Morton wants to make salt thought of as a ‘lifestyle choice’

Nobody could have predicted that one of the coolest music videos of 2016 was brought to you by a brand so seemingly prosaic as Morton Salt.

And yet, the brand sponsored OK Go’s “The One Moment,” a music video that showed how one moment can make an impact. It was one of the breakout videos of last year, with over 17 million views.

The video is just one small part of the brand’s effort to recreate itself as a much hipper company. And it’s part of the company’s first major brand campaign in its 168-year-old history. “Morton Salt is going through a broader business and brand transformation,” said the brand’s director of brand strategy, Denise Lauer.

The company is also doing more out of home advertising in seven major markets, and it bought its first Snapchat lens over December. In all, the campaign, called “Walk her Walk,” is aimed at creating the image of Morton Salt beyond the salt itself and make it what Lauer calls an “emotional lifestyle choice,” according to the brand. So featured in the video are those people “walking her walk,” including GirlFoward founder Blair Brettschneider and The Thirst Project founder Seth Maxwell.

“Inspired by the iconic Morton Salt Girl, ‘Walk Her Walk’ is a promise to make a positive impact in the world around us. So the girl we all know and love – who plays an essential role in everyday life – now helps us stride with greater purpose,” said Lauer.

The repositioning can be chalked up to a few things. Salt can often be viewed as a commodity — after all, it’s salt — but it’s increasingly imperative for the brand to connect on a more emotional level. That comes even as competition grows from other products like kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt, and as Morton tries to tell customers that its product is key to their everyday lives beyond food: It is used, for example, in healthcare and farming. “Like many companies today, we need to connect with the next generation of customers,” said Lauer.

The the company is also cognizant of the next generation of its own employees, too. Millennials make up 30 percent of its workforce, and Lauer estimates that 20 percent of its current workforce will retire in the next five years. That means the brand needs to appeal to existing employees and attract new ones.

New Morton HQ
New Morton HQ

A big part of that process was the brand’s move to a new headquarters in Chicago in December. The brand moved into its first open-plan space in its history, and Lauer said it’s also now hiring more social media and digital marketing people than ever before.

It’s also experimenting with a new in-house wellness program for employees in an effort to mimic some of the Silicon Valley startup culture that older brands recognize younger employees are enamored with, as well as new performance-management systems.

“I think that the internal and external transformation have to be linked,” said Lauer. “Those efforts have to be connected. We’re hiring more people today than we have in the past five years, so it’s critical for us to attract them.”

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