(Sacramento Bee (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 14--You're not likely to forget the sight of an RV-sized vehicle resembling a giant peanut rolling down the highway.
And that's the whole point of the Planters NUTmobile, a roving marketing tool introduced by the famous snack food company.
Sacramento-area residents will have several opportunities to greet the NUTmobile starting Friday. From noon to 5 p.m., it will be at the Raley's supermarket at 10430 Twin Cities Road in Galt. From noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, it will be at the Bel-Air market at 7901 Walerga Road in Antelope. The weekend wraps up Sunday with a noon-to-4 p.m. appearance at Bel-Air market at 2341 Sunset Blvd. in Rocklin.
Visitors can take photographs of the vehicle, take a look inside and greet the snack firm's iconic mascot, Mr. Peanut. Planters peanut samples will be handed out at each stop. Started in 1906 as a nut company, Planters today is a division of Kraft Foods.
The NUTmobile follows in the tire tracks of the hot-dog-shaped Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, multiple versions of which tour the nation touting Oscar Mayer hot dogs and meat products. The first Weinermobile appeared in 1936. Since then, vehicles crafted into the shapes of well-known products -- Zippo lighters, Peeps marshmallow treats and even Spam -- have hit the road.
So, how successful are these vehicles in winning brand awareness and public recognition of their respective products?
"Let me put it this way: I bet you more people can identify the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile in one glance (than could) identify most Toyotas, Fords and Chevys," said Peter Schaub, a New York-based marketing and branding expert. "I don't have any detailed marketing analysis in front of me, but from a pure visual identification standpoint, the Weinermobile and its ilk are valuable. They're a physical representation of a product, and they stick in the public's memory."
The NUTmobile visiting the Sacramento area is one of three making the rounds nationwide and the first to tour the West Coast. In 2011, the company unveiled an environmentally friendly NUTmobile with a biodiesel engine, low-energy LED lights, rooftop solar panels and recycled materials.
Drivers of the NUTmobile are called Peanutters, and each has a snack-themed nickname. One of the Peanutters coming to Sacramento is Taylor "Tasty Tay" Higgins, a May graduate of the University of Illinois. She said Kraft Foods/Planters tends to hire new college graduates for the NUTmobile tour; her driving colleagues recently graduated from the University of Michigan and the University of Florida.
Higgins said she and her fellow NUTmobile drivers get plenty of "strange" and "confused" looks from people as the 26-foot-long vehicle travels on public highways. "A lot of people take pictures," she said.
Higgins said the NUTmobile is headed next to Portland, Ore., but will make a swing through Stockton at the end of this month. The NUTmobile's U.S. tour can be tracked at nutmobile.planters.com.
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