With 'American Idol' splash, Kraft launches biggest mayo marketing push in years

Kraft Foods isn't holding back when it comes to its new line of mayonnaise. The food giant kicked off a multi-million dollar marketing campaign for its Sandwich Shop Mayo brand during one of the most expensive commercial spots on TV: last night's finale of American Idol.

While the new products, which include four flavors of mayonnaise ranging from reduced fat chipotle to garlic & herb, have been in some stores since April, Wednesday's finale of American Idol may have been the first time many consumers had heard of the new spreads. Kraft says the campaign will cost several million dollars and represents its biggest push for mayo products in several years.

The new commercials feature the judges of HGTV's popular cable show Design Star, who take the stage in a mock makeover-show format (to see the ads, click here.) In Wednesday's debut commercial, judge Vern Yip tells a beige-clad couple that they can break out of their dull sandwich habits by adding Kraft Sandwich Shop Mayo in Chipotle to their pantry.

The campaign will also include two other TV spots featuring Design Star judges Candice Olson and Genevieve Gorder. The three-minute spots, as well as 15-second spots that work as teasers for the longer commercials, will run in June. The Mayo line will also be touted in two-page ads in Real Simple, Oprah and other publications this summer.

The ads take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the "serious" issue of making over a sandwich. In a behind-the-scenes video, one woman admits she contacted a designer because she wanted to "break the cycle" of bologna on white bread ("I was lying to myself," she says. "We were living a stale life." In a jab to a Kraft rival, she says that Hellman's "lied" to her by telling her it was the only mayonnaise to eat.)

But was the American Idol airtime worth the cost? While buying ad time on American Idol will get the new line of mayos in front of millions of eyeballs, it wasn't as many as in previous years. The finale was watched by 24.2 million viewers, representing a 16% decline from last year's 28.8 million viewers. Nevertheless, the finale remains one of the few TV programs viewers scheduled their lives around, which was one of Kraft's goals in picking a venue in which to debut the campaign.

Whether consumers will be able to differentaite between Kraft's Miracle Whip, which many people think of when they hear "mayonnaise," and the new Mayo line is another question. Amy Monroe, brand manager for Kraft Mayo, said in an email that the company is targeting women between 35-to-54 years old with the new products, while Miracle Whip's marketing goes after younger adults between 18-to-35 years old.

"We think there's plenty of room for consumers to enjoy our new flavored Mayo products and Miracle Whip," Monroe wrote. For the Mayo line, Kraft is appealing to consumers who "are open to new ideas and choices in every aspect of their lives. And the fact that 3 of our 4 new Mayos are half the fat and calories of regular Mayo also help fit into her lifestyle." To help spice things up, the company is offering two free samples of the mayo to consumers who register on the Kraft site.

Given the humor and wit of the Mayo ads, Kraft's biggest problem may be losing Miracle Whip fans to the new Mayo line.
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