When Advertising Goes Bad

"We are MW, and we will not tone it down."

"Honk if you're not mayo"

Kraft Foods has been trying to rebrand Miracle Whip as an "edgy" condiment. A condiment appropriate for the outsider. A condiment for the young radical. 

In simplest terms, Miracle Whip is mayonnaise mixed with salad dressing making a sweeter, bolder-tasting spread that can be used in place of its more refined cousin. Developed in 1933, the new "salad dressing spread" premiered at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago. According to the Kraft Foods archivist (seriously), the spread was a "instant hit". All that sugar appeals to an American palate.

By comparisonmayonnaise was invented in France in 1756 by Duke de Richelieu's chef. In 1905, the first ready-made mayonnaise was sold at Richard Hellman's New York deli and, in 1912, mayonnaise was mass marketed and called "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise. 

Mayonnaise has never felt the need to rebrand itself. Maybe that's the prerogative of a condiment that is a staple of French cooking and has been around for over 250 years.

Regardless of which condiment is "better", this post is about advertising and the, frankly, painful-to-experience campaign to make-over Miracle Whip (now referred to as MW).

Stacy's Deviled Eggs
Additional ads include: Drew's Sandwich, Jim's Artichoke Dip, and Debi's Potato Salad
Available on YouTube.com

The mass-produced food industry is no stranger to overwrought ad campaigns that try to convince a gullible public (usually children or young adults) that snack chips or breakfast cereal or American Cheese Food is so radical and awesome that the buyer will gain some borrowed equity of coolness by the sheer act of having it in their cupboard.

There is something so forced and "wrong" about these campaigns. Certainly, those of us who work in marketing, advertising, or business can recognize what these companies are trying to do and (hopefully) don't fall prey to the message. But, what about people who DO actually fall for it? If Kraft Foods screams it loud enough and long enough, how many people will start to believe that they'll be as provocative and cutting-edge as the MW ads imply?

There is no doubt that we all choose our brands based on the perception we wish to project. However, is it reasonable to expect people to think of Miracle Whip as a cool, radical product instead of a standard ingredient in most 1950's salad recipes?

To their credit, Kraft's 2012-2013 campaign focused on the polarizing nature of mayo versus MW. It was a very risky move. It's possible that a consumer could identify with the mayo-loving celebrity instead of the MW-loving celebrity, thus swaying them over to mayo. Although, the sheer nature of the campaign was to admit that people were already deeply entrenched in one camp or the other. If nothing else, it was a fun campaign that recognized and celebrated the "battle of the condiments" even if it didn't seem to advance the product in any significant way.

Kraft may have been better served by more directly acknowledging its roots and updating the narrative. Happy families creating new food memories with the addition of Miracle Whip would have been a lovely nod to the past while re-introducing the product to a younger audience. But, that's not the direction they chose. Perhaps because Hellman's Mayonnaise was celebrating their 100th anniversary and advertising nostalgia and recipes, MW felt that they needed to position themselves as diametrically opposed.

Either way, it's tough to make condiments interesting. Perhaps the best (and possibly the most successful) ad campaign for a condiment was Grey Poupon's "One of Life's Finer Pleasure's". These informative and slightly humorous ads transformed the Dijon mustard into a common household staple.

Grey Poupon was acquired Kraft Foods in 1999. In 2013, Kraft "updated" the original, groundbreaking ad with this version:

The 2013 ad was nominated for an Emmy award for best commercial. Kraft seems to be nothing if not predictable in their advertising approach. Funny, sure. But how does it advance the brand?

So, what brought on this little treatise? A text message that read: "Do you find Miracle Whip's insistence that it's an "edgy condiment" as bizarre as I do?" which lead to a five minute discussion of how annoying the campaign is - at least to Cassandra and me.

What camp are you in? Are you an outsider? Radical and ready to challenge the world with your bold decision to use Miracle Whip? Or are you old-skool and enjoy the refined ("boring" according to Kraft) taste of mayonnaise? As I write this, I'm eating french fries with mayo to dip. I guess you know which camp I'm in. ;)

Don't fall prey to crazy ad campaigns people! Take it from a marketing and advertising professional. Find brands you can believe in and choose your products wisely. My words of wisdom for today.

- Alex


  1. Personally, I don't require my condiments to be "edgy" nor do I need to be proud of my condiment choices. It's just a sandwich spread, for goodness sake! Silly, silly, silly and it makes "MW" (I groan as I type that, by the way) look desperate.

  2. Sad...MW was my choice YEARS ago when I switched to MAYO..ONLY KRAFT. Tell me please, why do we even need MW? What is it's real place on the shelf? No company tries to copy it and market it under their brand. Just wondering.

  3. Mayo all the way! Always have been, always will. The other stuff is wayyyy too sweet. yuck!

  4. "There is no doubt that we all choose our brands based on the perception we wish to project."

    Heaven above, your perception makes me weep. Reminds me of in college when people would write, "As any fool can plainly see," in order to avoid providing facts. I like the new bottle. It'll make it easier to find the Miracle Whip quickly on the shelf so I can get out of there before I run into one of you crazy oil-soaked Hell-made condiment eaters. (In case you didn't know, MW can't be called mayo because it's oil content is too low.)

  5. Hellmann's mayo and Maille old style mustard for me. For a very long time. Edgy condiments as a concept has made me laugh!


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