From Hotdogs to Blueberries
When Colleen Craig graduated from DePaul University in 2004, she landed the ultimate post-college dream job. She was chosen to be an Oscar Mayer Hotdogger.
“It’s a very intense six-month interview process. They interview thousands of graduating college seniors from all around the country, and they select 12,” she said. “I had to sing the jingle on camera.”
Colleen attended Hot Dog High, a two-week training program where she learned how to drive the iconic 27-foot Wienermobile, how to deal with the public and the media, and of course, how to relish numerous hot dog puns.
She and another Hotdogger drove from site to site, sharing the enthusiasm of people who would smile and wave when they saw the Wienermobile drive by. Others would rush over when they saw the vehicle parked, eager to get their photo taken or ask for a wiener whistle.
“It was a great opportunity to see the country, and it was the perfect foundation for my future career,” she said. “You’re delivering the same message and the same information hundreds of times, but for that person it’s the only time, so you really have to maintain this level of enthusiasm and make sure that every experience is really memorable,” she said.
At the age of 23, Colleen learned grassroots marketing skills. In addition to fielding the same jokes and puns and jokes over and over, she was coordinating media, scheduling tour stops, and booking hotel rooms.
Fortunately, it wasn’t.
Colleen landed other jobs in marketing, including a position at a public relations firm in the Chicago area at which she worked on an account for McDonald’s. Through this job, she rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago with Ronald McDonald and also attended Hamburger University.
In 2013, Colleen decided to move to Portland. Growing up in Connecticut, she used to visit her aunt in Maine every year and spend time at Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk.
“I’d been coming to Maine my whole life. I used to refer to Maine as my Disney World because I just loved coming here. It was my happiest place on earth,” said Colleen. “I wasn’t born in Maine, but I got here as fast as I could.”
She furthered her career in marketing in Portland and when working on a seafood account attended the Lobster and Salmon Academy, a training program for industry leaders. “I feel like I really rounded out my post-college food-specific credentials,” she said with a smile.
Colleen then took on a job which had her traveling a lot from Maine to Boston and London. She decided to find a job that was more stationary, one that would allow her to spend time in her new home state.
She went to an interview at Jasper Wyman and Son’s, and in July 2019 landed that “best last job” she had been looking for.
Colleen loved the history of the company, which has deep roots in Maine. Wyman’s grows, packages, and markets wild Maine blueberries, and also sells other frozen fruits like raspberries and strawberries. It was founded in 1874 in Milbridge and is a fourth-generation, family-owned business. It was a great story that hadn’t been told yet in a big way, and she was excited for the opportunity to help the company tell it.
She also enjoys the people she works with and the job itself, which is different every day.
“I’m hoping to work here the rest of my career,” she said.
Many people recognize Wyman’s as something they get in the freezer aisle of the grocery store, but there’s a lot more to the company. It has a rich heritage and brand equity, yet it also has a real passion for product innovation.
It also has strong ties to the community and has a mission to get people to eat more fruit as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“If we do our job well, then we provide a bigger benefit beyond ourselves,” said Colleen.
She believes it’s important to stay sharp. She is taking a course in the frozen food industry and will be able to add knowledge that to her list of food credentials.
Though Colleen grew up in Connecticut, her family is from the Midwest. She can trace her ancestry to farmers. She was raised with an appreciation for the land, farming, and the sources where food comes from. Her family was also frugal, and she was taught that having food in your freezer is like money in the bank.
“My freezer is full of Wyman’s products. I absolutely believe in the quality of our products,” she said. “We are the number one brand of frozen fruit in the country because we have a superior product.”
And she not only works for a company that preaches the importance of eating fruit, she takes the mission to heart and makes sure to eat two cups a day. Two of her favorite ways to eat wild blueberries are on her oatmeal in the morning and in homemade chia jam, from a recipe on the company’s website.
Thinking back over her work experiences, Colleen says, “The Wienermobile is considered the ‘dogfather’ of Experiential Marketing. It’s such a powerful vehicle to impact, influence, and deliver a unique experience that fuels other media. I was fortunate to start my marketing career as a Hotdogger and to learn from the ground up the importance of creating a one-to-one memorable experience and positive association for a brand, every single time.”
She sees her early experiences as valuable in a way that becomes ever more apparent, the more high-tech life gets. “I’ve applied the lessons I learned on the road in every job since and continue to believe that despite the thousands of new channels to reach people online, in-person community engagement is one of (if not the) most effective way to generate brand interest and loyalty.”