f you’re an 80’s or early 90’s baby, you’re likely intimately familiar with the cult classic Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters.
There are countless iconic moments throughout the film, but there’s only one that stars one of America’s most familiar brands: Morton Salt.
With this past weekend’s release of Hocus Pocus 2, Morton Salt is back in the limelight. In the original film, it’s legend that only a ring of salt can protect the victims of the Sanderson Sisters from their witchy power. So, Max and Allison, the protagonists of the film, go to their kitchen to find Morton Salt, a staple of the American pantry.
The Perfect Product Placement?
In many ways, Morton Salt was the perfect product placement for two reasons.
First off, ritually speaking, salt is historically accurate - it’s an ancient tradition of conjurers and wiccans alike to mark a “magic circle” when performing rituals, often formed with salt or chalk. In this film, Allison frantically makes a circle to protect herself using a salt circle and the Morton Salt spout makes it pretty easy.
The second reason that it’s great product placement is more from a branding perspective. Morton’s slogan since the early 1900s was “when it rains, it pours,” a saying commonly used to describe the unfortunate phenomenon when problems often happen all at once. At this point in the film, the salt is used when the main characters are feeling the most hopeless while battling three powerful witches - a situation where one might say “when it rains, it pours.”
Morton Salt's Campaigns & Placements
More broadly, Morton Salt has masterfully used cleverly designed ad campaigns & brand partnerships to keep their brand at the forefront of the American consumer’s mind since the beginning. Starting in the 1930’s, Morton Salt began featuring other food products to co-market their salt with classic American produce, like this 1963 watermelon ad:
Later in the 20th century, Morton Salt was featured in countless films and television shows, including the iconic moment in the original Hocus Pocus. You can spot Morton Salt in countless other television and film scenes over the years, including the 90s Sitcom Friends and as recently as the newest season of Stranger Things & Hocus Pocus 2.
Tub full of salt to help Stranger Things character, Eleven, float in the sensory deprivation tank
Morton Salt's Brand Journey
Morton Salt’s brand look, logo, and style guide has gone through countless brand refreshes throughout its 130+ year history, with each version representing a nostalgic part of each American generation’s childhood. Just as its label and usage in the 1993 release of Hocus Pocus represents a poignant piece of nostalgia for 80s and 90s babies, the brand has been a fixture in millions of American pantries. For many growing up across the country, that cylindrical package with the Morton Salt Girl in vintage blue and yellow is just as much a memory as it is a brand - it made its appearance across magazine ads, in classic recipes and eventually all the way into your memories of baking with the family on the holidays.
Its most recent brand refresh is only a slight departure from the “vintage” while reimagining its iconic look for a new generation. The new packaging features cleaner fonts, bolder colors, and more geometric lines - all features of a more modern brand that Chase Design Group helped them craft. That said, modernization did not mean abandoning their classic brand features. For instance, the Morton Salt Girl, the deep blue, and the vintage yellow were extremely important signatures of a brand that’s built trust over more than a century with its American consumer.
Yet, they were able to introduce new elements on top of that classic Morton Salt identity, including new colors (brighter greens, blues, and yellows), new shapes (tags, angled lines), and new photography treatments (different complimentary food photography).
Ultimately, the magic behind Morton Salt’s brand is the same magic behind why thousands of 27-40 year-olds dress up as the Sanderson sisters every year: Nostalgia- a reminder of the naivety of youth, the belief in sorcery, and the mystique of American folklore. Just like the tortured souls of the Sanderson sisters, the Morton Salt brand is older than any living person on Earth. It's made its way into the fabric of American culture which is something few brands get to claim.
As an extra treat (or is it a trick?🎃), here are some designers on Dribbble & Insta who’ve done some Hocus Pocus projects:
Leigh Anne posted this UX persona
Chelsea Bunn also created this enamal pin:
Chelsea has some other awesome design & illustration work:
Check out this Brand Refresh Scope template created on Coworkly. If you’re a creative studio like Chase Design Group (or a one-person brand designer) who’s working with a client that needs a brand refresh like Morton Salt, try customizing this template & sharing with your client!