How do you top a 27-foot-long Wienermobile?
For Oscar Mayer, the answer lies in a summertime road rally with plenty of hot dog puns.
The brand is pitting its fleet of hot-dog-shaped Wienermobiles against each other in its first-ever Wienermobile Run, a campaign it says will give fans "unprecedented access to the most popular and longest-running mobile marketing tour in America."
In the Wienermobile Run, six teams of drivers - recent college graduates known as Hotdoggers - are asking fans where and how they'd like to see the Wienermobile to help them earn points, give away freebies, and ultimately be crowned Champion.
Starting July 9, fans are encouraged to visit a new site to pick a favorite team. Fans can then help their teams earn points. To differentiate the six vehicles, Oscar Mayer says each Wienermobile has been given a unique name and persona: #HellOnBuns, #SpeedyWiener, #Autobuhn, #DriftDog, #BornToBun, and #Bunderstruck.
Other ways Wienermobile teams can earn points include receiving fan photos of Wienermobiles on Twitter and Instagram with the appropriate team hashtag and fan submissions for team challenges on WienermobileRun.com, as well as securing photos with famous landmarks or people and fulfilling so-called "Wienermobile Dreams," such as taking a bride and groom to their wedding.
An Oscar Mayer rep says more than 23,000 fans joined teams in the program's first three days and the brand has received 300 user-generated challenges so far.
According to Tom Bick, senior director of integrated marketing and advertising at Oscar Mayer, the Wienermobile's origins go back to 1936, but the vehicle has existed in its current form for about 25 years. Today, each of the six vehicles are manned by a team of two Hotdoggers in a yearlong program in which they drive to retailers throughout the country to interact with customers and push good will.
Wienermobile Run is an effort to update this familiar concept. What's more, the promotion gives consumers a reason to interact with the brand long after their encounter with the vehicle itself.
"You cannot drive a Wienermobile into a parking lot and not have people scramble," Bick says. "We saw evidence of a behavior that was happening already, but not funneled by us. People were coming up with their iPhones and posting photos on Facebook."
Now that natural desire among consumers to have their pictures taken has more meaning because they can use hashtags and earn points for their teams, he says.
"Here's this great American icon that generates a moment of sheer almost childlike pleasure and all we've done is given a chance for people to play with us even more," Bick says.
In addition, after making its mark on popular culture with campaigns like, "My bologna has a first name..." and "I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener...," Bick says Oscar Mayer was thinking about retooling the branding because it was starting to "feel a little dated."
"We need to make sure the brand feels more progressive and contemporary," he says. "We were almost cutting-edge 20 years ago, but it feels like we've fallen asleep at the wheel."
Ergo, Wienermobile Run is a deliberate effort to revitalize Oscar Mayer's brand positioning.
"We need to remain progressive," Bick says. "My goal is to have Oscar Mayer be a better marketer than soda or beer companies and we have a brand that can do that."
He says the campaign is "really about being culturally relevant" and tapping into emerging customers in the 21-to-27 age range who haven't always been in the Oscar Mayer family. It's about being a "hipper, cooler, funner brand that's a little more tech-savvy," Bick says.
In addition, the campaign includes no paid media.
"We're trying to use social media in a smart way with the assets we already have," Bick says. "We believe there is a strong almost organic following behind the program. I don't think we have to use a lot of traditional media to drive earned media in this one. The traditional media is the vehicles themselves."
Oscar Mayer has 857,000 likes on Facebook and @oscarmayer has 7,300 followers on Twitter. (@Wienermobile has 8,000 followers.)
The brand is also using #WienermobileRun to promote the campaign.
Oscar Mayer is part of the Kraft Foods Group.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
March 19, 2014