Dokio, Scott Donanno

The DIY approach to corporate content design

In Trends by Peter Gearin

Dokio is brand automation software that puts design tools in the hands of marketers. We meet its maker, Scott Bonanno.

Like all great ideas, Scott Bonanno’s started with a problem. His creative agency, Liquorice, is a Melbourne-based branding and digital agency that specialises in design, strategy and technology. Bonanno found that his large clients were coming to his creative team to make tiny changes to their content, and it was chewing up everyone’s time and resources.

“I recognised that there was a lot of very simple templated work coming through from the marketing teams,” the entrepreneur says. “We’re literally talking about changing headlines, or just making small alterations to emails or web banners. They were simple customisations that often clients hate paying for, because it seems like simple work, [but] as an agency, you need to charge them a minimum fee. Designers hate working on it, because it’s boring, and there’s nothing creative in it for them.”

So, just over two years ago, Bonanno self-funded and conceived the idea of a cloud-based, automated platform that allowed clients themselves to make changes to simple, style-guided artwork. He could see it would free up his own staff to do more creative work. It would also put the power back in the hands of his clients to make their consumer-facing content – such as emails, posters, sales brochures, ebooks and web pages – more flexible and bespoke. Their communications could be tailored to suit customers in their individual markets.

The result is Dokio (“document input output”) – brand automation software with built-in style guides, templates, managed digital assets and approvals processes. Once businesses have been set up by the Dokio team with guides and templates to suit their specific needs, they can quickly create specific content using the correct digital assets. Best of all, marketing and sales teams – or franchise owners – can make pre-approved changes on the fly without having to go back to a designer or copywriter.

Bonanno says the biggest test was getting Dokio to fit inside existing team workflows and content management systems. With the help of a few clients willing to trial his software, Bonanno arrived at a system that he says is easy to use and requires little staff training.

“We built a little prototype product to show some clients,” he says. “They got excited about it quickly. Then, eventually, it evolved it into what it is now. One of the first clients is using it across all different business units as a solution to its local-area marketing, corporate sales and similar things.”

The first thing clients notice using Dokio, Bonanno says, is the amount of time they save. “A traditional client-agency workflow for an email campaign might involve a client contacting their agency, designing and writing content, and then going back and forth until their layout is complete. The finished layout would be coded into HTML and tested, and further refinements would be made to ensure there were no compatibility issues before finally sending the email out to customers. This process might take two to three weeks.

“With Dokio, clients choose the appropriate template, enter their content and Dokio lays it out based on the brand style guide. The code is pre-tested for compatibility and the layouts are pre-approved by a brand team, so the HTML is ready instantly.”

“The idea is to get the creative agencies focused on doing new stuff, freeing up resources.” Scott Bonanno

Bonanno says Dokio provides other “layers”, as requested by his large corporate clients – things such as an approvals process and integrations with print suppliers. “Dokio is mostly self-service for clients once they’re set up,” he says. “Dokio should help make sure the content is always correct and controlled. Brand and marketing teams can lock down what other teams edit and make sure they’re using the right imagery, pre-approved text or tone of voice.”

As a designer, Bonanno is aware of the perception that Dokio may put creative service providers out of work. “A piece of software isn’t going to come up with new headline ideas, or an image for a new campaign,” he says. “The idea is to get the creative agencies focused on doing new stuff, freeing up internal resources. It gives them time to work on the stuff they’re good at – ideas generation – and taking away some of the nuts and bolts production, and making it as simple as possible.”

Bonanno’s biggest breakthrough came when American Express chose to use Dokio – firstly out of the Sydney office, then London and the world. The credit card giant saw the software as an ideal integration for their global teams that create content that’s templated but highly regionalised.

“They have marketing teams all over the world, and now they can capture what they’re all doing, and make sure that the brand is perfectly applied across the markets,” he says. “Before, this was incredibly difficult. Every market was working with different agencies. Every agency would interpret the guidelines slightly differently. They’d support different email clients, and some would break here, and some would break there. So, for them, it’s a really good solution. I just feel like there’s going to be other companies out there looking to do a similar thing.”

He says Dokio helps make the production of high-quality artwork simple while protecting the brand. “A lot of the work we do in our initial consultation is understanding brand style guides, so when we build templates, depending on the content that people put in, they can react in a way that’s always sympathetic.”

When Brand Tales spoke to Bonanno he was in London, working with the American Express team and trying to track down new clients in the UK and Europe. “I think we will need to expand,” he says. “At this point we’re growing organically with demand, and I think that’s good for me.

“I’m just keeping my ear to the ground, trying to anticipate what’s coming, and react to what customers are asking for.”

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