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Case Study: How Life Fitness uses digital asset management to power creative and global marketing operations, part 1

by ,

DAM Software in Creative & Global Marketing Operations


At the last HOW Design Live conference in Chicago, IL, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Kate Bennewitz, the creative project manager for Life Fitness. Our presentation revolved around how Life Fitness uses digital asset management (DAM) to power all of their creative and global marketing operations. The presentation was so well received that we decided to share the material here in a three-part blog series.
Kate’s team uses the Media Collective, Widen’s flagship DAM software platform that offers a comprehensive, integrated, scalable DAM solution for Life Fitness, an international company that handles multiple brands.
One of Kate’s main DAM goals was to remove “workflow hassles” from the company’s day-to-day processes so they could spend their time on strategy, creativity and fun — AKA, the good stuff.
This is a typical goal for organizations that need a DAM system. We all know about the workflow hassles Kate and her team experience. Taking a look at our weekly to-do list — the more meaningful tasks and projects we need (or want) to work on a daily basis — can often be interrupted by all kinds of requests like …
-        “Can you send me that logo file?”
-        20-minutes later … “Can you make it a little bigger?”
-        “You know video. Can you convert this video file to a format that will work for our team in Europe? I don’t really have the right software for that.”
-        “That logo file you sent over yesterday, now it’s too big. Can you make it a little smaller?”
-        “Where can I find the digital assets from the latest photo shoot?”
Other common workflow hassles include wasting time searching for that stock photo you purchased but don’t remember which folder it’s in, or having to politely correct a team member on the proper way to use brand standards.
Like Kate’s team, you may find yourself wondering how you can remove these types of tasks from your day so you can actually do the fulfilling work you were hired to do — what we like to call the good stuff.
Let’s see how Life Fitness has used their DAM system to do just that. 
In part 1 of this series, we’re going to focus on the following topics:
-        How to take control of your content
-        How Life Fitness uses DAM
-        Why Life Fitness needed a DAM system
-        How DAM helps them manage their global marketing operations
-        Product launch and DAM
Take control of your content throughout the digital asset lifecycle
Life Fitness uses the Media Collective, a cloud-based DAM solution, as a core component of their creative and global marketing initiatives. With their DAM system, they can easily manage, distribute and organize their assets from one central source.
The functionality and benefits of a DAM system are fantastic, but what makes it so instrumental in the Life Fitness creative and global marketing operations process is that DAM makes many previously people-centric tasks automated — removing the need for you or your coworkers to get involved. In addition to workflow automation, a well-developed DAM system is more expedient and accurate than humans, which is good because that leaves us with more time for the good stuff!

How Life Fitness uses DAM
The number one benefit of Life Fitness’ DAM software is the fact that it gives their creatives and marketers and their entire team an immense amount of control over their content.
This includes control over:
-        Digital assets and the metadata that makes it easy for these assets to be found
-        Making clear roles and permissions that dictate who has access to what content — and what part of the process they acquire that access
-        Sharing clear guidelines as to where and how an asset can be used
-        Exactly what the content creation management processes looks like

The statement in the above graphic embodies the command center philosophy that Life Fitness and all of Widen’s customers use to to keep an incredible amount of digital assets and information under control. It’s the only way they can harness all the power out of their digital assets.
It’s also important to note that it takes a heavy dose of strategy in order to fully realize the full gamut of control a DAM solution can provide. This is why it’s critical to partner with a DAM vendor that has top-notch support every step of the way — including after your DAM software is up and running.

Why does Life Fitness need their DAM system?
The answer to this question can be boiled down to one word: complexity.
Without DAM, Life Fitness wouldn’t be able to function at the level they do — even if they hired more people. That’s because their DAM system takes something rich and complex and gives it order so it can be used instead of tripped over.
Let’s take a look at the complexity of the Life Fitness organization in order to give you a better understanding of how DAM software helps them thrive.
-        Life Fitness is the global leader in fitness manufacturing of cardio and strength equipment. Sounds simple, right? Unless you take into account that they have marketing teams in nine countries, with up to a 14-hour time difference from their home office in Rosemont, IL.
-        The organization consists of three brands: Life Fitness, Hammer Strength and Brunswick.
-        There are 300+ products in their portfolio.
-        Life Fitness has to translate all of their digital assets into 12 languages.
-        They launch five to nine products a year.
-        Their marketing department creates 325 projects per year.
-        Over 5,000 still images are shot annually.
-        Approximately 175 videos are produced each year.
This creates endless amounts of content that needs to be managed.

How DAM helps
Life Fitness has a lot going on with digital assets, and Kate candidly admits that her team could easily be in disarray if it weren’t for their DAM system. This is not a reflection of the Life Fitness team, who do a fantastic job, but it is a reflection of the complex world many organizations live in when it comes to managing their digital assets.
The good news is that Life Fitness’ DAM solution streamlines their processes, making the entire global team more efficient and effective. Plus, their DAM system is the glue that keeps each of their brands cohesive and consistent across different platforms, countries and languages. In Kate’s words, “DAM provides a method to our madness, supporting our key initiatives by allowing us to craft the solutions we need for brand development, rebranding, day-to-day workflow, marketing tool translations and product launch — with guidance and top-of-the-line support. Like most brands, we’re constantly evolving our story with a variety of images, engaging video, web content, campaigns, etc. We simply couldn’t do it without our digital asset management software.”

“It’s our DAM that ensures we are nimble when making a Life Fitness brand overhaul.”
— Kate Bennewitz

During the past two years, Life Fitness went through a brand refresh, moving away from lifestyle photos, like the happy yoga man below, and moving into what’s called a “raw editorial approach.” When making such a significant change, one that affects all of Life Fitness’ assets, understanding the “what” and the “why” behind all of these changes becomes incredibly important because their global teams need to know what digital assets are expired, what’s new, how internal-facing documents should be used and how they should be implemented across the globe.

Communicating change within the DAM system
Without a DAM system, it’s customary to email changes to one’s team or hold some type of in-person or virtual meeting to disseminate information. The problem with each of these approaches is that the information can easily become scattered, deleted, forgotten or never documented correctly by team members to begin with.
With DAM comes a much more cohesive solution: the DAM homepage.
In the case of Life Fitness, they’ve customized their DAM homepage — aka their “welcome mat” — making it an easy-to-access hub that reminds and informs all teams of the changes that have been made.
This means no more digging up old emails or filtering through the stack of stuff on your desk to find pertinent info. This is just another way that DAM software automates a process and makes it easier to work on the good stuff instead of spending your time looking for the information you need to complete a project. One of the other perks of Life Fitness’ welcome mat is that it always contains the most recent information, which often isn’t the case with a printed document or a PDF that a coworker saved to their desktop three months ago.
With the Media Collective, a company’s DAM homepage is highly customizable, making it easy to deliver the most important information to a team right away. All the DAM admin has to do is educate team members about what to look for when they log in.
In the lower left section of the screenshot above, you’ll find Life Fitness spotlight collections, which directly connect to the information that’s shared above the collections. This layout creates a user-friendly experience that’s easy to grasp, with the latest and greatest information only click away, which helps Life Fitness tell ONE cohesive story very, very easily to people all around the world. Everyone knows they can go to the Life Fitness welcome mat to see what’s going on 24/7.
Go from paper to more productive (and accurate) with DAM
Even in our digital age, many companies are still tied to printed documents for the internal dissemination of information … until they start using a DAM system. Life Fitness fit into this category for years, creating and delivering their brand guidelines in a 95-page printed PDF. Yes, you read that correctly — 95 pages, printed!
Life Fitness needed a comprehensive way to communicate their brand standards so everyone would know what digital assets were approved for use in different situations, where to find the assets they needed and why certain assets were relegated to only certain mediums or applications. For instance, a company logo that’s meant for web will have different specs than that same logo when it’s used in print. And, of course, all of these assets live in Life Fitness’ DAM system.
iFrame capability
By using a feature called iFrame, Life Fitness can easily tie in branded iconography, logos, letterhead, stationery, branded imagery and videos. Basically, everything that makes their brand tick is included in a digital platform that can be distributed and communicated to global marketing, sales, outside vendors and partners who are working with their brand. And through the use of proper roles and permissions, each team will only have access to what’s intended for them.

Some of the benefits of this approach include considerably less emails and less questions. Plus, updates to digital assets via Life Fitness’ DAM system are reflected immediately AND automatically — making the process a better experience for everyone involved.
Global brand complexities are simplified through the use of a DAM solution
As a global company, Life Fitness needs to translate 86% of their marketing tools, which could be a still photo, blog post, video, etc. What this means is that just one marketing tool multiplied by 12 languages is already a dozen iterations (referred to in DAM speak as versions). Multiply that number further by the hundreds of tools that Life Fitness creates each year and they add up quickly.
Life Fitness uses DAM to easily create and iterate all of this content and corral all of these versions in one organized place — making it a breeze for all team members around the globe to access and retrieve whatever digital assets they need in the format and language that’s best for them.
Since communication about what tools are translated and available to share is of the utmost importance, Life Fitness and their DAM system go one step beyond their welcome mat by pairing Media Collective links and embed codes into Chatter (a DAM Salesforce integration) to send additional communications to the global marketing teams. This allows Life Fitness to go to market quicker on a global level.
Product launch and DAM
Life Fitness launches five to nine new products a year. With an ever growing and changing product portfolio, their marketing department needs a clear, insightful look at all of the available assets for their market-specific campaigns. And it’s not just about imagery; it’s also about their messaging, target markets and sharing each specific story behind why they’re offering this new product.
Here’s an overview of some of the ways Life Fitness leans on their DAM system to accomplish each launch. Of course, after launch their DAM system remains an integral part of the day-to-day process for all existing products, brands and the digital assets that are associated with each.
Global collections
Global collections help Life Fitness handle each product launch — allowing them to serve up a full, easily searchable look at all assets and marketing tools they create. These are also tied into consumer and commercial dealer sales support, linked to resource pages, sales emails and other communications. Within the DAM system, these global collections are also customizable and relate to the Life Fitness-defined brand systems.
Embed codes
Below is another visual that illustrates how Life Fitness takes embed codes and uses them on as “in-store digital kits” for their dealers. These streamlined connections help support their partners’ day-to-day business with imagery, sell sheets, web banners, content for social platforms and room scenes — all served up in a way where partners can decide what they need to market in their specific channels. 

In conclusion
It’s clear that a good DAM system plays a significant role in managing the creative and global marketing operations of Life Fitness.
In part 2 of this series, we’ll dive into how Life Fitness uses their DAM solution to create a brand experience on a global level. Until then, if you have any questions or need additional information about our Media Collective, feel free to contact us anytime.

Topics: Customer Stories

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