Joshua Doty Interview

Joshua Doty video interview

Joshua Doty and Colin Finkle discuss how brand consistency is essential if an organization wants to connect with people.

Inconsistent brands fail to build value and make an impression on their customers, and a brand that is all over the place reflects poorly on the products it sells.

Brands that maintain a high level of consistency build brand equity over time. Large companies take great pains to maintain the consistency of their brands. The key tool in maintaining consistency is a brand style guide, which every business and designer should integrate into their process whether big of small.

Joshua Doty from Clokendagger talks to Colin Finkle from BMB about his recent article on the importance of brand consistency.

Video

Interview Transcript

Colin Finkle
So, I have Joshua Doty from Clokendagger. Hey Josh, how are you doing?

Joshua Doty
Good. How are you doing, Colin?

Colin Finkle
Not bad. Not bad. Sunny day here. We’re both in the northeast, I guess. Nevermind, you’re sort of mid-country, right?

Joshua Doty
Yeah, we’re in the Midwest. We have about four inches of snow outside right now.

Colin Finkle
Oh, really? So, I’m the Canadian, and you have the snow? Wow. Okay, that’s different for me. I don’t know my identity if I’m the Canadian and I don’t have snow.

Joshua Doty
I’m sure it’s on the way.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, exactly. It is probably coming this way right as we speak.

So, can you tell us a little bit about Clokendagger? That’s your brand development firm?

Joshua Doty
Yeah, absolutely. So Cokendagger is a creative agency that develops strategies, brands, and identities to promote your products and services while keeping your brand competitive and consistent.

We offer four main services, each with their own list of capabilities. So, our service tier number one is strategy. And this includes brand strategy, brand positioning, content strategy, and SEO strategy.

Our service tier number two is branding and design, which includes brand development, rebranding, logo and ID systems, brand style guides and messaging, brand collateral, print design, and packaging design.

And then our third tier is content marketing. And that includes copywriting, blogging, social media posting, infographics, e-newsletters, display ads, and press releases.

Our fourth final tier for services is digital development, which includes website design and development, UI/UX design, and content management systems, such as WordPress.

Colin Finkle
End to end brand design and development and communications…?

Joshua Doty
Yeah, pretty much.

Colin Finkle
That’s good. So how do you personally define “brand?”

Joshua Doty
So, I would say my personal definition of “brand” would be the day-to-day attributes representing a business, product, or service. So, the way that it looks, how it makes you feel, and what it sounds like. I try to think of a brand as a zodiac sign.

Colin Finkle
Okay.

Joshua Doty
So, what are the attributes that make up who you are? The same analogy applies to a brand.

Colin Finkle
Hmmm, okay. Yeah, I can see that. How zodiac signs have different archetypes and character traits and personalities. Yeah, that’s an interesting way of looking at it.

Joshua Doty
Yeah.

Colin Finkle
It can also explain how two different brands in two different industries can be comparable because they might share different personality traits and qualities.

Joshua Doty
Exactly right.

Colin Finkle
Cool. I never thought of it that way. That’s interesting. So, what clients have you worked with?

Joshua Doty
So, we’ve worked with startups, small-to-medium sized businesses, and Fortune 500 companies. And that includes clients from industries such as psychology consultants, hair salons, restaurants and bars, manufacturers and distributors, and non-profits.

Colin Finkle
A pretty diverse range of stuff. What’s your personal background? How did you come into being a brand builder / developer?

Joshua Doty
My background is in graphic design, web design, and marketing. To start off, as a kid, I would draw for hours, and in my sophomore year of high school, I learned Photoshop and Illustrator. For most of my life, I’ve been, you know, creating some sort of art.

For college, I attended Rochester Institute of Technology, where I majored in graphic design with a minor in advertising. And since then, I have spent three years at a digital marketing company, three years at a design studio, seven years in counting as a design contractor, and four years in counting as founder and brand developer of Clokendagger.

Colin Finkle
Nice. So, you started out in the visual and creative side and moved into the strategic side. What made you get into that side of the whole business?

Joshua Doty
Over time, I just understood that strategy is actually really important. When it comes to branding, it’s not just the design that needs to look good, but it’s the thought that goes behind it. And if there is no strategy that’s going behind your brand, then you don’t know if it’s really going to have the right effects.

So, depending on what your desired outcome is for your brand: are you trying to get new customers? Not all people are; I had a client who said: “We have enough customers, and we don’t want to build more revenue, but we want to gear our brand towards students that are coming out of college and looking for jobs.” So, we did a whole strategy on how to engage new hires, including a marketing plan with that same objective.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, I have a client right now, a registered massage therapist, and her schedules booked. She can’t take any more clients. But I’m still working with her because she can get a better quality of client and niche down into clientele that might appreciate our services more than her current clientele.

So interesting. People think that graphic design is just about making something look pretty. And fair enough because most graphic designers aren’t too deep into the strategy. Hopefully, the strategy has been laid out for them. But it’s nice to see another designer there that’s really thinking strategically; about what the goals of the business are and how design can achieve those.

Joshua Doty
Absolutely. Some of the companies I worked for in the past didn’t really have a strategy set in place. As the designer on the project, it just made it that much harder for me. So again, that’s another reason why I wanted to start up my own agency and really focus on the strategy, so there’s not a lot of going back and forth with a client. You have a set path up front, and then after that, it’s just execution.

Colin Finkle
Yeah. I think you have to do that. When you’re just working without a strategy without a direction, just on aesthetics, there’s just too much room for variation because you’re not validating it against anything. So you think you’re on a good track, and then somebody in the client’s life says “they’re not feeling it” and then failed. Whereas, if you have a strategy, then it’s: “there is a vision, the color is to appeal to this market, the typography is evocative to this certain set of people.” It just makes sense—everybody’s rowing in the same direction when there’s a strategy involved.

Joshua Doty
Right.

Colin Finkle
So as much as we could talk about strategy all day, we’re here to talk about brand consistency. So you just contributed an article to BMB that was urging people to maintain a really high level of consistency. Tell me: is brand consistency really as important as you made it out to be in the article?

Joshua Doty
Yeah. I would say brand consistency is very important, and I’m going to give three reasons here. Reason number one is customer relationships. So, brand consistency helps relate your products or services to your customers, and it conveys what you’re selling, why you’re selling it, and who you’re selling to.

Reason number two is perception. The more professional your brand looks, the higher the quality your products or services will appear to your customers. It’s a badge of honor. And your brand must relate to your customers and the services or products that you offer.

And reason number three is longevity. Keeping your brand consistent over time gives more people more opportunity to recognize it. It also gives you more time to run your business because you won’t be worrying about the effectiveness of your brand and therefore cutting down on design costs because you won’t be rebranding every year. You’ll have a solid, consistent brand that will last for years.

Colin Finkle
And I don’t know people appreciate how expensive rebranding is, as you know. [If you rebrand, then you have] lost brand equity because you’ve left behind so many people that were aware of your brand because now, you’re not recognizable.

So, what sort of things are we talking about here? What do you need to maintain consistency or to have a consistent brand?

Joshua Doty
You want to make sure that your brand’s logo, colors, photography, messaging, and tone of voice are consistent across all touchpoints. For example, the styling of your social media posts should complement the styling used on your website. And the design of your website should reflect the design of your brochure or business card. They all work together.

Now, that doesn’t mean they need to look exactly the same. In fact, you don’t want them to look identical. Instead, choose attributes that work well together. So, for a business card, use a solid color and a typeface from your website. For a social media post, use a photograph from your website. You want variation within your consistency.

Colin Finkle
Okay, so a consistency of feeling and attributes across touchpoints, not necessarily making everything look exactly the same…?

Joshua Doty
Yes.

Colin Finkle
So just taking the perspective of a client here who might not know better: “can’t I just toss the same logo on it? Isn’t that enough to make it consistent in people’s mind? If my logo is there, then they know where it’s coming from. Isn’t that enough?”

Joshua Doty
Well, are you Coca-Cola or Nike? I mean, if so, then yes, just slap your logo on a billboard and call it a day. But we’re not world-renowned like them, so building a brand reputation will take time. And from a branding perspective, brand consistency is how you achieve that. The ultimate goal is to have customers recognize your brand instantly, with just your logo. But you can’t achieve this without first understanding your brand and keeping it consistent over time.

Colin Finkle
Yeah. Even the big brands that have that amazing brand recognition still work very diligently to keep their brand consistent. Brands, like Starbucks and Ford, adjust their product offerings around the world for regional tastes, but the core of their brand, and a lot of the aesthetics of their brand, like typefaces and logos, are consistent around the world. Do you know why they’re working so hard to maintain this consistency?

Joshua Doty
Yeah: because it works! Everything we’ve touched on so far today, these large corporations do it, and they do it consistently. This is giving them a reputation for selling quality products. I’m going to give you an example here: Abby can purchase a two-door economy car at the same dealership where Sam can purchase a four-wheel-drive pickup truck. And the reason why is because both Abby and Sam know that having that Ford logo on their vehicle means they’re in good hands.

Colin Finkle
So that consistency speaks to the quality of the product and the quality of the organization, as well as creates a consistent envelope that you can get multiple people underneath. That’s really interesting. So, if an organization is really diligent about keeping the brand consistent, what benefits can they expect?

Joshua Doty
They can expect a steady increase in brand awareness and returning customers, which can result in brand loyalty and increased profitability. Now, building brand consistency may be a bigger investment upfront, but it will save you time and money down the road because the foundation of your brand will always be the same. And yes, you’ll have to evolve your brand as design trends change, but you’ll never have to start from scratch.

Colin Finkle
An evolution as opposed to a revolution?

Joshua Doty
Yep.

Colin Finkle
So, what tools do we have in our arsenal to help keep a consistency of brand?

Joshua Doty
Honestly, I would say the number one tool, if not the only tool you really need to help maintain consistency, is a brand style guide. This document is the holy grail of your brand. It explains the who, what, where, when, and why of your brand, including your ideal customer, your mission statement, the design elements that make up your brand, like your logo, and so much more.

And the great thing about this tool is that it can be used by just about anyone. Though it’s meant to be used by internal marketing teams, an entrepreneur can use it if they’re handling their own marketing. And the best place to purchase a full brand style guide is from a professional designer who understands your brand in and out.

Colin Finkle
A few years ago, a brand’s style guide was an actual book that sat in the office that you could look up stuff in minutes. We have moved on to a PDF that was updated and distributed internally every so often. But now, I think it’s something that can be internal and external.

And I think he’s even more benefits when you use it with external people, because you can bring in people from all around the world with all different specialties, and in 15 minutes with this PDF or microsite, they get a crash course on your brand. They know how to best apply their skills and abilities in a way that fits your company what image you’re trying to project. Yeah, it’s even more powerful when you think about it as an external tool.

Joshua Doty
Absolutely, yeah. It’s something that you can fall back on to, you know, no matter what type of project or marketing plan you’re working on; it’s something you can always use for reference.

Colin Finkle
Okay, so I can understand a large-scale organization investing a lot of time and money and meetings between marketers and designers to design into a really tight style guide. It’s worth it. But do small businesses really need a brand style guide?

Joshua Doty
So, I would say yes, even small businesses need a brand style guide. But it doesn’t have to be as in-depth as a full brand style guide. I like to call these brand style sheets because they encompass all the important aspects of a brand on a single sheet. And many entrepreneurs like these because it gives them a cheat sheet on how to use their brand for marketing purposes.

Colin Finkle
Yeah, it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Even when I’m doing development for projects that there’s no client, it’s just me, I’ll just pop open a Google Slides presentation and just note all of the things that I need to refer back to. It can be as simple as that; it doesn’t need to be any more complicated. Fonts and colors and whatnot.

So, it’s not realistic to expect every business to be 100% consistent, especially SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) that don’t have the departments or manpower to maintain that. What’s the minimum we should make sure stays consistent? What are the basics we need to get right in order to start reaching even higher levels of consistency?

Joshua Doty
Listen, you can’t expect the same success as your competitors if your brand is not 100% consistent. You can’t expect customer engagement, you can’t expect brand loyalty, and you can’t expect to stay competitive.

Now, if you don’t know where to even begin with brand consistency or you don’t have time to do it, that’s where people like us come in. Our job as brand builders is to make sure your brand stays consistent across multiple touchpoints. That’s really the foundation of our creative agency, Clokendagger. We work behind the scenes on branding your business so that you can focus on running your business.

Colin Finkle
You need to have a mindset shift. A lot of people who start businesses and a lot of people and small to medium-sized businesses (actually, every type of business) understands that nobody has the same skill set. And thankfully, there are people like you and me who live and breathe brands and brand personality. We think about ways to increase yet equity of our client’s brand. You’ve got to lean on people like us.

Joshua Doty
Oh, yeah. Leave it to the professionals.

Colin Finkle
The table stakes are having an ultimately consistent brand; do not leaving anything up to chance. Talk to professionals, show them what you’re working with, ask them if they can make it more consistent with your brand. We’re here to help, right?

Joshua Doty
Yeah, absolutely.

Colin Finkle
So beyond staying consistent, do you have any key advice for other brand builders out there?

Joshua Doty
Brand consistency is super important. Once you have that, everything else kind of comes together. Like I said before, it’s not just encompassing your brand, but it’s going to help you with future marketing campaigns and future projects that you may have within your company–it really is the foundation of your brand. I don’t know if there’s anything more important than brand consistency. You could have a beautiful brand that works today, but next year, it’s not consistent.

I used to see this all the time back when I didn’t provide my clients with a style guide. I would create this awesome logo, a stationery set, and brand collateral and give it to them, and they’d get it all printed out. And then a year later, I see their logo on Facebook or Instagram, and it’s on top of a green background and it looks pixelated–it wasn’t meant for that. It’s disguising their brand as someone else. So, it was a great logo, but they weren’t keeping it consistent to how I had designed it a previous year.

Brand consistency is super important out there, especially for brand builders. I suggest that if you’re going to be doing a logo design project or identity design, include the style guide in your quote and in your process. If the client really doesn’t want it, do one anyways. Whether they want it or not, they’re going to need it, and it’s going to make your job easier because, nine times out of ten, they’re going to be coming back to saying: “I need this file,” or “what font is this? I can’t download it on my computer.” It’s going to save you time in the end. And again, it doesn’t have to be a full brand style guide, but at least have something that you can give them and include it in your process, like a style sheet, because it’s going to make the job easier for both you and your client.

Colin Finkle
There’s almost like a contractual element to it as well, where if you can agree on the style guide, you can fly through decisions regarding the website and brochures and business cards because you’ve made all the decisions upfront in the style guide.

Joshua Doty
Right.

Colin Finkle
Yeah. If I’m on this earth to convey anything, it’s: when you build a brand, you’re building brand equity. And that’s the value, theoretically, that someone would pay to buy your brand. And if your brand is inconsistent, then it’s not going to have value. Let’s take an extreme example: a company is using half a dozen logos, and the colors are all over the place, then where is the value? I often see businesses, particularly small businesses, that otherwise would be really successful, look that way. And it’s clear on its face: no one’s no one’s going to believe that has any value. Consistency is really the bedrock that you’re building this brand equity on. Without consistency, what is it? It’s just nothing.

The other thing I was going to just note before we leave off here is a funny thing happens when you’re consistent and commit to consistency. You start to realize where the creative risks can be taken, where you can push the envelope. You think: “Okay, I’m nailing myself down to this style guide, and that takes all the creativity out of it.” In reality, it’s the opposite. For example, Lego can only be put together a few ways, but you can make infinite things from Lego once you know the tools, right?

Joshua Doty
Yes.

Colin Finkle
Okay, awesome. Yeah. So, Josh: if somebody wants to reach out to you and solicit Clokendagger or just get some advice from you, where can they find you?

Joshua Doty
Yes, so you can find us on the web by visiting clokendagger.com, where you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter. You can follow us on Facebook with the handle @Clokendagger. And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter with the handle at @Clokendagger1.

Colin Finkle
Okay, awesome. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard from you. As far as BMB: Brand Marketing Blog, I am sure will we’ll hear from you again. And if we’re lucky enough to have you contribute an article, then we’ll pop on and talk about it again.

Joshua Doty
Absolutely. Sounds good.

Colin Finkle
Awesome! Have a good day. Get shovelin’ on that snow, I guess?

Joshua Doty
Yeah, I already have my snowboard gear ready. So, I’m pretty excited about that.

Colin Finkle
Oh, yeah? You’re all primed up? Nice.

Joshua Doty
Primed for the season!

Colin Finkle
Have a good one.

Joshua Doty
All right. Thanks, Colin. Take care.

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Colin Finkle

Colin Finkle is a brand marketer and designer with 14 years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies, and now passionately helps Canadian entrepreneurs and public figures at the brand marketing agency, Nordeau. You can see his work at ColinFinkle.com

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