The Art of Brand

To paraphrase “The Odd Couple,” can a Millennial and a Gen X-er work together, without driving each other crazy? If they are Jamie Welsh (Gen X) and Shaun Busby (Millennial), the answer is a resounding “yes.” They are co-founders (along with Dale Howe) of West of 5 Studios (WO5), a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based retail branding company started in 2015 that works from a true marketing perspective. We talked to the pair about how they work together for their clients and how WO5 is shaking up the retail design and branding industry.

design:retail: How did you come together to create West of 5 Studios?
Jamie Welsh: We noticed a void in the retail marketplace where design, marketing and build live in silos, and we felt we had the perfect backgrounds to come together to close that chasm. Combining Shaun’s experience owning a display company with my experience as founder of a marketing company, we were able to create WO5, a company that resonates and exemplifies the Southern California beach spirit.

d:r: How is WO5 disrupting the industry? What does that mean?
Welsh: We lead with design, a contrarian mindset that truly is disrupting the status quo. Retail displays developed within the display industry tend to be commoditized, almost entirely focused on cost per display. At WO5, we believe a brand benefits most when the first and foremost consideration is how it will be showcased in the environment where the customer experiences the product.

The marketing industry also does not make the customer face-to-face brand experience a high priority. Instead, marketing people today tend to be hyper-focused on the digital realm, with retail, retail collateral and displays becoming more about budget than branding. The joke in marketing is “retail is where brands go to die.” At WO5, we take the opposite view—retail is where your brand comes alive. We take retail touchpoints very seriously and look to optimize the brand experience through smart design and connecting the look and feel with core brand messaging and ethos.

d:r: You are a Gen X-er (Jamie) and a Millennial (Shaun) team, and also have a marketing background versus design background, respectively. How do your experiences come together to best help your clients?
Welsh: We are yin and yang. Shaun tends to choose the calm and cool path, and I the assertive and engaged path, creating a constant and beautiful balance that undoubtedly gives our clients the best of both worlds. We both share core values of family, spirituality and a belief that the universe truly has our best interests at heart. Our respective ages create a brother-sister bond that comes from both of us being the youngest in large families. We felt a bond the moment we met and we knew we were meant to be on this path together.

d:r: What are some things clients tend to overlook in the process that you have to point out?
Busby: Definitely the cost of doing really good design is overlooked by most companies. Good design costs money, and yet it’s common for companies to want everything in the retail space to be low budget. Many clients also don’t do the proper cost analysis of time versus money. We do manufacturing in the United States and in China, and when they just want it cheap, they select China. However, it can take twice as long to get shipments from China and this can significantly delay getting their product on the shelf. Because time is money, this can be the wrong decision.

d:r: What impact do Gen X-ers have on the retail marketplace compared to Millennials, and how do both look at retail these days?
Welsh: We find Gen X-ers view retail as an experience that has completely evolved and changed in their lifetime. Millennials only know a totally open and rapidly changing landscape. We see that
Gen X-ers tend to resist the change they see, while Millennials have a complete comfort level and
embrace it.

Jamie Welsh is managing partner and head of marketing and operations at WO5. She has been in executive roles in marketing and consulting for 25 years. Shaun Busby is WO5’s partner and director of business development. He holds a masters in organizational management and a bachelors in television and film.


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