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How DAM tools can improve brand strategy

To select the right DAM tools and hone their approach to digital asset management, companies need to understand their creative and business processes, as well as customer needs.

Digital asset management can have far-reaching benefits for brand strategy by helping to connect creative processes to business processes.

Theresa Regli, managing partner and principal analyst at the Real Story Group, compared a successful digital asset management (DAM) process to a well-run kitchen, using famed chef Dan Barber's restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, as an example of operational excellency. Her session last week at DAM Chicago 2014, "In the DAM Kitchen: What's Cooking in 2014?" explored the potential of digital asset management technology in the enterprise, at a time when process and information siloes can be more and more detrimental to companies' marketing and branding efforts.

"We have stages where things get handed off and there's not as much collaboration as we might want," she said. "There's not enough of this connection between who is creating, who is processing, and then who is putting it out to the customer -- like there is in a great kitchen."

According to Regli, using digital assets to create a better brand experience requires a comprehensive understanding of the product lifecycle, from the original creative concept all the way to customer feedback, which in turn should close the loop by driving product innovation.

According to Emily Bair, conference attendee and digital asset management specialist in the creative services department at Wilson Sporting Goods Co., a good DAM strategy can create a much-needed bridge between the creative and business sides of a company. "You have to understand why they created what they did and how the other side of the business is going to use it. That's how we come in, as a middleman between the two sides," she said.

At the American Cancer Society, Inc., DAM is also part of the creative services department, said Melinda Benavides, digital asset management technology consultant. "We know our graphic designers. We all work together if there are questions, and we work with the art directors if a [system] update is needed," she said.

Dale Bender, asset manager at Leo Burnett USA, said that companies are now addressing digital asset management as "part of the production workflow," rather than at the end of the process. "Companies are cognizant of needing to house these assets and take ownership of these assets," he said. But according to Regli, getting the C-suite to invest in DAM innovation and choosing the right tools remain major challenges.

Here are some of Regli's tips for a DAM system that lives up to its full potential.

1. Get organized

Before selecting a DAM tool, Regli said, companies should organize their content, product data and metadata. Rushing to buy a product can result in overspending.

2. Break down siloes

Regli noted that a DAM system cannot work without product information coming in, or unless companies have information about their customers' needs and habits. Bringing together information from CRM systems, DAM systems, marketing automation systems and Web content management (WCM) systems is essential to building a better brand experience for customers.

3. Be flexible

The format of assets will continue to evolve, and companies will have to continue to adapt. The customer feedback loop is essential to ensuring that DAM systems evolve with the times. "Listening to our customers is so important. And now we have the capability to do it and there's no excuse not to do it anymore," Regli said.

4. Invest in DAM innovation

Regli advises putting 5 to 10% of a company's staff on a dedicated innovation team -- or bringing in third-party experts who will work with a core person within the company. This allows the business to efficiently find out what works and what doesn't work.

Concerns about demonstrating the ROI of DAM abounded at the conference. As Bair from Wilson Sporting Goods put it, "Without getting stakeholders involved and getting C-level support, it's not going to work. It's important to see a return on investment."

5. Choose the right tools

While technology shouldn't come first, choosing the right tool is a top priority.

"That DAM element doesn't necessarily need to be the most complex thing on the market," Regli said. She circled back to her kitchen analogy and used the example of chef Dan Barber's favorite cooking utensil -- a single spoon, not too big, not too small. His reason? It's an extension of the hand that brings cooks closer to ingredients, forcing them to control the food and master their craft, much like the right DAM system requires and encourages an understanding of creative and business processes.

Regli explained that more simple products, like SaaS-based solutions, may be enough for some companies, especially those that don't have an IT group. Products can allow business users to set up a DAM system efficiently and cost-effectively, though they offer less robust functionality. Platforms, on the other hand, tend to require a good deal of IT involvement and custom development. "Make sure you have the right level of resources, the right expertise, the right staff," Regli said.

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