Freebirds was the center of my undergraduate universe. There are so many stories there that could fill so many posts, and maybe someday when I'm done dissertating and parenting I'll get around to writing those.
I wanted to put one particular story down for posterity now, though, mostly because I have an uncredited piece in what turns out to be a growing meme: "Unwrap My Monster," and while I have claimed this in conversations for years, I've never made any permanent claims. Not that claiming to originate the phrase on my blog counts for much, but at least its here. So, here's the story.
Sometime in 2002 (I think, the memory is hazy) Alan Hixon, then the head of the Freebirds Business Office was working brand image and marketing. They brought in a marketing guru (I forget who it was, but I remember them plugging Flight of the Buffalo) who, in addition to suggesting a focus on the burrito as Freebirds signature item (which eventually led to the demise of preparing tacos and quesadillas on the grill-grr!), suggested a two-tiered marketing program. One tier would be store-specific and each store got a budget to spend as we saw fit. James Crane headed up the Rock Prairie initiative which was a one-off music festival in the Kroger parking lot (I was out of town on the day of--I think for a funeral--and really regretted not being there). The second tier was to be a company-wide initiative.
I forget whether or not the idea of a customer loyalty program had been adopted before our big meeting, but that was the strategy that was adopted for the whole company. All of the GMs and Assistants were called to a meeting at the corporate office and were asked to bring ideas to workshop. Crane and I did some research on innuendo-based marketing (e.g. In-and-Out Burger, "Make 7 - Up yours") and brought a t-shirt concept to the meeting with a stylized burrito bearing the slogan "Eat Me!" In the course of our presentation, someone piggybacked and shouted out "Eat My Monster!" (maybe Jenny O.?) and then I responded with the slogan that is now famous, "Unwrap My Monster."
Click here see the widespread impact of "Unwrap My Monster.