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5 min read

CNAM vs Branded Calling: Demystifying Identity-Enhancing Tech

Understanding the Distinctions & Advantages for Caller Identification and Engagement
Written by
Mary Gonzalez, Brand & Content Manager
Sarah Blantz, Marketing Coordinator
Published on
September 27, 2023

Branded calling has entered the telecom scene as a highly marketed technology that can display a caller name, sometimes a branded logo, and a custom call reason, depending on the solution's reach and the device's capabilities. When used strategically, it can have many benefits for callers considering implementing it, but there still seems to be much market mystery about the scope, reach, elements, and impact of what branded calling does… and can do.  

CNAM is a similar, though slightly outdated, technology that many associate with a different name, Caller ID, but there's a difference. Caller ID is the phone number calling in, whereas CNAM is the accompanying text that provides the identifying name for that number, like the name of a person or a company. They are separate services handled at different points during the call path.  

There is also much confusion about the difference between CNAM and branded calling. It may seem like they both accomplish the same thing, but how they do it tells a different story.

CNAM’s “Legacy”

CNAM, or "Caller Name," is a US-based telephone feature you may have already heard of. It displays the name or information of the originating caller in the Caller ID display of the called parties' device. This could be a company or an individual's name, but it can also be blocked or restricted, displaying as "Caller ID Unknown" or "Unknown Caller." When available, your Caller Name could be displayed as text along with or instead of your phone number.  

Many businesses still use CNAM, but because of its age and limited capabilities, most are switching to branded calling. Here's why:

Display Name Discrepancies in Multiple CNAM Databases
The name displayed is vulnerable to discrepancies because wireless carriers use a combination of crowd-sourced data from 3rd party analytics companies and centralized repositories, known as CNAM Databases, to record the CNAM text for any given phone number. About 8 CNAM Database providers, some carrier-run, others independent, maintain these records. Service providers may subscribe to one or more than one of them, and not all of these databases are equally well maintained and kept up to date, with some more widely used than others. This decentralized infrastructure can lead to issues around the accuracy and accessibility of data and lack of input and control directly from the brand to multiple database providers. Plus, frequently rotating new phone numbers could lead to confused and incorrect CNAM, which is often challenging to track down and fix.  

Registration Requirements
To change your CNAM, you must register the new information with the CNAM providers. This can involve a multifaceted process, including identity validation, legal documentation, and additional agreements.

Propagation Delays
Even after your CNAM has been changed, it may take time for this change to propagate across all the carriers' databases. Depending on the provider and wireless carrier, this delay can range from a few hours to several days.

Cache Issues
Some systems cache CNAM information for efficiency, meaning that even after a change has propagated, the old information may continue to be displayed until the cache is refreshed. This can also result in additional delays.

Brand Consistency Challenges
Ensuring that your CNAM displays consistently across various carriers and networks can be nearly impossible. Disparities can lead to customer confusion and distrust, negatively impacting brand image and customer engagement.

Illegal Spoofing
CNAM technologies have been around for quite some time, and without standardized regulatory or Know Your Customer (KYC) measures in place, this “identity enhancing” interface can easily be manipulated via call spoofing to make illegal robocalls seem more legitimate by displaying your business name on a scam call.  

Choosing to Brand Your Calls

With more and more subscribers distrusting the voice channel, the need for a better identity-based technology has led to the introduction of branded calling. These solutions have built off the principles behind CNAM technology and aim to add another layer of trust to the calling ecosystem by validating a set of rich call data (RCD) elements, such as a caller ID name, to display on the called party's device so they know exactly who is calling and why.    

Branded calling is currently only offered within the wireless calling ecosystem, whereas both wireless and wireline carriers can utilize CNAM. However, the static nature of the databases referenced leads to challenges in the accuracy of the display, which is determined by the carriers. But with branded calling, enterprises can actively control their brand's identity displays.  

Branded calling technologies aren't without their own set of limitations:  

Reach of Presentation Layers
Contrary to popular belief, branded calling is still only reaching a limited number of consumer wireless devices, and most can only receive the caller ID name and not the branded logo that’s being overpromised in the market. Only wireless devices, not landlines, can receive this information, and the display varies greatly depending on the device, any applications concurrently downloaded, and the subscriber network.  

For example, iOS devices can only receive caller ID names and do not support any further branding elements despite being one of, if not the most, widely used mobile devices. About 90% of Android devices can receive the caller ID name and not the logo, while only 8-10% (by approximation) can receive the full graphic display with logos, but only on Samsung devices subscribed to the AT&T network.  

Price Point
Still relatively new and not yet widely adopted by the industry, branded calling can be a costly solution to implement if the right cost vs. benefit strategy isn’t in place. Costs per branded call vary, but depending on your telco provider, can be 10 to even 100 times more expensive to deliver than un-branded calls. For high-volume dialers, this may prove too expensive of an approach to increasing contact rates or brand impressions to consider. Truly maximizing the technology (for the price) means gaining a deep understanding of the KPIs you’re looking to influence by presenting branded elements, such as a caller ID name, and how much that will positively impact your bottom line.  

It Won’t Actually Increase your Contact Rates
Despite the marketing claims, it isn’t a good idea to brand all your phone call attempts. Not only is this a costly approach, but our analysis of calling strategies has shown that this isn’t practical for every type of call campaign. While branded calling can reinforce brand recognition for potential buyers, it’s essential to consider the intent of the call and where it falls in the customer outreach journey.  

Where contacts are waiting for or are receptive to your outreach, displaying your branding gives them the added confidence to answer or respond later to your call attempt. Where contacts aren’t aware of why you’re calling them, branding may work against you to enable them to ignore you.  

For example, consider branding customer service calls or requested callbacks since those customers are awaiting your call, but you may want to reconsider branding telemarketing, sales, or collections calls that customers may try to avoid anyway. We encourage our customers to look beyond the answer rate and consider other KPIs like goal completion and conversion rates when considering whether or not a branding strategy is right for them.  

Lack of Phone Number Protection
The truth is, branded calling, in and of itself, doesn’t keep your phone numbers or calling identity protected, which is a bigger issue now than in the days of CNAM. Plus, if you’re not branding all your phone calls, the un-branded ones are especially vulnerable to improper scam or spam labeling events, or network-blocking, depending on your dialing practices. Adding branded calling to some or all of your numbers will be like building a house of cards without proper number protection.  

Smart Branding: Get More Out of Your Branded Calls

Numeracle's Smart Branding solution redefines the management of call display by enabling intelligent, customized branding choices so you control exactly what's being delivered on call screens without having to update your CNAM in multiple databases. Instead, brand the calls that make the most sense to brand while protecting the rest via a reliable phone number reputation management platform.

Rather than an all-in approach, which can lead to high costs, our strategic method allows you to start small and iteratively refine your strategy while comparing branded and non-branded campaigns to make informed decisions. This allows for strategic enhancement of your branding efforts without a complete overhaul or prohibitive costs, adding value precisely where it matters most.  

If you're curious or ready to implement a branded calling strategy, contact us today.

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