Web-based e-mail.