"If you think of what Oscar Mayer traditionally does with hot dogs, it is kid-focused," says Jim Lord. "You may even remember the jingle," he says, referring to the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener" song, a mantra among children since 1963.
But the company decided it needed to expand its franchise to adults, a task that fell to Mr. Lord, 35, then senior brand manager for hot dogs.
"People out there want more robust hot dogs," says Mr. Lord, now senior brand manager on the marketer's lean cold cuts. "They have memories of hot dog stands and ballparks. We were trying to provide that kind of hot dog for consumers who wanted it, to tap into their memories."
The question was how to provide adults with a hot dog flavor that triggered memories of ballparks and vendors. That was accomplished by creating a variety of flavors, because hot dogs are highly regional in nature.
The deli-style "dirty water dog" (100% beef with garlic) recalled with delicious affection by New Yorkers, for example, has a wholly different flavor than the smoky link favored in the Midwest and the spicy dog enjoyed in Texas.
That was what was done with the new Oscar Mayer Big & Juicy. Six flavors of the bigger, darker, vendor-style hot dogs were developed, to appeal to regional tastes. Then it fell to agency J. Walter Thompson USA's Chicago office to come up with a way to introduce Big & Juicy. To promote the oversize hotdogs, a larger than life character was then signed: boxing champion George Foreman.
"George is a kind of a big kid," says Mr. Lord of the boxer's selection. "He is a personable, funny guy that comes across on camera. He was an easy choice."
By Memorial Day 1993, retailers considered Big & Juicy a success. By the end of February 1995, sales of Big & Juicy soared 163% to $29 million, according to Information Resources Inc.
Another knockout punch by Foreman.