Opinion: Companies need to have more creative marketing

Ana Nelson, Columnist

This past week, I visited Urbana-Champaign with a few friends for dinner. While I was there, I saw the Planters Peanuts NUTmobile roaming the streets. Seeing a giant peanut car was surprising to say the least, but then something even more surprising happened immediately after. As soon as the Nutmobile rounded a corner and drove away, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile rolled through. The best way to describe the feeling was like seeing a double rainbow. Seeing one of these “mobiles” is definitely a memorable experience, from little kids taking their picture in front of it to curious onlookers stopping and staring. Do these cars make me want to buy peanuts or hot dogs more? No, not really. But, the experience of seeing a freak of nature car like the NUTmobile or the Wienermobile leaves a lasting impression which is the kind of creativity companies need to have to get consumers interested. 

Outlandish marketing schemes such as the NUTmobile and the Wienermobile are one of a kind. According to both the Planters and Oscar Mayer websites, both companies had the idea to create cars that endorsed their brands in the 1930s. In 1935, the first peanut car was created. In 1936, Oscar Mayer followed swiftly behind, but with a much bigger idea; instead of a regular sized car, a 13-foot long hot dog car that would later grow to 27-feet long.

 Both brands gained huge popularity because of their ridiculous cars and became sensations. The NUTmobile has been reinvented countless times, from hot rods for NASCAR to huge cars made out of sustainable materials. The Wienermobile has also expanded its operation to what they call the Wienermobile fleet. Oscar Mayer currently has six Wienermobiles driving around the country while the NUTmobile downsized its fleet to one. Both brands hire interns, typically college graduates, to drive the cars cross-country, typically giving away memorabilia and spreading smiles nationwide. Both companies have had incredible success from these feats of engineering, but the real question is why?

In modern times, marketing has become more and more difficult to get right. With scripts that fall flat and barely 15 seconds of screen time, it’s a challenge more than ever to create a marketing campaign that actually reaches consumers. Some companies have been able to get through to the masses with just TV commercials alone, but with media becoming quicker and attention spans thinning, a marketing campaign with a person on screen saying to buy something just doesn’t cut it. Enter the Wienermobile. Instead of on your screen where you can click away at any time, a crazy car is real and right in front of you. It would take a lot of effort to look away from something as silly as a giant hot dog car on the street. Additionally, since it is such a rare occurrence, you are more likely to remember the NUTmobile if you happen to come across it, thus remembering the brand, as well. 

In order to earn the attention of buyers, companies need to think outside the box and get really creative. Strategies like the Wienermobile and the NUTmobile are iconic and recognizable by any and all generations. For something that could’ve failed massively, the sheer absurdity of a giant peanut car is exactly why it is a successful marketing strategy. Perhaps leaning into such craziness is what brands need to kickstart their products.