Branding is as much a science as it is an art. The video above is an overview of part of the branding process at Saltwater: determining a brand’s color opportunity. There’s much more to determining a brand’s color palette than picking colors that work well together. There’s strategy involved in finding the color gaps in a market, psychology behind how people respond to certain colors, and creativity in building a way to own a brand’s chosen colors. 

Below, members of our creative team discuss brands that leverage their colors well and others that don’t. 

Which brands use their brand colors most effectively or creatively?

Diane LaPorte, Creative Director: Some of my favorites are the Tour de France, Target, John Deere, Tiffany Co., and Chanel, since absence of “color” can be more powerful

Dunkin’ is a good example. I’m not a fan of the colors, but you definitely recognize the brand.

Kristin Burke, Designer: Google. They do an excellent job owning their four main colors. They use all three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), with the addition of one secondary color, green. No matter what the application, whether it’s a department logo, application, platform, they use these four colors as a mix within their sub brands so viewers can immediately identify them as part of the Google family.

Kyle Mooers, Sr. Art Director: Coca-Cola, Ferrari, FedEx. Coca Cola and Ferrari are synonymous with the color red.

Jen Rygiel, Sr. Art Director: Coca Cola and Target. Also, Apple & Nike both use a colorless brand with great success.

What is a brand that could stand out more if it used a different color?

DL: Just about any insurance company. Also, Holiday Inn. In the mid-range hotel market, logos run the full spectrum of colors, so it’s not so much that Holiday Inn would stand out more as it would greatly benefit from having a slightly more upscale corporate color that better reflected the level of their accommodations.

KB: Speedway, the gas stations chain. They utilize the color red, which makes them invisible next to their larger competitors like Citgo, Texaco, Mobile, Chevron and Shell, who also use red. The only gas station competitor of theirs that doesn’t use red is BP (green and yellow). However, Speedway may have a chance to rise above their competitors as they were just purchased by 7-Eleven, the top convenience store operator in Japan. Whether the Speedway name stays or 7-Eleven decides to bring gas services under their belt, is yet to be determined. If the name stays, it would be nice to see some renewed branding efforts from their new owners. Article here.

KM: It’s a tough question because not all brands rely on 1-2 colors. Technically any brand could stand out more by switching colors—if Coca-Cola was pink tomorrow I think that would be highly noticed.

What is one thing brands should do more of when it comes to brand colors?

JR: I think consistency is most important. If a brand wants to depend on one color, then they need to stick to that color. Even if a brand wants to be colorless, then truly make it colorless and make sure one color doesn’t out-weigh the others because that focus color will become the brand color in the mind of the consumer.

DL: Brands should look at things in a slightly different way. An example of this is IndiGo, an Indian airline. Not only a clever name, their logo color is indigo (yes, the color is spelled the same as the name of the company). Even though it falls into the established “blue” category symbolizing the usual: air, sky, trust, safety (which you definitely want in an airline), it’s the twist of the name of the airline and the choice of color that makes this brand effort stand out creatively. It is one logo that actually made me step back and say “Wow, someone actually did some serious thinking here”, and a big part of that is the color.

KB: Brands should ideally stick to their brand guidelines and color palettes. Once that is established, then they can choose to evolve their brand colors and guidelines from there. If they do a complete overhaul then they risk killing their brand’s recognition. The last statement depends on the size of the brand. If you are small, stick with your colors and guidelines. If you’re big, like New Balance, go ahead and venture beyond your color palette, because your logo speaks for itself, no matter what colors you choose.

What is your favorite part of determining a brand’s color palette?

KM: Uncovering the story that gives reason to the specific color(s) used.

DL: Getting immersed in researching the company and its competitors and seeing where that leads, then developing a personality for the brand based on color. For me, watching how a color palette emerges and ties the brand together is one of the most satisfying parts of a branding effort.

JR:  I love when there is a true meaning behind the color palette chosen for a brand to make it have a story.

Marketing strategy should always come back to one question: does this idea forge a connection with our audience? This question is so important because, each and every time, it’s difficult to achieve that connection. Plenty of clever tactics and flashy content mask the fact that, when pushed, the brand doesn’t have a good answer to this all important question.

Connecting with an audience can be hard enough on a good day, but it’s even more difficult when you’re breaking into a new market: trying to get the consumer’s attention for the first time, competing with an established industry leader, or looking to change preconceived notions. Below, we examine 3 winning strategies (and some failed tactics) that companies used to market their way into the hearts and minds of new audiences.

Indirect assault on the competition

Going after a major competitor? No matter how many resources you can leverage, you’d be wise not to go after them head on. Instead, identify a niche audience that presents an opportunity for your product or service and build up strong brand affinity with them before expanding into a broader demographic.

In the late 1990’s, two different soft drink companies tried to move into the market, which was (and still is) dominated by Coca Cola and Pepsi. One was Virgin Drinks, a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s conglomerate Virgin Group. With a billion dollar holding company and an internationally renowned CEO behind it, Virgin Drinks went ahead and tried to steal market share, and shelf space, from Coke and Pepsi. PR stunts included Branson driving a tank through a wall of soda cans in Times Square, a “top heavy” soda bottle design named the “Pammy” (after model Pamela Anderson), and product placement on era’s most popular TV show, Friends. And the result? Some sales, sure, but Virgin Drinks was defunct by 2007.

Around the same time, another European soft drink company was also working its way into the market. It saw the choke hold that Coke and Pepsi had on shelf space in supermarkets and decided to chart its own path into people’s preferences. It found a niche audience in bars, where it was used as a mixer, and then in nightclubs where it was a caffeinated solution for after-hours fatigue. Any guesses what this soda might be? If you said, Mr. Pibb… you’d be wrong. This is the origin story of Red Bull in the United States. After cultivating a fan base amongst nightlife enthusiasts, it worked its way to corner stores and gas stations (where its small cans didn’t take up as much shelf space as other sodas) and finally into the hearts, minds, and grocery stores of the caffeine-loving, sugar-addicted population of the United States at large.

Walk the walk, don’t talk the talk

Sometimes your biggest challenge isn’t the competition, but preconceived ideas that a consumer may have about your brand after observing it from afar. Huawei, the Chinese technology company, had just this problem in 2000 when it expanded into India. While the Indian telecommunications market was crowded, Huawei’s biggest hurdles were brand-related: it was a B2B supplier trying to connect directly with consumers, Indians often perceive Chinese companies as being closed off and impersonal and thus hard to develop brand affinity for, and in general the sour relations between the two countries (including disputed borders, unsavory diplomatic relations, and armed conflict as recently as the 1970’s) stoked the Indian opinion that Chinese goods in general, and Huawei products in particular, were low-quality.

Huawei did have a card it could play, however: its $3 billion annual research and development budget. The company’s commitment and investment in making great products was not widely known in India, but Huawei had the bonafides to push back on the perception that it made cheap products. How they did it is the interesting part.

A typical approach would have been to advertise the fact that Huawei spent heavily in R&D, showcase some of their innovations, and flood the market with this messaging. Instead, the company made its R&D operations, and by extension its people more visible in India and let the company’s actions speak for themselves. Huawei established R&D facilities in Chennai and hired local Indians to fill 90% of the positions and worked with local companies to source materials. It took the same approach with the service centers it established in India. Overtime, instead of being converted via advertising, more and more Indians knew someone working at Huawei and had personal experience hearing about the company’s innovative operations and commitment to making good products.

Do your research

There are 4,300 Starbucks locations in China, and they’ve all opened in the last 20 years since Starbucks entered China in 1999. In case you hadn’t heard, the Chinese prefer tea. In fact, even up until 2006, it was hard to find a cup of coffee in China outside of a Western hotel chain. So, how did Starbucks see so much success? And how did they sustain it to the point of, by the summer of 2018, opening a new location every 15 hours?

Research told Starbucks that an advertising blitz could be seen as culturally insensitive, a Western affront to China’s traditional tea culture. Stores were opened in high traffic, high visibility areas and, most crucially, tea-based products were added to the menu. Additionally, there was concern that the Chinese market would not respond well to a brand like Starbucks, a high profile capitalist institution. More research showed that by the late 1990’s, a significant portion of China’s population was open to “Western style” as an indicator of modernity and status, and saw consuming Western products as a way to communicate a higher quality of life. In the years since, the success Starbucks has seen since has proven the credibility of these insights.

It’s easy to get distracted by Starbucks’ rapid expansion in China, but how did the brand initially convert tea drinkers into cosmopolitan Starbucks fans? It wasn’t the coffee. The brand’s success in other parts of the world had been based on providing a “third place” between home and work for people to meet and spend time together. In America, that meant replicating (and adapting) a café culture prevalent in Italy. As it turns out, China was also looking for a way to revitalize its own third place: the tea house. Starbucks understood what it was providing its customers, beyond coffee, and then did the research necessary to see how to apply that to a new market.

Few brands have a CEO like Richard Branson, or a $3 billion research and development budget, or the capacity to take advantage of growing demand like Starbucks has in China. However, every brand looking to break into a market and connect with a new audience can learn from these examples. Whether that means cultivating brand affinity with a niche audience before looking to expand (like Red Bull), showing your differentiator through your actions rather than telling about it in your advertising (like Huawei), or doing the necessary research to understand how to approach a new audience (like Starbucks), these strategies can be leveraged by any organization.

The mission of Women in Film & Video New England (WIFVNE) is to offer mentorship, education, and community to women looking to advance their careers as storytellers. As part of that mission, Katie Shine-Young and Tom Adjemian, two studio producers from our Motion & Sound Department, Anchor Line, are leading a panel designed to give female filmmakers the chance to see how the pre-production process comes together based on a script.

The panel will take place on July 14th form 4:30pm – 5:30pm EST. You can sign up for the event on the WIFVNE website. Katie and Tom will be joined on the panel by Kristen Kearns, COO & Executive Producer at Element.

Q: WIFVNE has a great mission. Tell us a little bit about why it is important to you both to be a part of that. 

Katie: If you are exposed to different cultures, people, and practices that are different from your own either on set or on screen then you are more likely to learn better communication skills and understand concepts that you may not necessarily be exposed to otherwise. The film industry is generally made up of caucasian males, that is just one voice we are hearing. WIFVNE allows for more diversity to be heard and that is something we are always striving to achieve.

Tom: It is profoundly shocking, disturbing, disappointing, and dozens of other adjectives that our industry isn’t more diverse. Creative benefits from diversity of thought. Not only because our audience is made up of different genders and ethnicities and beliefs and, yes, even Yankee fans, but also because without the inclusion of additional view points, creative becomes dull. That our industry doesn’t seek out diversity from the start is a remarkable shortcoming. I fully support balancing the industry, to ensure all views can be included and shared in the creative we produce.

Q: This event is focused on discussing the pre-production plan for a script that you wrote. What’s the script about?

Katie: The script is promoting a turkey delivery company. The script involves all the things that would give any producer stress heartburn; A-list celebrities, multilingual talent, animation, explosives, travel, a large cast, and so on.

Tom: This script is designed to discompose producers. It’s an amalgamation of the most time consuming, budget breaking, stress inducing scenarios producers face on the job. And it includes frozen turkey.

Q: What aspects of the script, from a pre-production perspective, do you think are crucial for the audience to understand. What are some of the things you want people to take away from the event?

Tom: The ultimate goal was to provide a unique look into the mind of a producer, both to give creatives and non-creatives a better idea of our process, but also to (hopefully) positively influence future productions. And to be clear, this isn’t about making the production easier. It’s about making the production better.

Q: How did you get your start in production? What were some lessons you learned the hard way?

Katie: I started out as a production assistant on set. My aunt had a friend who worked in hair and make up and wardrobe, and she helped me get my first job. I proved on-set that I was a hard worker and reliable, and the rest is history. One of the hardest lessons I learned is that complaining on set is extremely frowned upon. If a problem arises? Fix it. If you are uncomfortable, talk about it in a productive way. Don’t understand something? Ask for help. One day I was young, and dumb, and complaining that we had to work late and I was doing all the crappy production assistant tasks (I was a production assistant so of course I had to do those tasks), I overheard the AD say, “She either stops complaining and stays or continues to complain and leaves.” And that was it, I kept my mouth shut, showed up early, stayed late.

Tom: I have always loved making short movies and must have at one point bothered my neighbor with one of them. Although I’m uncertain as to what she saw in me, she suggested I could be a good fit at an ad agency in Philadelphia and graciously set up an informational interview for me. After I graduated from college, they hired me as a production assistant and assistant editor. I was an assistant to the Director of Production and to our agency editor. I was able to live and breathe broadcast commercial pre-production, production, and post-production on a daily basis. It was an incredible foundation that I still rely upon today.

Q: What is your advice for aspiring producers on how to improve their craft and get the jobs they want?

Tom: If you’re looking to add to your reel, don’t be afraid to get involved in productions in which you have little experience. Although it seems to run counter to the job, not knowing the typical stress points sometimes can allow you to move more freely on the job. Where others may stall, your unique perspective and experience may help push the production forward. As for getting projects you want, I recommend finding great production crews and sticking with them. You’re not always in control of the work you get to produce, but you certainly have more control in selecting those with whom you’ll share a 10 to 12 hour shoot day. If you like the people you work with, those shoot days won’t feel as long.

Katie: Learn about every department. You don’t need to be an expert in lighting or camera but knowing the basics of the craft is important. As a producer, you are in charge of making the creative come to fruition and understanding how that all comes together is crucial to achieving an ideal outcome. I agree with Tom, finding a good team to work with is important. You are spending a lot of time with your crew, you learn from them, they learn from you, and if you prove yourself you keep getting hired. As you learn more, you move up, you get more work.

Register here to hear more from Katie and Tom with WIFVNE on July 14th from 4:30 – 5:30pm EST.

As everyone struggles to find a new “normal” in a world suddenly far from it, advertisers are watching closely to see how consumer behavior continues to evolve. There’s been an abundance of information about some of the small things we can all do to support local businesses (buy a gift card!) and appropriate behaviors for shopping for necessities (buy what you require!) during this uncertain time. Beyond that, though, what are the subtler effects that the coronavirus pandemic will have on consumer culture? Below, we run through some of the online behavioral changes we have seen, expect to see, and suspect might stick around long-term. 

Search Behavior Will Change

The spread of COVID-19 and the necessarily lifestyle adaptations that many of us are and will continue to experience will alter our online search behavior. People are going online to search for things they typically don’t, as more and more people turn to online shopping instead of going to their local stores. Conversely, the things we were typically searching for may become less of a priority over the next few months. 

In general, volumes are up with increased time being spent on websites and social media while people are staying home and turning to online resources for daily needs, news, and as a social outlet. Businesses will be impacted differently by this change in behaviors, but there is something every organization can do: utilize online channels to share updated, useful information for your customers. Keep your operating hours updated on Google, Facebook, and online directories. If the COVID-19 response is causing changes in business practices (to-go only, limited volumes, etc), let your audience know and provide a timetable for your next update. 

Be sure to communicate the following: 

Additionally, encourage your leadership to step out from behind your brand. If your organization has an important update to share, encourage your leadership to be the ones to provide it. If possible, use video to share the message and give your community a chance to make a connection with the decision makers at your organization.

Around the world, people’s lives will be different over the coming months. The role that brands and businesses play in their lives will also be different, at least  for the time being, and that’s beyond anyone’s control. The best thing any brand can do is to stay up to date on how events are unfolding in your location and your industry, stay transparent and update your customers as your business makes changes and decisions, and listen to the feedback your community is providing.

That’s what Saltwater will be doing as well. You can watch this space, as well as our social channels, for updates. And feel free to get in touch on social media or by emailing us at

Just like all of you, the team at Saltwater is currently working in real time to figure out the best way to handle the effects of COVID-19 on our organization, our clients, and our communities. In this post, we are providing an update for our clients on how we’ll be working the next few weeks and a reminder of some of the tools at our disposal to help you communicate effectively with your customers. 

The majority of the Saltwater team will be working from home for at least the next two weeks. If you are looking to speak with a member of the team while we’re away from our desk phones, contact them via email first. If it’s urgent, indicate that in the email’s subject line. As always, we’re available to our clients via cell phone as well. If you don’t have the cell phone number for your Producer or another member of the team, we’d be happy to provide it. As of March 30th, we’ll reassess the need to work remotely and we’ll provide an update to our clients and here on our blog as needed. 

In the meantime, Saltwater Collective is fully operational.

We’re here to help you reach your customers and your communities with the messages and updates they need from you. As your marketing and advertising partner, we are here to help.

And one way we can do that right now is by facilitating any Creative changes you need for current ad campaigns.

We can handle quick changes in messaging. If your organization is looking to change the creative you have in market, whether that is due to updates in your offerings relative to COVID-19 or just a new message to your consumers in this uncertain time, we can do that. 

The exact timeline and process for updating creative will depend on multiple factors, and changing out a digital ad will be a lot faster than swapping out a billboard. But here are some standard creative update timelines for typical placements:

If you’re a Saltwater client and have questions about any creative changes, contact us today.

Places have personality.

Try this: compare the perceptions and emotions you have towards places that you like to visit against those you have towards the products you buy or the services you use. Do you have a bit more affinity towards your next vacation destination than your next pair of shoes? Places may in fact be some of the most important brands in a consumer’s life.

Tuck that thought away. We’ll come back to it.

Successful tourism marketing relies on a few key ingredients in the age of social media:

While executing this is of course harder than it sounds, do you see the problem here? 

Everything relies on content, and the production of this content is largely out of the destination’s control. (This is not unique to the tourism industry, but that’s where we’ll focus today.) 

UGC is totally outside of a brand’s creative control, for obvious reasons. And even if Influencers or Press trips have a strict itinerary and perfectly crafted experiences to take part in, the content they are shooting, writing, publishing, and sharing is still coming through the lens of their brand (in the case of an Influencer) or the voice of their publication (in the case of Press). While that is a crucial part of the success of those partnerships, it doesn’t give the destination the chance to speak for itself. These two streams of content are not enough. 

Places have a personality, but most tourism boards don’t let those personalities come through.

So, while these ingredients are key parts of any social media strategy, they don’t give you all the control you should have over your messaging.

The most effective destination marketers have already added another ingredient into the mix; they are producing their own content that aligns stylistically with the UCG and influencer content users are used to seeing. Here are some examples of this in the wild.


A leader in this space, Tourism Ireland has been at the forefront of social media marketing for years. There current brand hashtag, #loveireland, has a strong presence with 658,000 tags on Instagram and lots of very high-quality content. And having worked with some of the biggest names in the influencer space (like @bokehm0n, @lilyrose, and @thechrishau to name a few) they’re working in owned photography to feature the places that UGC and influencers just haven’t delivered on yet.

Take the screenshot below, can you find the owned photos?       

We’ll help you out:

While all the other photos credit a the user who took the imagery (best practice when using UCG or influencer-contributed content), these posts don’t contain photo credit. That’s our hint that they are owned content.

Taken all together, you can see that the same photographer probably took these images pretty close together, but scattered amongst the feed they enable the brand to feature the places they want to, when they want to, regardless of whether a recent influencer trip included that destination. And no endless scrolling through the UGC means that the social team has more time to engage with the community. A few owned assets mixed into the publication schedule makes for a more efficient strategy overall.


VisitCalifornia takes things a bit further and has been relaying pretty heavily on branded videos in their feed lately. Branded animations and content series (like the #California 101 posts you see below) set the expectation with the viewer that they are going to see high-quality content and that if they follow the account, they see more of it in the future.

While Tourism Ireland’s tactic allows it to casually insert imagery about destinations it wants included in its social promotion, what Visit California is doing allows it to draw a lot of attention to exactly the locations, experiences, and messaging that it wants to. For high profile events, seasonal features, or important local partners, this is a way to ensure that the content going out is just right and keeps all parties happy, without relying on sourcing UGC to hit all the right notes or boxing in an influencer with a restrictive brief. When supplemental video assets let the brand tell it’s key storylines in line with exciting UGC and high quality influencer activations, a destination is primed for serious growth and expansion into new audiences.


Always ahead of the curve, Pure New Zealand shows us the exception to this rule. Every now and then they’ll post a contributed photo, whether from an influencer or UGC, but for the last 235 days they’ve mostly posted owned video content as part of their Good Morning World campaign on their main Instagram account.

The video below sets the mood for the campaign. And after a million views, we’d say it made for a pretty effective launch.

Then, with the video for Day 1 of the series, we see the format they’ve stuck to ever since.

With over 1.3 million instances of their #NZMustDo hashtag, they don’t need to produce their own content to have something high quality to post. But the Good Morning World campaign goes to show that what works best on social media is simply good content, well executed, that aligns with the medium. Waking up to a new message from a beautiful place like New Zealand each morning? That’s a great use of Instagram.

The rules we outlined above are what have worked in the past for destination marketers, but Pure New Zealand is an example of new and innovative ways to push these mediums to the next level. As social platforms and the audiences on them continue to evolve, so will the strategies we see gaining traction. But, one thing that will never change is the need to have the content at your fingertips to activate that strategy.

Without the content or the means to produce it, even the best tourism marketing strategies die on the whiteboard.

Contact us today to start creating the content you need to reach your goals. 

More and more, brands are getting their messaging across through subtler, less-direct means. Over the past few months, REI has replaced its catalogue with an editorially-focused magazine, Wistia has launched its own talk show, and Barbie has created an Airbnb account and rented out her Malibu Dream House.

None of these tactics present the customer with a clear path to purchase. Yes, there are some products highlighted at the end of Uncommon Path and Wistia has a video service where brands can produce similar shows. But if you were the marketer in charge of any of these ideas and your CEO asked you, “Remind me why we are doing this,” you wouldn’t be able to answer, “To drive sales.”

So, what is going on here? Why are brands doing this? We gathered a group of Salties to discuss this shift in brand strategy. Below, we dive into these three examples and discuss how brands are entertaining their audiences rather than selling to them; valuing brand affinity above brand awareness; and whether the quick viral tactic is better than the long-term content strategy.

On REI’s Uncommon Path

Brands are increasingly trying to entertain their audiences rather than just convert them. Does this work?

David Roy, Digital Marketing Coordinator: I think brands entertaining their audiences is working in a lot of cases. Today, we see a lot of ads on every platform we take to as users. Feeding our timelines with ads isn’t unique so brands are trying to differentiate.

I want to feel like I can relate to a brand, their mission, and their products before I am likely to buy from them. Creating entertaining content for the brand’s audience allows the audience to relate to the brand. I think this type of approach works especially well with ecommerce brands. The products help to create an entertaining story whereas a service may not be able to create such relatable content.

Mike Bjork, Copywriter & Content Specialist: I think it’s a great shift, because we’re reaching a point now where everybody is doing a little bit of content marketing. It’s no longer a differentiator; it’s expected. So, if you want your brand to stand out in the deluge of content that’s already out there, your content needs to offer more value, which comes in two forms: entertainment and usefulness. If you can create content that’s both, you’ll be sure to stand out, form deeper relationships with your audience, and fuel conversions over the long-term.

This type of strategy, I think, can work for most types of brands, but I’d say it’s a particularly effective tactic for brands that are capable of “owning” a lifestyle or mindset. REI, for example, can create such a variety of entertaining content because it helps build out this responsible, engaged outdoor lifestyle they epitomize. That type of approach would be harder for, say, a B2B organization that sells medical supplies. Content marketing still has a place in those spaces, but “entertainment” may not be as primary of a focus in that case.

Kristin Burke, Designer: I think rather than “entertaining” they are projecting their brand’s lifestyle. Trying to appeal to those who fit in with their overall aesthetic, as opposed to the masses. Jeep does this. When you buy a Jeep, you’re not just buying an SUV, you’re entering a secret club of sorts. Jeep owners wave to each other when driving down the road, highway, or trails. A simple nod to your fellow Jeep-er at the gas pump. You feel a level of honor, respect, and pride when driving one. And I truly believe you’re either a Jeep person, or you’re not. It’s that simple.

Christian Seeber, Director of Digital Experience: I can’t speak to if it’s working or not, but I know for me…if brands I interact with do stuff like this it goes a very long way toward brand loyalty (which I have a lot of once I am loyal to a brand).

Amanda Jonovski, Art Director: While I don’t have the evidence to say it is working, I want to believe it’s working. Building brand affinity causes brands to be more thoughtful and genuine in their messaging, as compared to solely building brand awareness. If brands are rewarded with increased revenue, then it’s a win-win situation. The strategy will work better for those brands that can easily tap into an existing lifestyle, activity, or interest (outdoor adventure, fashion, foodies, hygge, travel, etc.).

Mark Miller, Digital Marketing Specialist: I think it’s working. In my opinion, tactical entertainment leads to a positive association with the brand providing it. A more developed version of this feeling is sometimes called brand affinity, but it all starts with planting the seed. I think there are some brands doing this well – the first example that comes to mind is Red Bull. Their sponsored extreme sport events have built an energetic and fun perception of their brand which keeps them top of mind for me when considering choices for caffeinated beverages.

On Wistia’s Brandwagon

Brand Affinity is the feeling you get when you identify with a brand based on shared values. Brand Awareness is when a consumer has been introduced to, and recalls, a brand and its value proposition.

Can brands build awareness without developing affinity with their audience?

MB: Yes and no. The moment you become aware of a brand, you develop the smallest affinity for it; you have certain assumptions and ideas about the brand even if they’re vague and largely subconscious. That being said, after that initial introduction, brand awareness campaigns alone aren’t enough to build strong brand affinity, because knowing about a brand isn’t the same as having a deep relationship with a brand. The former is passive, while the latter is active and intimate. So to summarize: brand awareness campaigns do build a small amount of brand affinity, but to build valuable, actionable brand affinity efficiently, you need to do more than just make people aware of you.

KB: Absolutely. Let’s take Apple vs. Android for example. Everyone is aware of their options with both companies when it comes to choosing a cell phone. We see the commercials, the ads, the not-so-subtle marketing within Netflix shows now. We are aware. However, based off your individual lifestyle, you will likely choose one over the other and become a full believer in your chosen brand.

DR: I think brands can build awareness without developing affinity with their audience. However, I do not think this is a successful approach to getting conversions. Posting ads across social platforms, TV, and radio can be effective ways to extend brand awareness, but if the content in these ads isn’t engaging or entertaining it won’t build affinity. Brand awareness is a great first step to getting your brand in front of consumers, but brand affinity is needed to drive home a conversion and create a relationship with the consumer.

MM: Yes – I think it’s possible to build brand awareness without affinity. A good example of this are tobacco companies like Marlboro. I know of them and what they do but it doesn’t make me identify with their values or want to smoke their cigarettes.

AJ: Yes, brands can build awareness without developing affinity. But then the question becomes: how useful is that brand awareness if your audience isn’t making an emotional connection with it? Efforts put towards developing affinity will do nothing but increase, and more clearly define, brand awareness.

On Airbnb’s newest host, Barbie.

What is something that REI, Wistia, or Barbie should make sure they do in order to see success from their respective campaigns?

KB: Create a hashtag, Barbie! No, seriously. I wish Barbie had followed through on their dream house “giveaway” and made a branded video of the guests coming into the house to show their reactions to the house and all the perks. As a former owner of many Barbie’s I wanted some sort of resolution, or end story to this amazing experience. I truly would have loved to live the experience through the “winner’s” eyes. #bummedbybarbie, if you will.

AJ: Draw parallels, visual or messaging, between the content and viral tactics and the more traditional approach.

For brands just starting out with a content-first approach, what should they keep in mind to ensure their content leads to brand affinity?

DR: Brands using a content-first approach should put a focus on creating relatable and unique content. Storytelling allows the consumer to put themselves in the story your brand is telling. Let the consumers feel involved in your content. Let the consumers picture themselves in your brand and using your products. If the consumer can picture themselves in your Instagram post, affinity will start to build. The more relatable content you put out, the more that consumer is seeing themselves as part of your brand.

CS: Position themselves as unique and make themselves impactful (positively) in the world somehow.

MB: They should start with the story of their brand. What does their brand stand for, and what’s the purpose that drives their actions? Their content should then all funnel through purpose and should be written with strong voice and personality.

AJ: Stay consistent. Whether it’s your messaging, visual content, or grass roots approach everything should feel like it belongs. It doesn’t have to match. And really, it shouldn’t, or your audience is going to get bored, fast. But it should all feel like it could reasonably go together. Have some variety but set some boundaries at the beginning and stick to them.

MM: Quality over quantity. A well planned and thought out content strategy will always out perform a more frequent and lower quality content approach. There isn’t always something new and great to share and forcing it can have negative results.

What do you think about REI, Wistia, and Barbie focusing on building their brand affinity? And who do you think is doing it best? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

If you’ve ever worked in a marketing agency, you know what’s coming in the next few weeks: gifts. A whole boat load of them. 

The client gifts your team has planned will arrive; need to be organized, wrapped, and packaged; and shipped out to your clients. Certain team members will begin leaving the office with wine bottles they didn’t have when they arrived that morning. And if your office is anything like ours, buffets of chocolate, candy, and edible arrangements will develop in common spaces. Some enterprising staff member might even try sorting Lindt stock. 

It’s a season of giving, sure, but it doesn’t have to be a sea of sameness. After all, who is excited to get another package of oh-so-seasonal peanut brittle?

At Saltwater, we’ve committed to sending gifts that have a story and a purpose. While our organizational values of sustainability and empowering an active lifestyle always provide us a place to start, each year our gift ideas go in a slightly different direction. They all have a few key attributes though:

Below, we run through some of our recent holiday gifts to provide other agencies with proof that there is life beyond the chocolate sampler.


Surfboard-shaped, bamboo cutting boards.


Hand-crafted candy sushi (custom made for Saltwater clients), stainless steel chopsticks, Saltwater-branded tea towel.


Saltwater-branded Turkish beach towels with 100% of proceeds benefitting the Surfrider Foundation.


Reusable branded shopping bags and stainless-steel straw kit with cleaning brush and carrying case.


Something sustainably awesome!

Once you have your gift ideas picked out, here are some other things to consider:

Have you given any great client gifts lately? Tell us about it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

It seems like social media platforms are the only channel consumers are paying attention to. Ever feel like posting into the void and no one is there to hear you?

Too often, brands use advertising assets to fill their social media feeds and then wonder why they aren’t seeing the results they were expecting from their social marketing efforts. Well, this is because brands using advertising assets in place of social media content are using a square peg to fill a round hole.

The reason that social content and advertising need to be different is the difference in their application. Advertising content is designed to get across a single message, be seen multiple times, and drive towards a specific action. Sounds like a lot of the boring social media accounts you unfollow, right?

Social content, in contrast, needs to convey a range of messages and brand characteristics, be entertaining and inspiring but not necessarily requiring action, and crucially, must always be new and fresh. So, not only would advertising content be counterproductive when used as social content, but it would be prohibitively expensive to produce considering most social media strategies call for 4 or 5 or more posts each week. But no one reading this has tried that, have they?

So, now that we have established the practical difference between social media content and advertising content, and therefore understand that good social media content cannot be defined by the same criteria as good advertising content, let’s look at what makes good social content.

1. Entertaining
2. Aspirational
3. Actionable
4. Joinable
5. Pay Off

For more specifics on each of these criteria, read our blog post 5 Characteristics of Good Social Media Content.

With those attributes in mind, let’s take a look at a few different types of brands and why their social media marketing is so effective.

A Service App: Hipcamp

Hipcamp is an app that provides a directory of private and public campgrounds available to book around the country. You can find their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts at these links.

A Consumer Products Brand: Tom Beckbe

Tom Beckbe is an Alabama-based clothing company for outdoor enthusiasts. You can find their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts at these links. 

A Hospitality Brand: The Fife Arms

The Fife Arms is a 46-room hotel in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park. You can see their Facebook and Instagram accounts at these links.

What do you think makes for great social media content? And who do you think is doing it best? Tell us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

In the ever-shifting landscape of social media marketing, content strategists and content creators are always striving to make effective content that will engage users. Any user of social media will have a different definition of what makes content engaging, but there will always be certain consistencies:

But for anyone who has gone behind the curtain to create social media content knows, those stipulations don’t provide a lot of guidance when your boss or your client asks you, “So what are we going to post on social media today?”

Looking for more social media tips? Try these blog posts:

1. Video Marketing Checklist: Tactics to Maximize Your Investment
2. Be Heard: How to Make Effective Social Media Content
3. How to Optimize Your Facebook Page: A Guide by Saltwater Collective

Below, we go through the five characteristics that we use to craft social media content. Applicable to any brand or industry, these are the characteristics of effective social media content.

1. Entertaining
First things first, content needs to catch a user’s attention. It needs to stand out on busy and competitive online content platforms. Whether they leverage beautiful content, humor, vulnerability, beauty, great design, important information or something else, the brands that earn user attention online are, at minimum, entertaining their audiences.

2. Aspirational
It’s important to differentiate between Inspirational and Aspirational. Providing inspiration, creating the urge within your consumer to do something, is nice. But it’s also fleeting. Providing your audience with that initial inspiration as well as the long-term aspirations to back it up is how to grow an engaged community. Your brand’s content should inspire your consumers to aspire to a goal.

That goal will be different for different brands. Some brands should motivate their customers to have all the gear they need to be prepared for their next great adventure. Others should inspire their customers to become better stewards of the environment. Still others should push their customers to get outside to reconnect with themselves or loved ones away from the day’s distractions. Whatever aspiration your brand provides should align with your brand’s organizing principle.

3. Actionable
When a consumer decides to follow along with a brand, via social media, newsletters, or catalogues, they are committing their time and attention. For that commitment to have real staying power, the brand needs to go beyond entertainment and aspirations. Providing actionable content is key. For most brands, this can simply be updates on new products, sales, maintenance recommendations, or curated accessory suggestions. But there are tactics beyond the basics, whether that means highlighting worthy causes they can support, producing educational content so they can get the most out of your products, or sharing curated information the brand has gleaned from being an authority in the space. A brand should provide consumers with everything they need to take action, to ensure they’ll keep coming back for more.

4. Joinable
Brand loyalty in today’s world is based on people feeling like they are participating in a community rather than yelling into the void. Whether it’s through events and causes, or a shared mission, or simply a hashtag that consumers can identify with, creating a feeling of belonging and community is key.

5. Pay Off
Whether it’s promotions, giveaways, or freebies, consumers want an incentive above and beyond the prior points to let a brand occupy the real estate on their social feeds and in their inbox. It takes time and attention to follow a brand, even passively, and brands need to offer something in exchange for that.

One important thing to note is that not every post you publish to a social media channel will do every one of these things, and especially not in equal measure. Overall, your profile (and more specifically your communications strategy) needs to deliver all of these characteristics. Sometimes your content will be entertaining or actionable, sometimes it will focus on making your brand joinable, and other times it will be exclusively about the payoff. It’s the job of the skilled social media marketer to keep all of these attributes in mind when planning social media content to ensure your brand’s followers keep coming back for more.

If you’re looking for some support in your social media content strategy or content production, get in touch. We have a few social media marketing solutions that can help.