DAM Becomes Essential
The adoption of cross-channel marketing emphasizes the importance of asset management.
By Cassandra Carnes
Image is increasingly important to businesses in a society where everything is literally at our fingertips. To achieve consistent branding over multiple channels, marketers manage company assets effectively and efficiently amongst varied formats. Digital asset management (DAM) and marketing asset management (MAM) systems help organize and protect this rich data.
The advantages of DAM serve a variety of organizations spanning from creative and government agencies to enterprises and publishing houses. These systems, which were once designated for a select segment within a company, are becoming essential, core platforms throughout the entire business workflow.
At its highest level, DAM enables a supply chain of media, explains Tom Rieger, VP of marketing, MediaBeacon. As products move from manufacturer to retailer, associated media and content follow. This establishes DAM’s use for branding. Depending on the size of the organization and its vertical focus, solutions are tailored to serve a range of needs.
Enterprise organizations benefit from DAM solutions that integrate with content and document management systems, enterprise resource planning, and other business process management solutions. Enterprise-wide DAM implementations require a significant investment and it may take several years to experience the return.
Businesses that don’t require an enterprise-level solution may choose to begin with one department’s needs and scale to serve additional segments within the organization. These are categorized as mid-range solutions and are powerful, but not nearly to the scope of an enterprise system. Scalability is key for mid-range DAM solutions. Organizations often begin implementing a solution in one department and expand over time.
Many DAM systems are available for small or niche businesses. These systems provide limited functionality and are sometimes an extension of different technologies, such as Web content management solutions.
Hosted solutions are also available. These systems are popular and poised for growth. "Some say hosted DAM systems fall under the mid-market category because they bridge the gap between workgroup and/or lightweight deployments and enterprise systems. Analysts—specifically Mukul Krisha, Frost & Sullivan—forecasted the growth of hosted DAM solutions to outpace the growth of installed solutions with a compound annual growth rate over 30 percent, and achieve revenues totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars by 2013," says Jake Athey, online marketing manager, Widen Enterprises, Inc. "For this reason, several enterprise DAM providers adopt hosted models either through acquisition or development," he adds.
The Cross-Channel Effect
The widespread adoption of cross-channel marketing broadens the amount of assets a company is required to own and manage. The need for consistent branding and efficient asset retrieval is also essential. The ability to centrally house and manage digital assets is invaluable to productivity.
Savvy marketers understand that to best reach consumers it must be on the customer terms. Content should be created and readily available for a range of mediums including print, Web, smart phones, broadcast media, electronic book readers, and emerging technologies such as Apple’s iPad. Consumers that subscribe to multiple communication mediums expect the ability to access information when, where, and how they want to. "DAM is an essential foundational component in cross-media marketing. It provides critical search; retrieval, transformation, transcoding, and packaging services; and is almost always integrated with other tools to enable the appropriate manipulation, packaging, presentment, and delivery of digital media for a given medium or audience," says Joshua Duhl, VP marketing and production management, North Plains.
Companies are moving business models from siloed, channel-oriented marketing to cross-channel marketing strategies. DAM becomes a catalyst of business model evolution, and it cannot act as a barrier. "Retailers looking to move the strategic focus of business from catalog to the Web as the primary lead medium need to adapt DAM processes to enable this and allow for reusing assets in the catalog, print, or point of sale channels," says Lars Trieloff, product manager, Day Software.
Increased interest in social media and mobile applications also drive the need for DAM. "Tomorrow’s DAM will be easily configured by the advanced end user in much the same way that people load plug-ins into their browser or configure their iGoogle account," predicts Murray Oles, president, CHALEX Corp.
Metadata is another important part of the equation. "If assets are not managed, they are not enabled," says Rieger. Metadata provides essential information about an asset and some DAM systems allow communication between the interface and user so the most relevant information is highlighted.
Current DAM systems are well suited to manage metadata, but are still costly to generate because many rely on manual data entry. "Unless someone takes the time to create a set of descriptors by hand, including keywords, captions, and categorizations for each image or video file, and feed it to a DAM system, users will not be able to find that data," says Joseph Santucci, CEO, piXlogic.
In the past, this manual metatdata entry scenario was manageable, but as the amount of created content continues to grow, keeping pace becomes challenging.
Improving Business with DAM
The goal of every technology investment is to streamline processes. In DAM’s case, productivity is enhanced when assets are easily located, retrieved, and formatted. Once efficiency is established, organizations can then advance towards strategic growth, taking advantage of the time and resources gained through DAM implementation.
DAM touches many aspects of the business process. "The first step is simply collecting, aggregating, and identifying all of the essential digital files in one place. Next, DAM provides a degree of automation in creative and distribution workflow where it never existed before," says Duhl.
"After familiarity is gained and quality improves, we typically find customers experimenting with entirely new processes, eventually it’s not just about doing things differently, it’s about doing different things," says Damian Saccocio, VP solutions marketing and strategy, Digital Media Group, Open Text.
Improved procedures and processes are possible when DAM systems are used to their full potential. Leading DAM and MAM solutions allow sales teams to organize personalized kits to address the specific needs of the customer. Additionally, sales staff can provide feedback to marketing departments on which assets are most effective. "I foresee the trend toward more customization of materials by sales to address specific customer needs and problems," says Scott Richardson, president/CEO, Longwood Software.
DAM also plays a critical role part to targeted content on Web sites that need to be deployed in multiple languages and support new paradigms such as gadgets and user-generated content. "New types of digital assets continue to emerge for an increasing variety of mobile devices and Web deployment scenarios in which these assets need to be used," predicts Loren Weinberg, SVP of marketing and product management, FatWire Software.
DAM extends beyond IT automation. Its implementation provides a powerful solution that affects productivity on many levels within an organization. However, it requires executive oversight and proper training in order to fulfill its potential. "It’s about the willingness of participants to optimize business processes, review them, and possibly change behavior," says Pieter Casneuf, CEO, ADAM Software.
Often, DAM implementations solve more than one issue within a business process. Sometimes these issues are not even realized. Scott Seebass, CEO, Xinet, notes a number of situations where customers didn’t realize the amount of money spent sending marketing literature. He offers an example, "you spend a lot of money making a marketing piece and it only gets to ten percent of its indented audience. With DAM, you’ve actually made that piece much more efficient and cost-effective because it’s dispersed to 90 percent of the indented audience through easy accessibility."
The Move to Must Have
In the past, DAM systems were written off as a secondary thought to a complex data management solution. Today, these systems are more important as information continues to expand and marketing channels evolve.
A trend towards cloud-based and SaaS implementations, increased mobile integration, and continued specialization in vertical markets are three movements gaining traction in the DAM area, according to John V. Juliano, manager, worldwide marketing, North American sales, Tera Digital Publishing.
DAM is the sole container capable of holding different versions of assets together for use across multiple channels. "Every channel has its own specificities—online print, packaging, and email—that require many versions and a lot of one-on-one localizations," says ADAM’s Casneuf. DAM is the glue between all of the content and it gives you an overview at every moment."
DAM is instrumental in an information age where consumer attention span is limited and a graphic-intense approach is conducive to branding efforts. Complex marketing strategies incorporate a variety of channels; each tailored to a specific audience and medium. Businesses much approach this new landscape with an open mind backed with efficient solutions to streamline and properly execute innovative campaigns.
For more information on DAM, read our Web-exclusive pieces on the topic, The Expanding Role of DAM, DAM in Action, and A Solution for Every Need. Sign up for our eNewsletter today to receive this and other Web-exclusive content right to your inbox. dps
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Jul2010, DPS Magazine