Alberta soap company keeps brand building simple

Rocky Mountain Soap Company hires Faulhaber Communications for PR

Rocky Mountain Soap Company will no longer be embarrassed to be seen as simple, as part of a planned shift in the lifestyle and body care brand’s communication strategy.

The Canmore, Alta.-based company has also chosen Faulhaber Communications as its first-ever public relations agency of record in Canada. Rocky Mountain previously worked with agencies across Canada on a project basis.

“Five years ago we were almost embarrassed in a way by our simplicity,” says Karina Birch, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Soap Company, which has 11 locations in Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba.

For the last 16 years, the company has been using “very simple ingredients” and makes its 100% natural products in small batches. But, for most of that time consumers equated quality and effectiveness with complex ingredients and complicated recipes, Birch says.

Now, consumer research conducted by the company has found simplicity is the order of the day, with consumers saying the use of a few simple ingredients makes for higher quality in the natural, personal care category. That’s in sync with Rocky Mountain’s brand philosophy and “the part of the message that we’re starting to put more emphasis on.”

Starting in August, Rocky Mountain will use its website, blog, social media, in-store and social media events, weekly newsletters and window installations to focus on the fact some of its products have only three or four ingredients. The brand does no traditional advertising.

Birch says the brand also plans to tell the stories of its packaging, sustainability, store construction and how it gives back to local communities.

In addition, Rocky Mountain has launched a natural, non-whitening sunscreen that it’s been working on for the last four years that Birch calls “the absolute best natural sunscreen on the market.”

Next month, it’s launching a tinted lip butter called Tinted Lip Quench that will be introduced in paper pot packaging that will start to deteriorate quickly. This will solve the disconnect in which contents of packages disappear within months, while packaging can last for hundreds of years, Birch says.

“Five years ago, that would not have been okay in terms of the consumer adopting it, but now I feel it’s the right time. People want to make good choices and they understand packaging is an area that can be improved on and they’re willing to give up the aesthetics and how pristine the package looks in order to solve” the sustainability puzzle.

Having a PR AOR will help Rocky Mountain do such things as develop relations with influencers quicker than it could do on its own, Birch says.

“We looked at many agencies, but there was an instant falling in love with Faulhaber. We felt like they spoke our language, they were very creative [and brought] lots of ideas to the table, but all within our current mindset. They weren’t trying to push us into mass media, as an example.”

Rocky Mountain Soap Company is the recipient of the 2016 Independent Retail Ambassador of the Year Award from Retail Council of Canada. The company was selected for its toxin-free product offerings, community engagement and expansion in Western Canada.

Birch says the award “speaks broadly to the fact independent retail is coming into its own,” with consumers seeking brands that do one thing well rather than providing everything for everybody.

“It’s not to say Costco and Walmart don’t have a place. But, it feels like as consumers we’re looking for something a little bit more authentic and original. That’s where independent retail really starts to deliver that for people.”

Last month, Rocky Mountain’s online store became its biggest store by sales volume. It represents the highest growth channel at 20% increases per year over the last three years, compared with 5 to 10% for bricks and mortar outlets. Ontario, which has no bricks and mortar stores, represents about one-third of online sales, Birch says.

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