Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Despite its long culinary history and simple oil-egg-acid formulation, mayonnaise has become one of the most polarizing condiments. As with many aspects of American life, there is no middle ground on mayo: It has been called a scourge of millennials and "the devil's condiment," but still dwarfs the sales of ubiquitous toppings like ketchup and mustard.
For over a year, Kraft Heinz has leaned into the divisiveness with a brand platform that champions its take on the product as "the Mayo of Mayonnaise," and its latest campaign embraces the unique and peculiar connections consumers have with mayo.
"Mayo Rituals" launched in August with a series of ads that celebrate consumers who paint mayo on each fry; dip mayo-slathered sandwiches in even more mayo; and take big sniffs of a fresh jar of the condiment. Each spot beings with a warning — reminiscent of tests of the emergency broadcasting system — that lets viewers prepare for what's next, whether they love or hate the condiment, and ends with the tagline "Let Your Mayo Freak Flag Fly."
"We wanted to tell mayo lovers we know that mayo haters can bring you down sometimes, but it's okay: we not only recognize these weird, quirky little rituals that you have, but we're actually celebrating them," said Katie Johnston, copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy New York, the agency behind the campaign.
The campaign refreshes the "Mayo of Mayonnaise" platform by positioning Kraft Mayo as not just the brand for people who love mayo, but the ones that really love mayo. But after narrowing down a long list of mayo rituals to the three that appear in the 15-second spots, Wieden+Kennedy decided to try to get a reaction out of mayo haters, as well.
"That's how we got on to the idea of having the viewer advisory warning at the top of each of the spots, not only to give mayo haters a chance to look away, but to also embolden mayo lovers even more," Johnston said.
In addition to the warning-label spots, the agency made a separate "censored" version that pixelated out the mayo, which it used as part of a Hulu ad choice placement. The campaign also includes out-of-home (OOH) advertising that features zoomed-in photos of food that is covered wall-to-wall in mayo.
"I was imagining two people walking down the street and one loves mayo and one hates mayo and they both see the same billboard and one is like, 'Oh, God,' and the other one is like, 'Actually, that looks pretty good,'" Johnston said. "We made [the OOH ads] 95% mayo, 4% food and then 1% copy. Mayo by itself says and does so much without even really needing to add much to it."
A polarizing platform
"Mayo Rituals" builds on a handful of previous campaigns made in partnership with Wieden+Kennedy that tie into either the condiment's divisiveness or other controversial, polarizing topics. Overall, the efforts look to spice up a refrigerator staple that has often been synonymous with blandness.
"Mayo has been on the shelves for like 100 years, and [Kraft] wants it to not just be another mayo on the shelf — they want to actually stand for and represent something to mayo lovers," Johnston said. "They have been so great about wanting to really push work outside of what every other mayo brand is doing."
Previous oddball efforts have included helping consumers overcome an “irrational fear” of mayonnaise, a condition the brand described as “mayophobia," and an astrology-centered campaign that offered personalized readings about consumers' futures based on the unique way they spread mayo.
"We are taking a stand and cementing ourselves as the brand with the strongest voice in the intense and divisive conversation around the polarizing nature of Mayo. Mayo Rituals and our other recent campaigns are all inspired by reaching our fans and championing them to revel in their individuality," said Frances Sabatier, brand manager of Kraft Mayo, in a statement.
Divisiveness and individuality flows down to the people behind the campaign, as well. The Wieden+Kennedy team — across all of its Kraft Mayo projects — is a mix of mayo lovers and mayo haters, giving the agency a good sense of what will resonate with each group of consumers.
"It serves as a really good barometer for how far we push this, because, inherently, the more mayo love we show through our work and the more passionate we are about it, the people who are have a very visceral reaction in a negative way to mayo are gonna react equally the same amount, but in the other direction," said Wieden+Kennedy's Yurie Park.
That litmus test has helped to inform future projects in the Kraft Mayo pipeline that all try to get consumers to reconsider established household brands like Kraft Heinz and Kraft Mayo.
"That's the type of unexpected feelings that we want people to grasp onto for engagement," Park said.