- Kraft Foods brand Miracle Whip reportedly paid the town of Mayo, Florida, between $15,000 to $25,000 to temporarily change its name to Miracle Whip and carry out a prank on its residents, the website Inc. reported. Miracle Whip is marketed as an alternative to mayonnaise, or "mayo."
- The plan was to prank the Mayo's more than 1,200 residents into thinking the name change was permanent, as Miracle Whip videographers filmed their reactions when they noticed street signs and other elements in the town were changed, including a water tower. The team wanted to document what happens when the residents were asked to give up mayonnaise, possibly in favor of Miracle Whip. Residents likely become more aware of the stunt after it was disclosed by town officials and also covered by the AP, Tampa Bay Times and on a local TV station's website, per Inc.
- Mayo's town leaders reportedly held a meeting with Kraft Heinz that was closed to the public to work out the details of the prank. However, the closed meeting may have been illegal under Florida's Sunshine Law, which allows open access to government meetings.
Miracle Whip has often gone on the offensive in its marketing war against mayo, but the latest stunt represents a fairly complex ramp up in those efforts, including collaborating with a Florida town's leadership and changing local landmarks to be branded with the Kraft Heinz label's name. While this might be an attention-grabbing strategy, it's also one that clearly came with risks and even potentially violated state laws.
While outcry over the prank doesn't seem to be especially vocal, it might also be a case of "no PR is bad PR." Other companies have recently courted controversy and backlash in a similar manner. Inc. called out IHOP's name change to IHOb earlier this summer, with the "b" promoting the chain's new line of burgers. In the wake of the announcement, many fans of the diner chain were flustered, though the switch-up proved temporary. IHOP claimed in its second-quarter earnings report that the campaign helped quadruple burger sales and generated 36 billion earned media impressions.
Some research has tried to put the marketing industry adage's about bad publicity to the test. A study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business published in 2011 found that this approach really only works when brands are unknown, since negative press can drive brand awareness.
The Miracle Whip stunt also comes at an interesting time for parent company Kraft Heinz' condiment business. The marketer recently brought a Real Mayonnaise product to the U.S. in a bid to more closely compete with rivals like Hellman's. To help promote the new spread, Kraft Heinz created a social media poll gauging interest in a ketchup-mayo combo called Mayochup.