Devoted Mayonnaise Fans Are Getting Tattoos of Their Favorite Brand
Duke’s Mayo launched a tattoo campaign, and then Hellmann’s followed suit.
Growing up, Matt Lardie hated mayonnaise. Originally from New England, he didn’t become a fan of the condiment until he moved to North Carolina and started spending more time with his husband’s family.
“My evolution of coming around to enjoying mayonnaise and cooking with it coincided with my move to North Carolina,” he says. “Duke’s is everywhere down here and it became the brand I really loved. It represents the part of the South I’ve come to embrace—the food traditions.”
Soon, he was putting Duke’s Mayo in his chicken salad, spreading it on grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of butter, and adding it to zippy tahini-ranch dressing. “My husband and I once cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for 18 friends in Croatia and I flew Duke’s in my suitcase so we’d have the proper condiment for leftover sandwiches,” he laughs.
Clearly, Lardie developed a passion for the stuff. So when the freelance food writer received a press release from Duke’s, announcing a pop-up event at Yellow Bird Tattoo in Richmond, Virginia, he jumped at the chance to be a part of it.
“I asked their PR if Duke’s would want to give me a tattoo and I couldn’t believe they came back and said yes,” says Lardie, who wrote about the experience for Eater. “It was sort of a Hunter S. Thompson, insert-yourself-into-the-story type thing.”
But Lardie certainly isn’t the first Duke’s fan to get ink devoted to the brand. Similar to the popularity of Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce body art, the proliferation of mayo-related tattoos is what inspired the entire campaign in the first place.
“People have been getting Duke’s-inspired tattoos on their bodies for years and years,” says Rebecca Lupesco, brand manager at Duke’s. “The brand has built a loyal and fervent fan base, not just with home chefs, but with well-known, Michelin-starred, James Beard Award winning chefs, who have come to love that recipe and its signature twang.”
In fact, Chef Mason Hereford from Turkey & the Wolf in New Orleans has a tattoo of Winnie the Pooh guzzling a jar of Duke’s like it was a honey jar. Chef Shuai Wang, of Jackrabbit Filly in Charleston has one, and Chef Brittany Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery and Brenner Pass in Richmond, and Top Chef 18, just got one at the event last Friday.
When the company first announced they were giving away free tattoos last Friday, May 13, it took fans less than 90 minutes to fill up all the Yellow Bird’s available slots. The shop came up with nearly 50 flash tattoo designs, inspired by retro graphics—everything from deviled eggs with devil horns to a bouquet of roses coming out of a Duke’s jar.
There were even a couple playful digs at Hellmann’s, including a gravestone with the brand’s name and a scroll that read “Death Before Hellman’s.” Clearly, that caught the attention of the legacy condiment brand, which announced its own campaign last week, offering fans who send in photos of their Hellmann’s tattoos a year’s supply of mayonnaise.
“Duke’s had the fun idea to celebrate National Tattoo holiday by inking yourself with a mayonnaise tattoo and it gave us the idea to celebrate the permanent and artistic displays of devotion for Hellmann’s mayonnaise that our fans already had,” the Hellmann’s brand said in a statement. “It’s such a versatile ingredient, with a rich and creamy base, that can be added to any recipe ranging from salads to desserts and truly does make everything taste better.”
Campaigns like this represent an extremely loyal allegiance, with nearly 280 million Americans spending more than $2 billion on mayonnaise, making it the number one selling condiment in the U.S., according to Hellmann’s. Those numbers represent home cooks and the chef community alike.
“A lot of fans who have brought attention to Duke’s are in the chef community, and with chefs being one of the most tattooed industries, this felt genuine,” says Lupesco, who herself got a rose-themed Duke’s tattoo on her wrist. “And the Hellmann’s announcement just feels out of place.”
Regardless of where brand loyalties lie, it’s clear that people look at mayonnaise as way more than just oil, eggs, and vinegar. For Lardie, the Duke’s mayo jar he got tattooed on his left calf is merely the beginning.
“This is going to turn into a larger ode to Southern food and culture on my left leg, maybe I’ll add a tomato sandwich or okra flowers,” he says. “I’ve only had it for a week and people have already stopped to ask me about it. I can’t wait to show my in-laws, they’ll think it’s hilarious.”