DAM’s Reach Spreads Across the Enterprise


Digitals asset management (DAM) systems can benefit anyone who needs to deal with the distribution, use and control of brand approved images. And so it seems only natural that DAM systems should reside in the marketing department.

Yet while they may start there, the uses of both the assets and the DAM’s functionality quickly stretches everywhere across a company.

DAM Casts a Wide Net

When I ran the content management team at a manufacturing company, the DAM platform was originally introduced to control the flow of approved images to the company’s online presence. We were revamping the website and eCommerce platform. A key part of the project was to improve the images used and to make sure they were both brand and safety compliant.

It quickly became apparent that part of that process involved not just storing the images, but developing a visual content strategy as well.

Before too long the word spread that we now had a single safe source for brand-approved images. The next logical step was to ensure our print publications, such as brochures and technical specifications, as well as any marketing collateral, were all pulling images from the same source.

Soon we were talking to other groups in the company, and even our dealer network, about how they could contribute to and access the DAM. Instead of just storing the images selected for use on the website we were soon storing every picture from a product photoshoot. Suddenly the company archives became interested.

In the space of 18 months, we had passed one million assets and over 8,000 users accessing them.

Unexpected DAM Use Cases

The most interesting result was how the DAM became the source for applications and use cases we had never considered.

We had developed a way to create lightweight 3-D models of our products, and started storing the source files for those on the DAM, too. Suddenly the DAM was the source driving augmented reality proof-of-concept innovations, which we used to populate digital signage at dealer showrooms, as well as training, facilities planning, trade shows, coffee table art books, calendars, licensed merchandise and more.

By the point I left the company we had recorded 16 different use cases across the company for the content stored in the DAM, and I’m sure there’s even more now.

Over the years I’ve seen plenty of other examples of how a company can use a good DAM platform in different, powerful ways such as:

  • Media companies who use their DAM to deliver DVD packaging and advertising banners that automatically resize and place the correct logos and text based on the intended markets and distribution channels
  • Drinks companies where the DAM is a central component of their high-profile sports sponsorships programs
  • A rail company that uses the DAM to manage rail inspection videos from cameras mounted on the front of locomotives
  • An aerospace engine company that uses its DAM to store and analyze images of parts from any engine involved in an accident
  • A museum created a DAM-driven production line to scan thousands of physical objects from their collections and puts them online, giving access and information on historical objects that are rarely seen
  • Legal and HR departments using the search functions and the DAM metadata to build reports on when certain people appear in various images, or when particular tag lines have been used in what markets

Once you have a fully functional digital asset management system with a useable amount of assets, combined with a well-defined metadata schema and a visual content strategy, you’ll turn to it as your single safe source for enterprise imagery, videos and more.



Avoid Brand Disasters with a Visual Content Strategy


It took a man with his sleeves rolled up to make me understand that we had a problem.

A Flawed Hero

At the time I has heading the marketing content delivery group at a major equipment manufacturer and we’d just posted a new ‘hero’ shot on our website. We were very proud of the image: a burly rugged looking guy on a job site stood in front of one our machines. A perfect illustration of our brand.

Or so we thought, until I logged in to my email the following morning to find my inbox stuffed with requests to take the image down.

Most of those emails came from one specific geographical market. What we hadn’t realized was that the burly man had his shirt sleeves rolled up, and in one of our biggest, most important, markets that was a safety violation. And safety violations were definitely not something we wanted to be seen promoting, or have associated with our brand.

The image was quickly taken down and metadata added that it wasn’t to be used in certain markets. On reflection, we should have already done this. But like many large companies we drew our content from all across the enterprise, as well as from outside suppliers and agencies.

Customers Don’t Care About Your Silos

The man in the shirt sleeves got us thinking: Did different parts of the company use different images to represent the same things based on their local and business knowledge? Did they assume an implied level of knowledge about the subject and its applicability? Did the images chosen just reflect the siloed make-up of the business’s organizational structure? How was metadata applied — if at all — to ensure correct usage and attribution?

Most importantly: how did all this affect the customer’s experience when interacting with our brand across different channels around the globe?

It doesn’t matter how your company is organized, or what separate lines of business you have. As far as your customer is concerned every interaction with you is a representation of your brand, and they expect a consistent experience. But it must also be a consistent experience that is relevant to them and their locale.

Pull Things Together With a Visual Content Strategy

So how do you deliver a consistent brand representation while still being aware of localization and cultural issues?

You need to develop a Visual Content Strategy:

  • What do you want your images to do? — Showcase your products? Showcase your customers? Show customers using your products?
  • What business need do you want your images to help achieve? — Engage prospects and lead to click-through and lead capture? Educate and help customers with self-service thereby reducing support costs?
  • What sort of images will you use to reflect your brand? — Photographic and realistic, inspirational and abstract?
  • Where will the images be used? — Global generic images? Regional and local application? If regional, how localized?

Next, look at the images that you are already delivering or have in development. Do they match the aims and business drivers outlined in your visual content strategy? If not, stop using them.

Content for the sake of content, no matter how pretty it looks, is a waste of resources and opportunity.

Take a detailed look at how your products are represented and localized. After the “shirt sleeves” incident one of the decisions we made was that for the equipment product pages on our website the main product shot would be just the machine against a plain white background.

Presenting the equipment in a consistent way made it stand out and avoided localization issues. The job-site shots were relegated to a gallery that could be customized based on the customer’s location.

The next step is developing a strong metadata model that is applied to the images to ensure that you use the same images to show the same ideas and concepts. Attach data that fits your workflow and that allows you to deliver the sort of customer experience that reinforces your brand. Balancing consistency with creativity should also be considered and trade-offs need to be made.

Delivering Consistent Experiences

With a strategy and metadata architecture in place you need a way to store and manage images so that they can be easily located and used in the correct manner.

A Digital Asset Management system is key to delivering a consistent visual user experience. I’d recommend starting with an achievable object, such as a DAM to drive your website and then grow it organically across the enterprise, to cover other delivery channels. Get people used to using it, prove that it provides value and it will lead to improved customer experience.

The man in the short sleeves helped my team develop and deliver a platform that quickly grew to an enterprise solution with over one million assets that could be tracked and reused to send the correct message in the correct market.

[NOTE: This post was first published on CMSWire September 2016)