While a website is important for a little-known brand looking to increase its profile, a well-known brand’s site is vital for maintaining the brand message; without proper management century-old brands are likely to be misunderstood or, worse, taken for granted. We lacked the budget to do a chemical analysis, but we can assume that the table salt in less-expensive private-label brands are just as potent as Morton’s or Diamond’s. Therefore, Morton doesn’t claim that its flagship table salt tastes better, rather that it’s “the salt we’re famous for!”
It’s this idea—a reliable American brand fronted by a recognizable mascot—that is successfully communicated throughout the site.
The right amount of salt can improve a bland dish, but too much salt ruins it. Likewise, plenty of websites are either too static or too flashy. The Morton site strikes a balance: It has colorful images but not too many, a little bit of animation but not so much that the site takes forever to load, and copy that is inviting but not cutesy.
The left side of the homepage banner features a large Umbrella Girl image—her spilled salt and the rain are gently animated, so it literally rains when it pours—as a rotation of products fade in and out on the right. A well-organized products page introduces more than two dozen salt products, both edible (popcorn salt, Kosher salt) and inedible (salts that soften water or melt ice). Each product has its own page, and one notices that even though the packaging varies—the canning and pickling salt comes in a green box, the sausage and meatloaf seasoning mix in a traditional spice container—the Umbrella Girl remains a constant on all labels.
There is a recipe section. Though the results look tasty, we could argue that dishes like broiled lemony pike with mixed vegetable kabobs, with its one teaspoon of Morton Lite Salt Mixture, does a better job of promoting pike, vegetables, or kabob skewers (even lemons, for that matter) than salt. However, the instructions for curing, pickling, and canning do a better job of making the Morton products a vital part of the process. Even more helpful is the salt guide chart that helps one choose the best salt for the job.
Morton can trace its roots to 1848, and the brand wisely promotes its heritage online. Visitors can view vintage print ads, television commercials, and the evolution of the Umbrella Girl. One can also learn interesting facts about salt processing (as interesting as salt-processing facts can be) and household uses for salt, from removing rust to soothing a sore throat.
A few areas can use a little spicing up. There are only two press releases listed in the online newsroom, both from 2006. And the product locator fails to find any stores selling that sausage and meatloaf seasoning mix within a 50-mile radius of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle… even Salt Lake City. (But don’t fret, sausage-seasoners: It’s available at the online store, though currently on back order.)
One telling aspect of the site can be found in this statement, from the company timeline: “[In 1999,] Morton [was] acquired by the Philadelphia-based speciality [sic] chemical company Rohm and Haas Company, Inc.” Who are Rohm and Haas? Who cares? The point is, not only is Morton’s parent company barely mentioned on the Morton site, but the Morton site’s design has no trace of its relation to the Rohm and Haas site, which resembles your typical mammoth manufacturing company.
We had beef with 3M’s inability to let its Scotch brand site develop its own identity, and this is a problem with the site of another major salt brand, Diamond. Its Web presence gets lost in the site of its multinational-corporation parent, Cargill. (Conspiracy theorists might note that both 3M and Cargill are headquartered in Minnesota.)
In contrast, Morton uses its online home to entertainingly enforce a consistent brand message with a cabinet-full of Umbrella Girl-branded products. All in all, a well-seasoned site.