Behind the Branding: Roy Dean

Behind the Branding: Roy Dean

If there were an award for clean branding in jiu jitsu, this guy would take it hands down. He was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about how it grew to be what it is. The key to it all though, is what he lists as his objectives. He started out, from the beginning, with a desire to put jiu jitsu in the "best light possible". That right there is what sets people who make positive change apart.
1) You've mentioned that you've had professional input on your brand image. What made you decide it was something you wanted to pay purposeful attention to?
I had a few objectives when starting RDA.  I wanted to do something different, something very clean, to put BJJ in the best light possible.  I wanted to show that this art, which was so dynamic and effective, was also very sophisticated.  BJJ could be more than just a martial art.  It could be a budo, a way, a lifestyle path.  
Brands are symbols, and can be very powerful.  Therefore, every detail was critical.  Fonts, colors, logos, and slogans.  Everything matters.  Detail in the branding implies detail in the technique.  It implies mindfulness.  There's a beauty in the art that I could always see that I wanted to share with others.  All of this can be communicated in a glance.
2) Your music and videos look like works of art unto themselves...especially those that are more for demonstration purposes than purely instructional. How did they come about?
I have a background in music and video, and looked to leverage those strengths in showcasing the art.  At the time, there were very few videos that focused on the movement and rhythm of BJJ.  Generally, BJJ through video was limited to instructionals and competition footage.  
I realized that sometimes words can get in the way, especially during repeated viewings, and not every moment in a competition holds your attention.  I was looking to show the best movements and techniques, and put it in a format that people would want to watch over and over again.  
Spirals of Jiu Jitsu is a good example.  There was no intention of creating anything heavy or even meaningful when we started this project.  My students Rick, TJ, and myself were just playing around with a high speed camera, and thought it would be interesting to film several techniques.  These included a flying armlock, flying triangle, spinning armlock from mount, kotegaeshi (wrist lock) off a straight punch, shihonage (four corner throw), an Aikido style shoulder throw and hane-goshi (springing loin hip toss).  
I had recently put together a track called "Can't Talk Now" and when I combined the song and video clips, it was working.  I then exercised some creative editing, added a Musashi quote, and we had a short video that displayed the beauty of jiu jitsu techniques, and taught some small lessons on direction and timing.  We had fun.  There was no expectation that anyone would like it.  It was art for art's sake.  And maybe that's why people liked it.
3) You've got crazy thorough branding...from the look of your school, gis, website, DVDs, you even mentioned that you explain the meaning of your logo in your student handbook...what ties them all together?
What ties it all together is a belief that jiu jitsu can change the world for the better.  It's my path, and the more clearly I can communicate that message, the more effective I'll be in connecting with people.  
4) Is your image something you think people notice straight out, or does it work more on a subconscious level? 
It's easy for people to recognize things that are very good or very bad.  It's intuitive.  You know it.  It's that first impression that Gladwell talks about in 'Blink'.  But defining all the elements of what makes good or bad is more difficult.  Crystallizing that into words is takes time and experience.  
My goal is to have a person, who has perhaps never heard of jiu jitsu, watch one of my videos and like it.  They don't need to know why.  The positive impression of the art is the most important thing.  Of course there are multiple elements that go into making this happen. Grooving music and artful cinematography are key.  Clean technique and the distinct lack of force registers with the viewer.  Smiles and laughter are also positive.  For me, it's not about being loud or aggressive.  It's about being quiet, moving less, and being more efficient.  It's about communication and growth more than competition.   The result is a video that has nothing to do with violence, and everything to do with empowering people.
The videos also allow my students to display heart and dedication in their rank demonstrations.  It's about telling a story that others can be inspired and entertained by.  All of this registers on a subconscious level, and the viewer consciously likes the video.  By liking the video, they get a good impression of the art.  This is my aim.
5) Your logo is very distinct and quickly recognizable. Is there any special meaning behind it?

(As described in the student handbook) The logo was modeled after traditional Japanese family crests, or kamon. The three circles in the center of the symbol represent the trinity of our consciousness: body, mind, spirit. The triangle is commonly used in Jiu-Jitsu, but here it is implied, rather than drawn. The outer white ring represents the external applications and benefits of the art, while the smaller ring parallels the inner realm. The heavy use of circles represents the circularity of movement. The balance between positive and negative space reminds us to remain open. 

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