Weinermobiles have been a part of food maker Oscar Mayer's hotdog marketing campaign for 77 years. Now, the company is updating them for the mobile age.
Each Weinermobile – there are six of them operating across the United States, one in each of six territories – is a home away from home for its driver and a crew member for one year, from June to June, as they tour their area traveling from fairs to festivals to conferences and media events for new shopping centers and more.
And while they drive across the nation, the two-person crews – officially called "Hotdoggers" by the company, want to stay in touch with friends and family back home and with their fellow Hotdoggers on the road. To enable this, the company has sent the Hotdoggers out with work-issued laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones so they could communicate from their hotel rooms, said Ed Roland, the senior experiential and scale marketing manager for the Kraft Foods Oscar Mayer unit.
There's only one problem: their daily calendars, which are their key scheduling and organizing tools, were available only through their secure work laptops. That meant that the Hotdoggers couldn't constantly check their schedules, add appointments, confirm hotel reservations or perform work-related tasks on the fly because connectivity was unavailable until the crews were nestled in for the night, said Roland.
"Their calendars are their bibles," said Roland. "They tell them where they're going to be, who they're going to contact and when they're going to be arriving there."
They couldn't solve the problem by bringing their own smartphones because Oscar Mayer bans work-related calendaring and communications from personal devices because of security concerns.
That's all about to change, according to Roland. Oscar Mayer is in the process of developing its own mobile app to allow Hotdoggers to securely log into the company's scheduling systems from their company-issued tablets or smartphones, wherever they are located. They'll even be able to stay in touch from inside the Weinermobiles, thanks to on-board WiFi capabilities that were just added this year.
The changes will make it easier for the Weinermobile crews to do their jobs. "The Hotdoggers pitch local media people as they travel the country, identifying reporters in the markets they go to," said Roland. They book their own hotels and make other arrangements as well, so they'll now be able to be more productive on the road and in-between event stops.
The new mobile app for smartphones, tablets, and laptops is expected to be ready for testing by May with a rollout slated for June, he said. The app, which hasn't yet been named, is being built internally.
One other big technology change is coming for the Hotdoggers – in June they'll be trading in their work-issued Android smartphones for iPhones. Presently the work-issued laptops used by the crews are made by Hewlett-Packard, while the tablets are from Samsung.
The Hotdoggers will still want to travel with their own tablets and smartphones, though, since their company-issued machines won't allow them to view some websites and won't allow them to watch streaming media such as Netflix, according to Roland. Their work-issued smartphones also have limitations on the number of minutes and texts they can use.
"No one truly understands what it's like to have to be happy every day," said Roland with a laugh. "That's part of their job. So by the end of the day, they want to be able to sit down at night and watch Netflix on their computer. They want their personal stuff."
The Hotdoggers' adventures can be followed on their own blog page about "Life Inside the Weinermobile."