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“After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is” – togetherbe


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Renowned creative leader and author Ben Welsh shares six key takes since launching his own wine company Avalon. Welsh was Chief Creative Officer at DDB Australia from 2016 to 2021. Previously he spent almost 20 years as executive creative director at M&C Saatchi, and then creative chair across Asia.

 

I have a confession to make. After over 30 years working in the advertising industry, I have finally learned what a brand is.

I certainly thought I knew. I embraced them, defined them, sold them, launched and re-launched them, and many still endure, but until recently I couldn’t look a brand in the face and declare ‘I see you’.

What changed? I created my own brand.

In doing so I learned a lot of other valuable lessons – how essential account service is, how important that frustrating constant questioning by the client is, and, thank fuck for finance. Oh, and sales.

A little history, baby

A long time ago, before I worked in advertising, I had a brief career in the wine business. I sold, helped make, and wholesaled the stuff here and in the UK. I earned a pittance but always had access to free or discounted wine. The highlight was the 10 weeks I spent living and working at Mount Mary in the Yarra Valley.

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Fast forward 25 years to a comment on my wine-blog (wineunder20lifeover50.com) – when are you going to do your own label? I was wise enough to ignore the thought, but later, possibly thanks to a couple of Covid infections, it popped up in my mind and declared itself a brilliant idea. After sharing the idea with a couple of fellow creatives I was even more convinced by its brilliance.

Ben Welsh: “After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is”

Here are six things I’ve learned. No doubt there are more.

A brand starts with an idea.

Sir John Hegarty pointed out recently that a business starts with an idea. I’d say it’s equally true of a brand. Ours is this:

It’s not where it’s from, it’s where it takes you.

Ben Welsh: “After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is”

A brand is personal.

It’s easier in the early years – Mary Quant, Anita Roddick, Steve Jobs… brands are somebody’s baby. Mine is just a toddler, but I hope it will grow up to be something bigger and not forget its parents. (Did I just compare a tiny wine company with some truly innovative and amazing global institutions?)

A brand has a look and a voice.

Well, d’uh, that’s something we all know – we’ve all read or written brand books. But too often the same personality and tone are applied – there aren’t many brands that would describe themselves as grumpy. Study the label of an Avalon bottle and you get it. But only half of it. Inside that bold, witty exterior (I’ve seen people laugh when reading the copy) is a sophisticated wine. If there wasn’t, it would be off brand.

Ben Welsh: “After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is”

Pricing is part of branding.

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Again, I think I knew this – cars, fashion, luxury, so many items use price to define a brand – both high and low – K-mart, Ikea, Jetstar, but it really struck home when you have to price your brand into the market. And didn’t get it quite right!

A brand is a compass which points in the right direction.

Whenever we had an idea, we let the brand tell us if it’s a good one or not. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. No amount of guidelines can take the place of that feeling. We’re doing a film festival later in the year. It makes complete sense. Not because we’re a wine, but because we are Avalon. No surprises for where it is.

Ben Welsh: “After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is”

A business should follow the brand, not the other way round.

Virgin is a great example. (Here we go again with the unbalanced comparisons.) Let an attitude, not a product, define your brand and you have so much more scope. Avalon has started as a wine. I’m excited at what else it can become. We’re creating a second label with a different name which is still, unmistakably AVALON.

Chaos is normal.

I read somewhere that there are two moments of clarity and excitement in having your own business – the day you start it, when the enterprise is full of potential, and the day you sell it, when that potential is genuinely realised. Everything in between feels like a trainwreck. I can’t comment on the selling, but the first two are bang on.

Take my advice, launch your own brand. But make sure you have a suit and a finance person alongside.

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Oh, and be sure to buy some Avalon.

You’ll find it at avalonwine.co or the following retailers:

Le Pont Clareville
Native Drops Surry Hills
Carnegie Cellars
Your agency – if you order some!

ben@avalonwine.co

Ben Welsh: “After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is”
Ben Welsh: “After over 30 years working in the ad industry, I’ve finally learned what a brand is”



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Miranda Cosgrove

My Miranda cosgrove is an accomplished article writer with a flair for crafting engaging and informative content. With a deep curiosity for various subjects and a dedication to thorough research, Miranda cosgrove brings a unique blend of creativity and accuracy to every piece.

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