Rewriting the playbook

Moving at the speed of culture, Salt XC launches real-time media and influencer platform
SaltXC_XBox_CanadianTuxedoController

Salt XC took Xbox Canada’s desire to make relevant local content to the next level. With nothing more Canadian than the Canadian Tuxedo, the denim controller was born. Boosted via Frontrunner, the controller quickly became the talk of the gaming community drawing attention of some of the biggest gaming influencers in the country.

After two years, Salt XC finds itself at a unique moment in its evolution. Still a scrappy start-up at heart, it’s an agency that’s experienced incredible growth in both size and capability in a very short time. Salt grew up in the pandemic. It was only two months old and home to 15 staff when the world shut down. As the world opens up again, Salt finds itself a thriving agency of about 120 in offices in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and L.A. The roster has grown to more than 20 clients in Canada and the US, including Labatt, Kraft Heinz, RBC, Coca-Cola and Xbox.

Salt is driven by what it calls “experiential commerce”– it looks to break down the walls between online and offline worlds using first-party data, digital media and memorable moments that drive valuable transactions for brands.

Throughout the pandemic, Salt has focused on investing in the digital media and influencer side of the business, and with great success. “Over 80% of our revenue comes from our digital connections and content service offerings,” says Salt VP Jil Lohnes.

Reactive and trending moments have become a pillar of success on Xbox Canada’s social channels. When Drake launched Certified Lover Boy with billboards letting his fans know who would be on the album, Salt XC jumped on the trend of blatantly obvious statements to remind everyone with a faux billboard that Master Chief would in fact be featured  in the upcoming launch of Halo Infinite.

Reactive and trending moments have become a pillar of success on Xbox Canada’s social channels. When Drake launched Certified Lover Boy with billboards letting his fans know who would be on the album, Salt XC jumped on the trend of blatantly obvious statements to remind everyone with a faux billboard that Master Chief would in fact be featured
in the upcoming launch of Halo Infinite.

“Our model combines moving at the speed of culture, content at scale and performance marketing,” she says. “We deliver full-funnel marketing, but our sweet spot is delivering mid-to-lower funnel results for our brands.”

Salt is a unique hybrid: part full-service agency, part tech company. So, when more tools are required, it develops them. Consider Media Mob, the agency’s content freelancer marketplace, or smart social-boosting tool Frontrunner.

“Social boosting across the entire industry has traditionally been more of an art versus science, with arbitrary dollar amounts applied to posts. Because of the volume, it’s a time-consuming process, and usually done manually with limited or no optimization strategy,” says Alex Buckby, managing director of media.

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Flavour photography played a key role in everie’s 2021 trade strategy, with the goal being to showcase the delicious taste of the brand’s CBD beverages. This photography was used throughout all trade assets, trade media and on social, through 2021.

Enter Frontrunner. A social boosting tool built around a proprietary algorithm. It is automated with direct APIs to all social platforms, allowing Salt to mathematically determine the most effective boosting budget per post based on its performance potential. The algorithm can be tailored to any client objective, such as brand engagements, video views, click-throughs, etc.

Buckby calls it a game-changer, and says brands like Kraft Heinz and Xbox have seen an exponential increase in ROAS through lower costs per engagement, follower or click, at scale.

The Kitchen creates content at the speed of culture for Kraft Heinz brands on social. Salt Media & Frontrunner build boosting strategies in real-time for all the brand’s social content, including pieces like a children’s book about pronoun use starring the Kraft Peanut Butter Bears.

The Kitchen creates content at the speed of culture for Kraft Heinz brands on social. Salt Media & Frontrunner build boosting strategies in real-time for all the brand’s social content, including pieces like a children’s book about pronoun use starring the Kraft Peanut Butter Bears.

Lohnes says Salt’s creative and media teams are closely integrated to ensure they can deliver against their real-time marketing model with the utmost effectiveness. Rather than wait to see what message is resonating and build creative to suit, media works closely with the creative team to proactively create a library of hundreds of assets so that messaging can pivot several times a day if needed.

Salt is also innovating in influencer marketing. Using an internal dedicated team, the agency has begun to develop an extensive network of micro influencers – passionate and engaged experts in specific fields.

“Usually,” Lohnes says, “everyone wants to go after the macro influencers, but once you start getting around 500,000-one million followers, a good percentage of them fall outside of Canada. This can result in a lot of wastage. We saw a lot of opportunity in the micro/nano space.”

With concert venues shut down around the globe, RBC worked with Salt XC to develop a breakthrough way to continue to support Canadian artists, using content to grow increased program awareness. Tapping into Media Mob to build a custom production solution, the spot was conceived, produced, shot and trafficked in four weeks, airing on the Canadian Grammy’s broadcast.

With concert venues shut down around the globe, RBC worked with Salt XC to develop a breakthrough way to continue to support Canadian artists, using content to grow increased program awareness. Tapping into Media Mob to build a custom production solution, the spot was conceived, produced, shot and trafficked in four weeks, airing on the Canadian Grammy’s broadcast.

Instead of affording just a few influencers, a client can have hundreds, each targeting the audience from a different perspective. That could mean a collection of fashion, music and food influencers all speaking to the target consumer in different ways.

“It’s a huge test-and-learn model,” says Lohnes. “If we find the fashion and music influencers are converting better than the food influencers, it allows us to pivot. We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket. We’re casting a wider net and then optimizing and focusing over time.”

Salt is building influencer programs for clients like The Bay, US pet food brand Better Choice Company and forthcoming online sportsbook PointsBet Canada.

As the fully-integrated agency partner for PointsBet Canada, Salt XC worked with the brand to develop a unique positioning in order to set itself apart from competition for its market launch. Connecting with its audience by being Canada’s sportsbook gives the brand a unique voice with breakthrough partnerships (like the Trailer Park Boys).

As the fully-integrated agency partner for PointsBet Canada, Salt XC worked with the brand to develop a unique positioning in order to set itself apart from competition for its market launch. Connecting with its audience by being Canada’s sportsbook gives the brand a unique voice with breakthrough partnerships (like the Trailer Park Boys).

Meanwhile, the agency is not neglecting the value in-person experiences still hold. In February it acquired retail innovation and pop-up house Brika, which will help its client brands have temporary, high impact physical retail presence.

Tying all these efforts together is the underlying philosophy of immediacy and accountability, driven by data.

“It’s about getting that transaction between a consumer and a brand,” Lohnes sums. “We’ve been successful on the media and influencer side because we’ve honed in on what our role is. And if you can prove bottom-line success for a brand, they’re going to continue to invest.”

CONTACT:
Jenny Ng
Senior communications manager
jn@ilovesalt.com

The New Collaborators:

Intro

Collective IQ: Tearing down the silos

Globe Content Studio: What it takes to design better brand content

so.da: Cracking the content code