I’ll admit that I have an above-average fondness for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
I wouldn’t describe it as an obsession, or even a fixation, but I do know that several people who know me typically think of me when the topic of the iconic marketing vehicle (literally and figuratively) enters a conversation. And for that, I make no apologies.
It’s one sleek piece of machinery, both inside and outside. In the two times in recent years that it was on the show floor at the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), I made sure to make the time to check it out.
Also, when my youngest son was still in the Cub Scouts, I created a Pinewood Derby that resembled the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
So you can imagine my displeasure when I saw a press release from Oscar Mayer parent company Kraft Heinz, stating that the company was “changing the vehicle’s name for the first time since it first hit the road in 1936.”
It will now be known as the Frankmobile.
According to the company, the new name “pays homage to the brand’s 100% Beef Franks as it debuts a tasty new recipe with a more balanced flavor profile and iconic beefy taste that is more flavorful than ever.”
And a picture that accompanies the press release shows decals along the part of the vehicle that resembles a bun that read “The All Beef Beef Frank Frankmobile.”
On some levels, I get it. Hot dogs often get a bad reputation because of what people perceive to be the ingredients. And wanting to promote the 100% beef aspect and tout it as a superior product makes sense. But why mess with a good thing?
Well, maybe they weren’t entirely, I thought. In reading the release, I saw that “the fleet of six vehicles” features that lettering. Not knowing if the entire fleet involves six vehicles or more, I got to thinking maybe just some of these Wienermobiles will be renamed, and possibly this is just a temporary promotion and then it will go back to being named what I think it should be.
So I reached out to the company to ask what the plan was.
A spokewoman for Kraft-Heinz in rather short order sent me an email that read: “The Frankmobile is a name we're trying out to see if it cuts the mustard with our fans. All six Wienermobiles are now Frankmobiles and are hitting the hot dog highways this summer to spark miles of smiles and unite fans around a love of meat.”
While she gets credit for the use of a clever pun, I’ll just say the name doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s already an iconic vehicle, and Frankmobile just doesn’t have the same pizzaz.
What about turkey franks?
An another note, Oscar Mayer also produces turkey franks and Kraft Heinz is the country’s sixth largest turkey producer. Are we to assume that the company thinks the beef franks are superior to its turkey franks? It appears Kraft Heinz is, albeit probably unintentionally, dissing the turkey industry, of which it is a significant player.
But I think the company was at least somewhat cognizant of that possibility. In the release, Oscar Mayer Brand Manager Stephanie Vance said: "When Oscar Mayer makes anything, we prioritize taste over everything, so no matter what kind of hot dog you enjoy this summer, if it’s Oscar Mayer, you know it will be 100% tasty, and 100% make you smile.”
What’s in a name?
Part of me wants to be polite and let Kraft Heinz run with this promotion, but I also want to respectfully but urgently request that they go back to the original name and put a stop to this foolishness.
I guess I’ll just let the company do as it sees fit, because somehow, I just don’t see this name change resonating with consumers and fans, despite the fact that Frankmobile is easier to spell. However, the vehicle has been beloved as the Wienermobile too long, and at least for me, it will continue to be.