News

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | November 05, 2011

"Creativity involves breaking out of the established patterns in order to look at things in a different way."
Edward De Bono

I love the way creative people challenge my traditional way of looking at things. Rosabeth Moss Kanter said, "Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility." 

That must have been what Carl G. Mayer, nephew of Oscar Mayer, did when he invented the original Wienermoblie in 1936, an automobile shaped like a hot dog on a bun that is used to promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products. 

Although gas rationing kept the Wienermobile off the road during World War II, in the 1950's Oscar Mayer and the Gerstenslager Company created several new vehicles using a Dodge or Willys jeep chassis. Over the years the chassis and size have been changed. The most recent version built in 2004 has been updated to include a voice-activated GPS navigation devise, an audio center with a wireless microphone, and a horn that plays the Wiener Jingle in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova. 

The hot dog theme is obvious throughout the Wienermobile. The dashboard is shaped like a hot dog and the driver's seat is relish-colored. Above the driver is a computerized "condiment control panel." Instead of a sunroof, this vehicle has a "bun roof." 

A fleet of seven Wienermobiles exist and they can travel up to 90 miles per hour. Each one has its own identity with unique license plates like "YUMMY" to "OUR DOG" and from "RELISHME" to "WNRMBL." 

In 1988 Oscar Mayer launched its Hotdogger program where recent college graduates are hired to drive the Wienermobile through various parks of the nation and all roads. Both current Hotdoggers and Oscar Mayer recruiters visit college campuses across the country in search of the next round of Hotdoggers. Candidates are screened from an average of 2000 applicants. 

Every March a pool of 30 final-round candidates are brought to Kraft and Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin for interviews. Each vehicle can hold two Hotdoggers, and twelve people are chosen who then attend Hot Dog High where they learn the company's products and history as well as receive specialized driver's training. After taking the Hotdogger oath and graduating, new Hotdoggers travel the country for one year. 

All the news about the Wienermobile has not been relished. In June 2002 a Wienermobile crew was grilled by police after driving on a road closed to commercial traffic near the Pentagon, just outside Washington, D.C. The Hotdoggers were pulled over, questioned, then directed to the nearest exit without a ticket. 

On February 11, 2008 a Wienermobile slid off Route 15 outside Mansfield, Pennsylvania due to icy conditions. A few other mishaps are part of the Wienermobile story such as running off a residential street into a house deck in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, and rear-ending a car in Diboll, Texas, to name a few. 

In 1988 Al Unser, Jr. took the Wienermobile for a test lap at the Indy 500. It has even appeared in two movies. 

In the summer of 2011 a special edition Wienermobile Food Truck debuted in NYC's Times Square before hitting the road to serve up some franks in celebration of the Wienermobile's 75th anniversary. 

What a tribute this odd shaped machine has been to the creativity of Carl G. Mayer. No wonder Jeff L. Richards said, "Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun." 

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people create with their hands. Others create with their voices. For everyone, creativity begins with our minds. We see things without our eyes and we hear things without our ears. And, if Carl G. Mayer could create a Wienermobile, what possibilities are there for us. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu