Thirteen and one-half years ago, a great man was taken at an early age. His name was Dick Brams.
Thirteen and one-half years ago, a great man was taken at an early age. His name was Dick Brams. He died at 45, leaving a wife, Brenda and a son, Michael. Not only was he the best marketing manager I ever knew, his legacy is of legendary proportions. First and foremost, he was a dedicated father and husband. He did nothing in his few hours of spare time without Michael and Brenda.
You see, Dick invented the Happy Meal—and I was privileged to be a witness.
As McDonald’s regional marketing supervisor, Dick’s responsibilities were to coordinate efforts of the franchisees with the corporation to effectively advertise McDonald’s products and promotions. Dick was unique in that he would present the company point of view and listen to the owner’s concepts--then give his own honest opinion. This wasn’t always popular with top management. More often than not, Dick’s bosses wanted their programs sold to the operators. Brams was often under the gun, but the owners loved him.
Ideas are king: their sources, commoners
Brams was a character. You couldn’t invent him if you tried. The closest comparison to him was Tom Hanks' character in the movie, Big.
When you walked into McDonald’s offices in St. Louis in the 80’s you’d see a lot of sophisticated looking people dressed to the nines in business togs. If staffers were in the field, they left neatly stacked, organized desks and shelves. There were no doors on the offices, so you couldn’t help but see what was going on inside them.
As you passed Dick’s office, more times than not, you’d do a double take. His desk was a cluttered mess, but he was rarely sitting there. Inevitably, he’d be lying on the floor, tie askew or off entirely, more times than not with his young son, Michael, playing with Legos or Astrosniks or whatever toy Dick was thinking of getting for the product that was his claim to fame—the kid’s extra value meal AKA the Happy Meal.
Dick, while quirky, was always upfront and honest. A gentle soul with a child-like imagination, Dick wasn’t emotionally prepared to deal with some in the corporation who didn’t want to accept some of his eccentricities.
Rumor has it that Dick once picked up the Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s from the airport. The elegantly garbed boss was taken aback by the junk in Dick’s car. I mean most people carry their spare tires in the trunk, not the back seat. Dick was a round peg trying to fill a square corporate hole.
And speaking of planes, Dick was one amazing trip, in and of himself. He was scared to death of flying. Instead of clutching the arms of his seat or attempting to force himself asleep, Dick would go up and down the aisles and talk to everyone about the safety features of the plane, the history of its crashes and what each thought about their chances of surviving the flight. One time he approached two nuns deep in prayer before take-off and asked if they knew something. After all this, he came and sat next to me, magazine pulled to my face so I’d be hard to ID.
But the way he thought and felt was his advantage and downfall. Those in charge didn’t recognize how frail and sensitive he was. They grated on him for some ridiculous trite standards when his job was to create, while keeping a cooperative relationship between McDonald’s Owner/Operators and management. He was A-One in both categories but he wasn’t built to tolerate badgering.
The calorie and sodium of the meal itself wasn’t an issue when Dick was around. Now that we’ve all been educated, McDonald’s healthier choices are prominent today, including the Happy Meal.
Dick made a lot kids and parents happy. Adults have been big fans of the toys, as well as children. There are adults who collect and trade the toys on eBay and other trading sites. They have annual conventions. Some of the toys were complete blowouts. People hoard their stash of Beanie Babies like they were holding on to gold.
The real key is that Dick Brams was a quadruple win man for McDonald’s—customers, owner/operators, management (more often than not an obstacle) and stockholders. Dick is a guy who gave the gift that keeps on giving. His invention still brings millions of profit to the all those involved with McDonald’s on all sides of the counter—and lots of fun for kids and parents alike.
Dick’s life was far too short but his legacy is forever.
It goes without saying that Brenda and Michael still mourn and miss him. As a 39-year McDonald’s Owner/Operator and a friend, I believe that I represent all who knew Dick when I say; I miss him—a lot.
As friend to Maximus in the movie Gladiator, Juba said upon his death, “I will see you again—but not yet…not yet”
Dave Weinbaum is a regular contributor of one-liners and commentaries to regional and national publications and Web sites, including the Reader's Digest, National Enquirer, and Forbes and is a regular pundit for the www.jewishworldreview.com Readers can reach Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.daveweinbaum.com