Digital Marketing3 DAM demons: How to confront the terrors of remote content creation in a pandemic

3 DAM demons: How to confront the terrors of remote content creation in a pandemic

This Halloween, Widen’s Jake Athey shows marketers how to handle the content creation, workflow, and ecommerce challenges that COVID-19 has intensified.

30-second summary:

  • COVID-19 has stress-tested the technologies and processes used in digital marketing departments by forcing everyone to work remotely.
  • The situation has led to budget cuts, massive reply-all email chains, and rapid pivots to e-commerce.
  • Without the right technologies, marketers lose efficiency, quality, and accuracy when confronting these challenges.
  • Brands with access to a digital asset management (DAM) system, product information management (PIM) tool, and other core martech platforms are better positioned to manage these challenges.

If Halloween is the most you’ve “dressed up” in seven months, then you know what it’s like to be a digital marketer in a pandemic. Working remotely, many of us have struggled to replicate the comradery, collaboration, and creativity we channel in person. You may not miss the office (unless you have young, energetic children…), but maybe you’ve noticed that being remote stress-tests the way your team produces and uses digital assets, the building blocks of content.

In the spirit of Halloween, let’s call these stress testers Digital Asset Management Demons, or DAM Demons for short. And without further ado, let’s meet the DAM Demons and talk about how to dispatch them:

Budget cutter the cruel

Budget Cutter the Cruel is the demon who convinced C-level executives to slash or freeze marketing budgets in the wake of COVID-19.

Research suggests that brands emerge from recessions stronger if they invest in R&D and marketing during the downturn. Nevertheless, most marketers find themselves trying to create brand awareness and customer relationships with fewer resources. What happens as a result?

  • Marketers hesitate to invest in new content. This limits the organization’s ability to manage customers’ expectations, adjust their brand strategy for the moment, or roll out new communication channels. The marketing experience freezes in time.
  • The quality content that the brand produced in years past is scattered across shared folder systems, personal desktops, and marketing platforms. There’s no easy way to find, repurpose, and redeploy that content efficiently.
  • New content may never reach the teams focused on social media, email marketing, e-commerce, and sales. At best, those teams will email requests for new assets, draining precious time away from an already strapped marketing team that fulfills the orders one by one.

With fewer resources and less content to execute a marketing strategy, marketing performance falls. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that can lead to yet more budget cuts or downsizing, which leaves even less money to invest in turning the corner and harnessing the momentum of an eventual recovery.

In scarce times, marketing teams need a solid martech stack, including a DAM system, to make the most of their resources. What does that change?

  • A marketing team can use DAM analytics to identify its highest-performing content and then invest in new assets that exemplify the winning styles, themes, and use cases. That way, the brand can get more mileage on a smaller budget.
  • Because the team can find existing assets with a quick search in the DAM system, they can identify the content that is worth repurposing or remixing with photo editing and design tools. The cost of repurposing an asset is much lower than the cost of creating one from scratch.
  • The resurfaced and repurposed content can be distributed to the marketing team and its partners either through a) self-serve portals where colleagues can download images in any format they need, or b) integrations with social marketing, marketing automation, and CRM tools.

Reply all the ravenous

Reply All the Ravenous is the demon of reply-all email chains, by far one of the most destructive forces in creative fields.

This is a demon of our own making (aren’t they all?) who feeds off our desire to be inclusive and get buy-in from coworkers. The most terrible way to summon this demon is by mass emailing your coworkers with a request to review and approve a creative proof, whether it’s a photo, video, or graphic. What happens?

  • After two or three people have commented, no one else on the reply-all chain reads what the first reviewers said. You end up with a chain of disconnected, even contradictory comments. The creator has poor odds of making everyone happy or substantially improving the work.
  • Reply All the Ravenous distracts the hell out of everyone. Unless you’re Zen masters (or have configured your digital life to minimize distraction), each email is going to distract people on the chain from doing their work.
  • Someone on the chain is going to ignore this mayhem and not respond or approve. That could delay the project by days, if not weeks.

How do you deal with Reply All the Ravenous? Use a workflow system designed for creative review and approval that replaces email chains. It should:

  • Have a central feed where reviewers can write comments and see each other’s ideas in context.
  • Provide tools to directly mark up images so that feedback is easily understood.
  • Use automatic routing to send near-final proofs to the head honchos for one-click approvals.
  • Be built into your DAM system or integrated so that finalized proofs are saved directly to your content library.

Manual data entry the malevolent

Manual Data Entry the Malevolent is a demon who curses marketing teams that rely on too many disjointed technologies and manual processes. This demon has been busy since COVID-19.

Many marketers who deal with physical products had the brutal task of shifting their business online over the past seven months. But teams accustomed to selling in stores weren’t necessarily equipped to list hundreds or thousands of products online, in various marketplaces, each with different listing requirements. So what happens?

  • Marketers receive a master spreadsheet from engineering or product development loaded with product information: colors, sizes, dimensions, materials, certifications, and other specs. Someone copies each product from this master spreadsheet into separate sheets and saves each one to its own folder in shared cloud storage, where it will be grouped with product content. That creates endless opportunities to corrupt the product information. If at any point engineering sends a new master spreadsheet to correct mistakes, the process has to be repeated and the chance of product information errors reaching customers multiplies.
  • Various creators—copywriters, photographers, videographers, and so forth—use these spreadsheets to inform their work. They inevitably make proofs and circulate them via reply-all email chains, leading to double-demon mayhem. By luck, the final, approved content might be saved in the right cloud folder.
  • Finally, some poor souls have to manually enter this data into dozens of e-commerce marketplaces, which each have different rules and standards. The odds of false product information reaching shoppers grow. In turn, the chances of disappointing a customer—and generating low-star reviews—grows too.

To avoid this mess, marketers should be using a product information management (PIM) system, preferably in combination with DAM technology—a DAM+PIM system. What does that new flow look like?

  • Engineering sends over a spreadsheet, which is uploaded into the DAM+PIM system and automatically divided into product entries. If engineering has a correction, the data can be updated through a quick reupload.
  • Using a workflow tool, creators produce copy, product photos, and other content for these goods. They are attached to the product entry in the DAM+PIM system.
  • Instead of manually entering all this data, the brand uses an e-commerce syndication platform to automatically create compliant product listings for any e-commerce site.

Demons, begone!

The point is to dial in the processes and technology you need to survive the pandemic and thrive afterward. The recession has lasted longer than most of us expected back in March.

The dips, peaks, and disruptions will probably last into 2022. If you can fight off the operational DAM demons I described, you can focus on strategy, tactics, and top-notch content.


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