Official Site of Chris Zona

Marketing, Branding, Communications, and PR Professional

...And Part Time Marathoner

It’s Been Awhile. A Long While. The Road Will Do That To You.

Posted on 03 Sep 2019 in Professional | 0 comments

It’s been—according to Google—607 days since I last posted on my site, and frankly that is unacceptable.  If I claim to be well-versed in helping brands grow, I certainly haven’t shown that with my own personal brand.  I will just fall back on the ages-old excuse of marketers being great at marketing everything except themselves.  Like the contractor who builds masterpieces for his/her client only to come home to a set of stairs on the back deck that have been begging for repair for the better part of the past decade.  

The #ROADLIFE team with the men and women who keep Thompson Pass clear

We can all agree that I have really dropped the proverbial ball over a span of almost two full years—21 months to be more precise.  And as I write this, I am wondering to myself “what has kept me so busy over that span?”  And the answer that immediately jumps forth is #ROADLIFE.  While only a fraction of my key areas of responsibility for work over the past two years, it has dominated much of my life—both professionally and personally.

The season #1 adventure took us to 32 cities over 136 days.

For those who don’t follow along with me—and I am fully aware that is 99.99% of the people out there—it started as an idea at a local watering hole (shout out to Single Brothers in Winston-Salem, NC) on a random weekend in the fall of 2017.  That fall day (let’s call it a Friday) my colleague (Mark Urmos) and I were talking about how we could better showcase just how important the trucking industry is in keeping the world moving.  It was something that I had considered previously, and it brought up an idea that I had a year or two earlier about completing a cross-country journey with customers in their trucks.  Different customers.  Different trucks.  Different jobs.  All with the same purpose to keep their promises to their customers and quietly—without fanfare—make sure that everything kept moving, just like it was supposed to.  

Mack—in my mind the first name in trucks—was uniquely positioned to tell those stories.  In fact, we both thought that it was Mack’s duty to tell those stories.  It was Mack’s, and by proxy our, duty to tell the stories of these people who are out there every day before dawn and up way past sundown doing the things that nobody ever notices unless they are left undone.  With a full product offering that has such a breadth and width that it encompasses every industry, we knew we had the ability to tell the stories, we just didn’t know if we had the human resources needed to pull it off. Additionally, we didn’t know if we would have the support of Mack’s senior leadership in attempting such a project. 

Most people dream of being in front of the camera. We wanted to be behind it, and behind the story.

That all changed somewhere between the second and third beverage as we put together a mental pitch deck in our heads to try to make our business case to our bosses.  And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Fast forward to present day (September 2019 for those of you who are keeping track) and we are knee-deep in our second season of #ROADLIFE.  A nine-episode inaugural season led to a follow-up second season with 16 episodes—4 of which, as of today, have been released.  I could sit here and write about how it has been an amazing effort in branding and promotion (and trust me, the metrics speak for themselves).  I could chest beat and tell you how many sales leads were captured in the first season that led directly to truck sales (again the numbers wouldn’t lie).  I could tell you any number of things to try to convince you that this “ad within a story” moved the needle.  But while I initially set out to write a whitepaper on the merits of our content marketing strategy, I have barely made it 650 words and now I have decided that I would rather explore the adventure that was #ROADLIFE. 

Our work took us to the far corners of North America. This time to Valdez, AK

I believe it Mark Twain who said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Well since January of 2018, I have truly enjoyed telling the stories of the men and women who do great things with our trucks.  It has been a pleasure, and an honor, to spend time with these people.  To share meals with them.  To share stories with them.  And most importantly, to share moments with them.  While it has—many times—been hard work telling these stories, it has been a rewarding experience.

From the streets of New York City chasing garbage trucks that also plow snow; to spending a day with NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack and his dad Sandy at our production facility in Pennsylvania; to road-tripping with rising country star Steve Moakler as he brings music to his fans.  From hanging out with the King of NASCAR–Richard Petty—and the sport’s only African American driver–Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr.—and the “Good Squad” who bring the show from city to city.

This photo needs no caption. It only needs “The King”. Mr. Richard Petty.

From inspiring female stars in the trucking industry to an incredible story of an 8-year old (at the time) named Ryan Hickman who—in addition to being wise beyond his years—is saving the world one bottle and can at a time.  

-40 degrees Celsius on the ice roads of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

The first season was 32 cities in 136 days and over 32,000 miles of early mornings and longer evenings.  The second season was even longer as we started in Valdez, Alaska before spending a week in the coldest temperatures I have ever experienced (-40 Celsius) on the ice roads of the Northwest Territories and then capped off our first month with a trip to Montreal, Quebec to see how a brother and sister combo run a truck fleet that—quite literally—keeps the lights on in Canada’s second-largest city.  

I could keep typing and give you a complete memory dump of all the great things that #ROADLIFE has exposed me to, or I could just direct you to visit or to experience the adventure for yourself.  

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