ORLANDO ó Mayo, Fla., is holding the mayo, at least for a few days.
The mayor of this tiny town of less than 1,500 residents, located where Floridaís Panhandle morphs into a peninsula, was announcing Saturday that the city is switching its name to "Miracle Whip." But itís a joke.
The name change started as a secret, tongue-in-cheek marketing proposal for the Kraft Heinz-owned mayonnaise-alternative. Videographers for Miracle Whip wanted to capture the shock of residents when they hear that the name of their town is being changed to a corporate brand. Representatives of the condiment planned to spend the next few days filming their jocular efforts to get residents to remove mayonnaise from their homes.
The townís elected officials say they will let residents in on the joke after a few days, but not before street signs and the name on the water tower have been switched out. The town, located halfway between Tallahassee and Gainesville, is getting between $15,000 and $25,000 for the name change, and the money will be used for city beautification measures.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Mayoís mayor ran with the concept, insisting it would be a good idea to make the name change permanent.
"We arenít going to be boring Mayo anymore. We are going to be Miracle Whip!" Ann Murphy said. "I definitely think this will put us on the map."
Town clerk Linda Cone confirmed the name change is a prank and conceded that in a town so small it probably wonít take long for residents to figure it out. "Everybody knows everybody. Itís been kind of difficult to keep everything under wraps," Cone said.
The mayor said City Council members secretly discussed the deal with Miracle Whip during a closed session because secrecy was needed to achieve the surprise that Miracle Whip wants to capture. However, a closed session would seem to violate Floridaís Sunshine Law requiring meetings to be held publicly except under limited conditions, open-government advocate Barbara Petersen said.
"If this is all supposed to be a big joke perpetuated on residents, I expect they probably violated the law to pull it off," said Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. "I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but seriously, I donít think they thought this through."
The town got its original name from a Confederate colonel, James Mayo, and it is the county seat of Lafayette County, Floridaís second-least populous county. Possibly its biggest claim to fame is being the hometown of Kerwin Bell, a former University of Florida quarterback. The areaís biggest employer is a state prison.
Other small cities have changed their names to brands, some temporarily and others permanently.
In 1950, Hot Springs, N.M., renamed itself Truth or Consequences in order to get the game show broadcast from the town. Granville, N.D., temporarily became McGillicuddy City in the 1990s after the distributor of the mint schnapps paid the town $100,000. In 2010, Topeka, Kan., temporarily changed its name to Google in an unsuccessful effort to get the company to install a super-fast broadband network.
"I think people thought it was kind of funny and forward thinking," said Carole Jordan, an official with the League of Women Voters in Topeka.
Branded name changes donít work for every city, said Chantal Panozzo, chief content officer for the Brand Consultancy. She said one successful example was North Tarrytown, N.Y.ís switch to Sleepy Hollow in the mid 1990s to honor its roots as the setting for Washington Irvingís story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
"If the town or corporation is just seeking notoriety, publicity or money without considering what the alignment of the naming really means, then itís not true branding," Panozzo said. "Itís just a stunt or a desperate cry for funds."