Mobile marketing can trace its roots to 1936.
That's when Oscar Mayer rolled out its first Wienermobile on the streets of Chicago. Oscar Mayer's nephew, Carl, dreamed up the idea of a mobile frank to generate awareness and buzz for the hot dog. The Wienermobile has continued to evolve over the past 75 years playing a critical role in the meat company's marketing. Here's a recent CNN report on the anniversary.
With my newly framed journalism degree in hand from James Madison University in 1995, I began my PR and marketing career as a Hotdogger for Oscar Mayer in Madison, Wis.
This year-long journey would take me to 38 states covering some 62,000 from the windshield of a giant wiener on wheels. My job as a Hotdogger included:
- driving the 28-foot-long super sausage,
- coordinating hundreds of special events,
- creating a magical Disney-like experience for every visitor,
- auditioning kids for TV commercials,
- serving as an official spokesperson and goodwill brand ambassador, and
- generating positive media coverage.
In my unique PR and marketing role, I was one of just 12 Hotdoggers traveling the back roads of America in one of six custom-made and highly quirky vehicles. We worked in teams of two.
Did you know? U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin likely is the most famous Hotdogger. That’s no bologna.
My unforgettable tour ran from June 1995 to June 1996. During this time, I met thousands of people, held babies, visited a women's prison, entertained CEOs, visited children's hospitals and visited countless Piggly Wigglys and Wal-Marts.
During the countless encounters that I had each month with the public, I found myself answering many of the same questions with the same pun-laden responses.
- Do you sleep in there? “No. It's not a ‘Wienie-bago’.”
- Do you have a wiener whistle? “Yes. Here's one. Would you like to hear me play the Wiener Jingle.”
- How did you get this job? “I cut the mustard.”
- Is it hard to drive? “You have watch your buns in traffic.”
Meat-filled puns were a big part of the job ...
Meat-filled puns were a big part of the joband stopping for gas could take 45 minutes as crowds quickly would gather to see the then newly christened company car.
In 1995, Oscar Mayer launched state-of-the-art Wienermobiles complete with ketchup-mustard walkways, seating for six, a rear-navigation camera and the biggest buns that I'd ever seen. Before my big dog was ready about a month into my assignment, I drove a vintage 1967 Wienermobile in the Southeast.
On the NASCAR track in Charlotte
From driving on NASCAR tracks and along Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras parades to supporting Oscar Mayer's half-time sponsorship of Super Bowl XXX in Arizona, my year with the Wienermobile paved the way for a strong foundation in PR and marketing.
Stay tuned next week for another blog posting about "Five PR Lessons I Learned from Driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile."
Jonathan Rhudy misses his old company car and doesn't think the family's Honda Odyssey is nearly as cool, but he is a sucker for custom rides and vanity plates.