With roots as far back as 1848, Morton Salt (known as such since 1910) is the leader in salt products in North America, providing salt for “culinary, water softening, household and road deicing, food processing, chemical, pharmaceutical, and numerous industrial uses”. Delivered in an iconic, dark blue, cylindrical package for household use, Morton Salt is, like Coca-Cola, one of the most enduring American products and its Umbrella Girl, introduced in 1914, one of the most well-known and longest-lasting characters from the early days of advertising. Last week, as part of her 100th birthday celebration, Morton Salt announced a slight redesign to the Umbrella Girl and an upcoming introduction of a new packaging system to be rolled out in the next couple of months. Two New York, NY-based agencies were involved: Pause for Thought designed the new logo and packaging (not shown, yet) and Addison developed the masterbrand positioning and 100 anniversary branding.
It was 1914 when the little girl with the umbrella was introduced on the familiar blue round package of Morton Salt and in a print ad in the October issue of Good Housekeeping. The Morton Salt Girl and “When It Rains It Pours®” slogan were created over a century ago for the company’s national advertising campaign to help illustrate that Morton Salt could flow freely even in damp weather, a major product innovation at the time.
The Morton Salt logo is widely recognized for its bold “Morton Salt” word mark. The new logo now features a fresh and friendly font, while maintaining the leadership qualities of the original word mark, specifically the bold, all-caps type style. The letter “R” in the new “Morton” word mark also carries a slight kick to mimic the Morton Salt Girl’s step.
To use Morton Salt’s own copyrighted slogan: “When it rains it pours” — which was created to communicate that even in humid and damp conditions Morton Salt’s salt would pour freely out of its container as opposed to other salts that would get all bunched up. That tagline is now used to express that many things have gone bad (or sometimes good) in quick and multiplied succession. Here it applies to yesterday’s Triumph Motorcycles post where we saw the same typographic update going on with Morton Salt: moving from a flared sans serif to a rounded-corner sans serif. The flared serifs are less obvious here, but they are there and, as is the case with this maneuver, whatever the new wordmark gained in friendliness it lost in uniqueness and flavor. It may resolve some of the tight spacing of the old typography but, other than the swoopy tail of the “R”, there isn’t anything memorable about the new wordmark. Too much subtle quirkiness has been sacrificed with little in return.
In addition to the word mark, the company updated its Morton Salt Girl icon as part of its brand refresh — but in small, subtle ways. The new Morton Salt Girl has cleaner, simplified linework to fit better with the new “Morton Salt” word mark.
The new Umbrella Girl has been updated for the better, removing some of the extraneous line work that muddied up the illustration when rendered small. Compared to the 1933 – 1941 and 1956 – 1968 updates, where new dresses and hairstyles were introduced, this is a very conservative update. With good reason. On the 100th anniversary of an icon, I don’t think anyone — client or designer — wants to be responsible for potentially ruining a very good thing. I’m not promoting aversion to change but, let’s face it, a drastic change to the Umbrella Girl, in the Huffington Post-era of logo journalism, would be catastrophic.
There is not much else to see at the moment. When the packaging comes out, if it’s interesting, we will do a follow-up. In the meantime, let’s appreciate that the Umbrella Girl didn’t get a Barbie-like makeover.