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The town of Mayo is dressing up its name, at least for a few days.
The small north-central Florida town has changed its name to "Miracle Whip," as part of a branding prank to draw attention to the city and the Kraft Heinz salad dressing product.
The city on Saturday unveiled its water tower with the new name atop it and hosted a picnic with foods made with Miracle Whip. In exchange for being known as Miracle Whip for several days, the city will get up to $25,000 in city beautification funds.
As part of the prank, city officials initially were to act as if the name change was permanent. "We aren't going to be boring Mayo anymore. We are going to be Miracle Whip!" the city's mayor Ann Murphy said. "I definitely think this will put us on the map."
The Kraft Heinz promotions team then planned to capture video footage of residents talking about the name change and swapping out the mayonnaise in their refrigerator with Miracle Whip. (By the way, Miracle Whip includes many of the same ingredients – oil, eggs, vinegar and water – as mayonnaise, but does not have enough oil to be called mayonnaise.)
But in a small town such as Mayo, which has fewer than 1,500 residents, the fact that the name change isn't really permanent is not expected to remain a secret for long. "Everybody knows everybody. It's been kind of difficult to keep everything under wraps," said town clerk Linda Cone.
The city of Mayo – named after confederate colonel James Mayo – is the county seat of Lafayette County, the state's second-least populous county. The area's largest employer is a state prison.
The city, and Kraft Heinz, got plenty of attention in the escapade including a story in The New York Times, as well as coverage by local TV news stations and newspapers.
The Miracle Whip joke is just the latest lark to boost brand equity and city coffers. Two months ago, it was the Domino's pizza chain, which paid for fixing potholes in the small town of Milford, Del. In exchange for topping the fixed potholes with the Domino's logo and the saying, "Oh, yes we did," the city got $5,000.
But not everyone found Mayo's move funny. In the attempt to keep the event secret, the city council met during a closed session – a potential violation of the state's open meeting laws, says Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation.
"If this is all supposed to be a big joke perpetuated on residents, I expect they probably violated the law to pull it off," she said. "I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but seriously, I don't think they thought this through."
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