ReturnAn Interview with Ben Morton, Manager of MTN Australia
Montana Colors set up its subsidiary in Australia in 2017. The operation, which runs out of their headquarters in Sydney, is overseen by Ben Morton. As pandemic restrictions ease in Oceania, MTN News took the chance to talk to the head of the outpost down under.
“It's funny how projects come about at Montana. We are not afraid to step into new markets, no matter how far flung they may be. This adventurous and fearless spirit, instilled in the culture of the brand, has always been the key to our success. With Montana’s characteristic desire for growth, and after seeing the positive development of our first subsidiary in the USA, Australia had to be the next country for us to plant the flag in, given the situation at that time.
“After five years working with the brand, and half a year training with the Los Angeles team, I was prepared to start the mission of opening the Sydney branch. The uncertainty of being in a new market with limited experience, more than 15,000 km from Barcelona, seems a little more manageable when you consider the human team that supports the project from home.
“From the first day, when we sat on the office floor carpet with no furniture or wifi to speak of; to now, when we are considering upgrading to our third warehouse, it’s been a steep learning curve that’s producing great results, thanks to the efforts of the entire Aussie team. There aren’t many of us, but we’re efficient and motivated, keen to bring the freshness of the brand to every corner of Straya!”
Bernat Escorihuela, Export Department and International Marketing
Australia is slowly returning to normality after the pandemic, as many other countries look on with envy. What are you looking forward to seeing in the festival, graffiti and arts scenes that you missed in 2020?
I am looking forward to more dynamic events, where artists and spectators interact on a more tactile level, not just through the lens of a screen. The sensory experience of viewing an artwork in person does not compare. This is already happening with the few events that have kicked off in the beginning of this year, which is good to see.
As for graffiti, did it ever change? What I would like to see is all the concepts and letter forms drafted on paper during lockdowns pushed out onto the streets.
How has the pandemic affected the way you work? Is there anything you’re doing more effectively now, compared to 12 months ago?
The pandemic has affected my workflow in an interesting way. During 2020 I became inefficiently busy, where my time was focused on the immediate tasks of distribution and not conceptualising and planning for the future of MTN Australia. However, this has led us to the ability to grow the team further and I can go back to being busy and future planning.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you first come into contact with graffiti? How did the relationship with Montana Colors begin?
I came into contact with graffiti when I was about 9 years old, and you could say I caught the graffiti bug that floated around. In particular, I became addicted to the construction of letters and its ability express emotion. Progressing my skills as an artist led me to use a more finely tuned product, which started my relationship with Montana Colors. Then by God’s will, I got the opportunity to work for Montana, leading me to where I am now.
You have a relatively small team, but Montana Colors is incredibly popular in Australia. Can you profile your team?
Yes, a small team indeed. I like to say, ‘there is only a handful of us, but we strive to operate like a team of 10 or more’. Nevertheless, our team doesn’t just stop with us in Australia, we work cohesively with the MTN family back in HQ.
How do you manage to distribute over such a large area whilst keeping costs down for the customers?
There are a lot of factors that come into play, but once the product lands in Australia, I think it is a matter of understanding your requirements as a business, then building networks and procedures from there.
What advantages are there for having a base in New South Wales?
There are a few. The east coast of Australia is definitely the most dense and allows for a more immediate distribution of MTN. From an international point of view, it is also beneficial. If a tourist is visiting Australia, in particular someone who is apart of the MTN family, Sydney is definitely on their places to see list. Also, it’s Sydney!
Which are your most popular product ranges?
It would depend on the market groups we sell to. Different groups have their popular ranges. The Hardcore and 94 are the most popular overall, whereas the Water Based is becoming a household name in the surfboard industry. The PRO range also doesn’t go under the radar, as it strongly compliments the 94, Hardcore and Water Based, and it’s definitely a popular choice in the DIY, model making and specialist markets.
How do you keep in contact with your final clients, without having a flagship store over there?
We keep in contact with our final customers through various channels. Social media is definitely a core channel we use to communicate. Also, conversations with our retailers allows us to gain insight into the customers’ needs. We do have a small handful of customers who purchase directly from us, and all of them have various backgrounds of how they use our product, which gives us strong insight.
What’s the most effective way of marketing MTN products in your territory?
The brand already has a strong history and reputation, which allows the product to sell itself within our core markets. With this in mind, I think the most effective way of marketing MTN in Australia has come into a more traditional form. Consistent supply to an ever-growing network of retailers. Having the product visible and readily available has allowed consumers to rely on MTN which in turn influences the buying decisions of others.
The question is, how do we market MTN to the Australian who thinks of spray paint as a steel tin with stinky paint? Well, that’s why we have the rest of 2021 to develop strategies where people’s thought processes change from simple spray paint to MTN, tools with endless possibilities.ShareMay 17, 2021