Neuroscience Explains Why Vanity Phone Numbers are Easier to Remember Than Random Digits

vanity phone numbers
vanity phone numbers

You’re in your car and see an interstate billboard for a florist. In a flash, you remember that tomorrow is your mother’s birthday. Send Mom flowers; you remind yourself. You glance at the florist’s phone number at the bottom of the billboard as you zoom past it at 70 miles an hour.

If that phone number is 800-FLOWERS, you’re in luck.

If the digits are random, forget about it. Because that’s exactly what your brain is likely to do long before you can reach a rest stop where you can safely use your phone and dial all those random digits.

Phone numbers like 800-FLOWERS or 800-GoFedEx are called vanity phone numbers. They have letters or combinations of letters and numbers that have a literal meaning. They make up promotional messages describing or promoting the business, and this messaging is much easier to remember than a seemingly disorganized sequence of numbers.

Here’s why.

Working Memory Helps Explains Why Vanity Phone Numbers Work

Our brains get sent 11 million bits of information every second. But they can only successfully process 40 or 50 of those data bits. What this means is that the vast majority of what’s happening around you gets missed.

Don’t worry. It’s mostly useless information we’re missing. For instance, if you pass a stranger on a crowded street and someone later asks for a description of what that person was wearing, you have no idea what or who they’re even talking about.

That individual didn’t get “processed” because you didn’t know them or recognize them, and nothing stood out in their demeanor, attire, or way they walked. So, in other words, you didn’t need that particular data.

When we know that something is important, we put our brains to work to try to remember it. That process is called working memory. When it’s a sequence of numbers - such as a phone number- we’re trying hard to retain, that working memory process is called a phonological loop. This is us trying to make sense of a sequence so we can store it in long-term memory.

But here’s the thing. We struggle with retaining a random assortment of numbers because numbers only have symbolic meaning. What’s a “two?” What’s a “four?”

If it so happened that a seven-digit phone number represented your day, month, and year of birth, or the ages of your kids from oldest to youngest, your brain might easily retain that number. At least for a while (until, perhaps, your kids’ ages no longer line up so conveniently).

But that memory storage process would only work for you. Most others trying to recall that same number wouldn’t have those same references, so they’d have to rely on memorizing a random collection of digits.

Good luck with that.

Vanity phone numbers, on the other hand, make up letters and words that have a sort of (hopefully) universal meaning that ties back to the business.

Memory Chunking Helps Us Remember Vanity Phone Numbers Too

It’s not enough to just form those phone digits into words. The words must allow your brain to connect them with the business quickly, easily, and cleanly. Neuroscientists would refer to this process as memory chunking.

This blog post uses chunking. The bits of information are not presented as one horrifically long single block of copy. Instead, it’s divided into subheads and, from there, further divided into paragraphs and then long and short sentences.

U.S. phone numbers work that way. First, the three-digit area code. Then, the three-digit prefix followed by the four-digit line number. As difficult as a random number sequence structured that way can be to memorize, it would be even harder if you had to try to retain it as a ten-digit sequence with no space breaks.

Vanity phone numbers take chunking to the next level. Whatever the digits that make up the Federal Express customer service number, 800-GoFedEx, works a lot better. You basically only have to know a two-letter call to action (“Go”) and the company’s commonly shortened name. That’s it.

Work With an Experienced Vanity Phone Number Partner

What promotional message makes an ideal vanity phone number for your business? Which numbers are available? That’s the kind of conversation to have with the vanity phone number experts at

We make companies memorable to their audiences with relevant and strategic vanity phone numbers that make it to long-term memory and motivate action. Visit or call us at (800) 800-4321.

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