There was a lot to learn about Salt and Straw, a Portland, Oregon-based shop selling hand-made, small-batch ice cream. It was founded in 2011 and its purpose is to "create happiness through moments of wonder." No, no one was high when they came up with that, though you'd be forgiven for thinking so.
It is seriously in the business of building its brand into communities and vice versa, CMO Alison Hiatt said in a presentation at MediaPost's Brand Marketing Summit QSR on Monday. Besides the 20 1,200-square-foot shops in Washington, Oregon and California (with two opening this year in Miami), Salt and Straw partners with other businesses that are also focused on creating wonder. "Who has had Salt and Straw on Alaskan Airlines?" she asked, getting at least one response.
The Scoop Shops, as they are called, offer an immersive, transformative experience. "You don't see the ice cream when you come in," Hiatt said. "It's about trying to take a moment, move everything else aside and focus on the experience." Sound like yoga ...
One of the more interesting aspects that she shared was that the brand's marketing is done by "others" through PR and social engagement.
"Our secret sauce is creating partnerships with different best makers, chefs and farmers, sort of a who's who of that culinary scene of that city," she said. "We say one plus one equals eleven."
At Halloween, the partners with a Bay Area firm that uses bugs for protein, offering ice cream with bugs in it. At Thanksgiving, it recreates the dinner in ice cream: candied turkey skin, cranberry/blood orange sorbet and stuffing ice cream. "Moments of wonder."
It also works with elementary schools, allowing students to learn about science and flavors. "We have created a curriculum in over 30 schools," Hiatt said, "and we have those flavors in our shops. These are hyper-local efforts that are effective in terms of becoming part of a community.
In a world of quick serve, Salt and Straw has lines out the door. To make the wait worthwhile, it offers "full-faced attention of sampling" so "people are okay with that."
"It's going a little bit counter to logic but it's figuring out a way to become part of the communities and vice versa. We are lucky and thankful that people really get on for the ride."