Salt XC is expanding into the U.S.

The experiential commerce shop is emerging from under the radar, taking its holistic model and early client success to Chicago.

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Less than two years after first opening, the winds of change are already blowing for Salt XC, which is opening an office in Chicago as it continues to grow on both sides of the border.

jeff-saltJeff Rogers is the agency’s president, having quietly founded the agency in late 2019 after leaving his role as president of Mosaic in Canada. He tells strategy that the team always knew it would land stateside at some point, due to a combination of aspiration and early client wins.

Among its founding clients, the Chicago office has brought on Kona Brewery, a Hawaii-based member of the Anheuser Busch family (AB InBev’s Canadian subsidiary, Labatt, is currently Salt’s biggest client). It is also bringing to life an in-house agency for Kraft Heinz in the Windy City called The Kitchen, having previously done the same in Canada, establishing a group that responds to cultural trends and social conversations where its brands may play a part.

Past work with Kraft included its “Pantry Day”, a single day matching donation food drive. It has also been part of the agency roster on campaigns for Philadelphia, Kraft Peanut Butter and Heinz By Nature; for Labatt, it was the lead agency on its POST bar and restaurant support program; and floated a giant Xbox over Lake Ontario for Microsoft.

Kraft Heinz, which has its headquarters in Chicago, was the driver for the move, in addition to the relative proximity to St. Louis, where Anheuser Busch is based. Salt is getting off the ground in Chicago with 10 full-time staff, and is eyeing the addition of a content producer, strategist and an additional designer, Rogers says.

In addition to staffing up its U.S. office, Salt is looking to add eight more in Canada, including designers, creatives, as well as positions in ecomm architecture, data, strategy, community management and HR to help handle the current rate of growth. At the beginning of the year, it hired Brad van Schaik as ECD, joining Allan Regan on the creative leadership (van Schaik was returning to Canada from a stint as CD at Buzzfeed, having previously worked for Rogers at Mosaic). Salt’s Canadian headcount is currently approaching 60 full-time staff.

Xbox-Canadian-consoleRogers attributes the agency’s growth to a model he refers to as “experiential commerce,” breaking down walls between online and offline worlds using first party data, digital media and memorable moments to drive an action or transaction. He cites the Xbox launch as an example, along with the social buzz it created by creating a denim “Canadian tuxedo” controller.

“We are going through a crazy revolution right now, when you hear Google stopping using tracking technology to identify web users,” he says. As clients owning the data relationship with their consumers is key, Salt created Salt Shaker, which marries data captured in both offline and online sources, and can be used for ticketing, coupons, surveys, social contesting, XR experiences and sampling.

It also built Frontrunner, a social and digital optimization algorithm that “supercharges” buys within the social space. Meanwhile, Salt’s MediaMob is a freelancer marketplace tool, currently used by about 250 people whose experience Salt can leverage for “fast, rapid production.”

Rogers’ background means the shopper world has inevitably trickled in. Salt just inked a deal with Cornershop, a grocery delivery service Uber purchased last year, to drive trial in a sampling environment that’s changing thanks to COVID. “Our plan is to have a [sample] pack for all Cornershop users every month, with five products you receive with your grocery order,” he explains, adding that the items are then added to the queue for ease of reorder, creating an attribution loop.