Wendy Casey, of health-plan delivery organization HealthPartners, had a problem. She initially was hired as the company's internal marketing communications consultant to figure out ways to better unify and deploy the company's collateral materials, but found her task more daunting than she thought.
A main issue: Salespeople were saving things like data sheets and brochures to their own computers, unaware that marketing had been updating the materials elsewhere for quite some time.
“They were hanging on to them for dear life,” Casey said of her salespeople. “We were sometimes selling things we didn't offer anymore. That was really scary.”
Casey's conundrum echoes through the corporate world today, as organizations struggle with ways to manage, control and distribute such digital assets as logos, photos, brochures, sales collateral, PowerPoint decks and more. Known as digital asset management, or DAM, it's evolved as an ever-more-complex need within the marketing suite.
“When we entered the market in 1994, there was a real roadblock to acceptance,” said Steve Sauder, co-founder of DAM pioneer North Plains Systems. Acceptance came gradually, Sauder said, as companies' digital assets—everything created and stored online—multiplied.
North Plains' platform, called TeleScope, archives digital assets and adds “metatags” to each item to optimize search and retrieval throughout the process, from creation to review, approval and subsequent use and revision.
North Plains plans to add to its TeleScope lineup with the release next month of a hosted DAM solution.
While DAM originated largely as a means of archiving and managing the work flow of art and production departments, it's become indispensable to marketing, which needs to maintain consistency in messaging as well as quickly find and distribute its digitally stored materials for everything from product launches to trade show support to ad campaigns.
The issue is particularly critical in the support of sales, says John Aiello, CEO of SAVO. The DAM imperative, he said, is all about “harvesting the information that marketing creates and getting it out to different audiences effectively. That's the ultimate trend, period and end of story. Marketers understand that everything created needs to focus on driving revenue, particularly in slow economic times.”
HealthPartners implemented SAVO's DAM platform to get a grip on its own sales-management disconnect. With SAVO maintaining up-to-date collateral, and with salespeople able to access hosted documents and customize them for particular sales pitches, Casey says, “We're definitely showing a more unified voice in the marketplace.”
The typical DAM tool is a virtual mashup, consisting of proprietary thumbnail-view and search applications on top of a number of other database applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle. For repurposing video into different formats and viewing media, an application from a company such as Telestream might be used; for rendering images, in particular into thumbnails, Adobe Graphics Server could be the underlying tool.
Depending on the complexity, database size and number of users, a DAM suite might run as little as $400 a month or as much as $20,000.
Interest in DAM solutions seems to be growing. Henry Stewart Events has been staging DAM conferences since 2001, featuring case histories of successful implementations. It plans its most ambitious North American schedule this year with conferences in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto.
“When you look at digital asset management, it's gone from purely storage and retrieval to being about work-flow information,” said John Gaylor, managing director of Henry Stewart Events. "“Now it's all about new media and how it can be spewed out to multiple channels.” M