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How a DAM system cleanup helped Kerry boost users by 270%

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DAM cleanup

What do you do when no one is using your DAM system? When talking about the system involves phrases like, “Ugh, I keep trying to find stuff in there, but I never can!” or, “Ha! I never go in there anymore!” Or when you hear that employees are turning to Google to find brand images, taking screen grabs of them, and using low-resolution images in brand collateral. Well, your initial reaction might be to scream, because that’s the first thing we thought of. But after you let it all out, you may realize that all you need is a DAM cleanup — which was exactly the case for Kerry Ingredients.

Kerry is a global company with headquarters in Naas, Ireland. They operate in 26 countries and are 23,000 employees strong. Kerry responds to consumers desires for real ingredients in food, beverages, and pharma with a focus on taste and nutrition. Their DAM users are mostly internal employees, with a few external users comprised of agency contacts and contractors.

Kerry has been a Widen customer since October 2007 and was originally implemented to fit the needs of the organization at that time. It had been actively used since then, but the strategy and purpose had become unclear, especially since there were new marketing initiatives happening and a new brand strategy in place. In March 2016, Kerry brought in a consultant and new global admin to help figure out why employees weren’t using the DAM and how they could fix it.

The problem

DAM cleanup

The consultant, Courtney Roe, quickly realized through talking with employees that no one could find what they were looking for and that any conversation around the DAM had negative connotations. Since Courtney was new to Kerry and to Widen, she needed to figure out why people weren’t using the system.

“When I started digging into Widen, I was confused by how it was set up and wasn’t sure how to start tagging everything to align with Kerry’s needs. I kept looking at the metadata schema, but wasn’t sure how it was intended to function. Also, the majority of the metadata was incomplete or lacking details, and there weren’t any required fields, so metadata for assets could be left blank without any repercussions. It totally made sense that no one could find anything through search,” Courtney says.

She also wasn’t sure how the roles and permissions were set up because they directly matched the asset groups. She couldn’t figure out what the intention was for each and how that applied to security or what the intentions for the security were.

Getting started

Getting people to properly use the DAM, let alone any tool, is a big project. The first thing Courtney wanted to figure out was the purpose of the DAM for Kerry. It was clear people weren’t using it as intended, but she needed to determine what the intentions were for the system in the first place.

She started by talking to the business owner, Melissa. Melissa had hired Courtney and could tell Courtney the expectations for the completed project as well as the problems she wanted DAM to solve. So Courtney started asking her questions — a lot of them.

DAM cleanup

Some of the questions included:

  • What should be found in the DAM? Should working files be there or only the complete and finalized ones?
  • Should the DAM manage videos and, if so, what kind?
  • Should we have employee-submitted photography or should we stick to professional photography only?
To identify who should be able to find and use assets from the DAM, Courtney asked questions like:
  • Should everyone be able to access and download everything?
  • Do we need to protect certain assets?
  • Do some users just need to know that assets are there and available but need to ask permission to download them, or should they not be able to see them at all?

Courtney and Melissa needed to figure out what the right balance was for Kerry.

Metadata, metadata, metadata

After defining the expectations with Melissa, Courtney decided to talk to Kerry’s users to see what they expected from the DAM. She understood many of them viewed the DAM negatively, but she also wanted to find out things like:

  • Why they stopped using the DAM
  • What they wished they could use the DAM for
  • How they would want to find things in the DAM

After gathering all of this information, she figured the most logical starting point was metadata. Metadata is the magic that makes searching quick and easy, in addition to providing information for anyone viewing or using an asset. Courtney and Melissa could set the strategy and intentions for the Collective, but it was the users who would inform the metadata. That was going to take a lot more coordinating.

“I really needed to understand the Kerry-centric language that users expected to be able to search. Ideally, I would have just pulled search reports within Insights, but because there weren’t many users searching in the Collective at this point, I didn’t have enough data to draw from. We also hadn’t set expectations of what users could expect to find in the Collective; therefore, any searches being performed were uninformed and random,” Courtney said.

Without data to draw on, she came up with an interactive metadata exercise with an actual group of users looking at groups of actual assets! She set up the exercise with 10 or so marketing users to get unbiased feedback about how they would think to search for real assets that currently lived in the DAM.

DAM cleanup

For the exercise, Courtney posted groups of pictures around a room on giant Post-it notes and listed four questions under each set of photos:

  • What is each asset highlighting?
  • How would you use each asset/what would you use each asset for?
  • What is most important to you about each asset?
  • In an ideal state, what would you search to find each of these assets?

Each person was given a stack of Post-its and a Sharpie to write down the keywords they would use to answer these questions — with one answer per Post-it. Then they were instructed to put the individual Post-its on the corresponding giant Post-it.

The goals for the metadata exercise were to:

  • Get a great sampling of the terms users would use to search for assets
  • Understand how users wanted to be able to use the Widen tool
  • Gather thoughts on how other groups and users in different areas of the company would want to use the tool and how they would search
  • Glean any other ideas or feedback that this sample group felt would be helpful for Courtney to keep in mind or consider as she defined the metadata fields and categorization

Metadata exercise

Materials needed:

  • 20-40 printed pictures of assets from your DAM
  • Giant Post-it notes
  • Small Post-it notes
  • Pens and markers
  • Tape
  • Cookies (optional, but a tasty way to boost participation)


Select 20-40 assets that represent common assets in your asset library.Print the assets out.Group any like assets and tape them to the giant Post-it notes.List the following questions on the giant Post-it notes:
  1. What is each asset highlighting?
  2. How would you use each asset/what would you use each asset for?
  3. What is most important to you about each asset?
  4. In an ideal state, what would you search to find each of these assets?
Hang the giant Post-it notes around the room.


Participants go around to each giant Post-it and answer the questions, writing one word or answer per Post-it note and affixing it to the corresponding giant Post-it.

Give participants about 20 minutes for the exercise, depending on how many giant Post-its and asset examples you’re using.

After everyone has finished adding their ideas, review them with the team to clarify any responses.

“This exercise gave me a great start on defining my metadata! It really helped jump-start my list of keywords and it also helped me figure out what to do next. Since there were a lot of new terms that came up, I realized that I needed to continue honing in on Kerry language that needed to be considered. So, after that session I also sat down with individual business managers to get feedback on even more Kerry-specific terminology and technologies,” Courtney says.

Asset groups, roles, and permissions

As Courtney was coming up with her metadata strategy, she was concurrently trying to figure out what assets needed to live in the DAM and who should have access to them. Melissa and Courtney talked a lot about this before setting out to define the site’s governance rules.

First, Courtney compiled a list of types of assets that would live in the system and defined who the users would be. She knew there would be global teams accessing the Widen Collective and that the users on teams across the globe would range from marketing to sales to HR to food scientists, but she had to figure out how each person would — and should — be looking to use the assets.

DAM cleanup

As part of this process, Courtney continued to define the purpose for the DAM system. Having a purpose statement to reflect back on through each phase of the cleanup helped to ensure that they were working toward a consistent goal. It also made it easier to share the vision with other teams and stakeholders because it provided a clear view of what they could expect from the system. While their purpose statement evolved to become more direct and concise throughout the process, the sentiment remained the same. The final statement became, “Kerry Collective: Your resource for active, approved and on-brand assets.” This allowed them to be definitive in the type of assets that would be made available in the Collective, even if only certain people had access to them.

Courtney used the purpose statement as a guide for defining  permission settings. When she originally inherited the DAM, the roles were the same as the asset groups. That wasn’t working because both were lacking clear definitions of who or what should be in each, making it impossible to define which asset group or groups each role should have access to.

With a goal of defining the assets groups, Courtney looked at all of the of assets and broke them into types. Then she determined how they would be grouped based on who should be able to see and interact with the assets. These became the asset groups: General Use, Restricted Use, Design Files, and Widen Only, which was a group used to house assets that would only be used within the Collective as spotlight icons and system message images.

Implementing workflows

Along with the cleanup, Courtney implemented workflows for downloading, sharing, uploading, and tagging in an effort to maintain consistency and keep the DAM running smoothly. Workflows included the implementation of a photo shoot form to capture metadata at the time of the shoot; an upload review process to ensure uploaders were adding assets that aligned with the DAM purpose; and the creation of a metadata and keyword guide to help uploaders tag assets consistently. Site admins and regional uploaders performed the uploading and tagging workflows; however, only the site admins had permission to release assets. It was set up this way, at least initially, to ensure that the assets that were uploaded are aligned with the DAM strategy and purpose.

As a food and beverage company, much of Kerry’s photography is pictures of meals or ingredients. This often caused issues when the uploader couldn’t visually determine the purpose of the shot or the ingredients, especially if the shot was created to convey a flavor; it’s hard to tell that just by looking at an image. So Courtney started talking to the team and wrote down the information that had been defined for tagging, then incorporated it in the form that the team was already using for photo shoots. The goal was to create something that could be used to coordinate and plan the shoots but also capture metadata at the same time. That way, the uploader, who was usually involved in the shoot, could refer back to it to help with tagging.

Once that form was agreed upon by the North America graphics team, the team driving the DAM cleanup, it was rolled out to all regions to become part of the photo shoot process.


Another part of the DAM cleanup was redesigning the dashboard to be welcoming, helpful, and reflect the Kerry brand. The dashboard is the first part of the DAM that users see, so having an appealing one was critical to user adoption. Since Kerry had just updated their brand strategy and guidelines, it was especially important that the push to have only on-brand assets in the Collective extend to the branding of the DAM itself.

“I wanted to make sure that the dashboard welcome communicated the DAM purpose statement and that it gave users a look at what they could expect to find in the Collective. Widen provided me with some other customer dashboard examples, and many customers took this same approach as well. Widen also helped me with the code for the dashboard. I had a vision for what I wanted, but no idea on how to make it work, so I worked with Sam, my CXM, and Tyson, from Widen Support to make it happen.”

DAM cleanup

For the system messages, Courtney focused on commonly requested assets. Those were assets the graphics team was constantly being tapped for, and they were some of the most downloaded assets in the Collective. It was important to prominently display a quick link to all brand resources, which is why the link was immediately under the welcome.

Below the brand guidelines, Courtney included other commonly sought after assets including Kerry logos, PowerPoint icons, and a PowerPoint template. She also used this space to indicate to people when new versions of the PowerPoint icons were uploaded. Whenever a new version of the icons was uploaded, a new version of the system message image was updated with the current date.


DAM cleanup

Reflecting back on how helpful data would have been at the beginning of the cleanup, Courtney also set up the Insights dashboards to give a quick overview of what was happening in the Collective to inform future decisions around it. She wanted to give super users a comprehensive look at what was happening in the Collective. She broke down different ways to look at uploads, downloads, logins, etc., and also created a month-over-month view so no one had to change the date range to get the numbers for each month.

Monthly Insights reports were conducted by the site admin to show where Kerry was growing and changing as well as where the Collective could use some additional assets. Kerry looked to Insights to inform things like dashboard updates, future photo shoots, and regional asset needs. This was another area that would likely evolve as use of the Collective evolved.

Preparing for handoff

Arguably, the most important step of Courtney’s journey was creating resources for global admins and super users to properly use the Collective. This future-proofed the Collective so that no matter who the global admin is, they will have standards and guidelines to follow (and hopefully no one will have to go through what Courtney did again).

As part of the handoff, Courtney created slide decks to demonstrate how to navigate the Collective and a comprehensive “Finding Assets & Navigating the Collective” guide with screenshots and descriptions. She also created a metadata and keyword guide so uploaders could see all of the existing controlled vocabulary metadata. This included a list of open-text keyword terms that were collected from all of her conversations early on in the process. However, she did inform uploaders that it was only meant to be used as a reference guide to help with tagging and to recognize that metadata fields, values, and keywords would change as the Collective evolved.

Additionally, Courtney created materials that would prepare for an admin handoff. That way when Courtney’s contract ended, the new admin, Melinda, would know everything she needed to about the Collective and how to pick up from where Courtney left off.

She made an official hand-off guide which included files for all the resources that she created as well as notes about all of the settings in the Collective and her reasons for them. She wanted Melinda to know why she did what she did, but also tried to make it clear that what was right at the time of the cleanup may change in three or six or 12 months. The DAM system is a living tool that needs to be reviewed and maintained regularly in order to be effective, so Melinda shouldn’t hesitate to change anything that no longer made sense for the larger user base, assets count, or anything else.

DAM cleanup

The results of the DAM cleanup

Here comes the best part of the DAM cleanup, the results!

DAM cleanup

After all of her hard work, Courtney was eager to look at some of the data behind what she was doing. Looking back at the numbers, in January 2016 (three months before the cleanup) there were 138 users, and when Courtney started the cleanup in March of that year there were 157 users. Of those 157, 102 had logged in 10 times or less since gaining access and 50 had logged in only once or not at all. So, despite the fact that there were over 150 users, they were far from being active.

As part of the cleanup and a move to using single sign-on (SSO), Courtney also reviewed all of the users and removed any long-inactive users and any external users who no longer needed access to the Collective. Ultimately, she deleted around 30 users between March and November 2016, and by January 2017, as a result of the cleanup and internal promotion of the system, there were 400 users in the Collective. If you take into consideration the deletion of 30 inactive users, that’s a 270% growth in user base as a result of the cleanup — and it hadn’t even been rolled out to all the regions at that point.

Kerry Ingredients grew their DAM user base 270% as a result of a DAM cleanup. #DAM (Click to tweet)

Taking a look at assets, in January 2016 there were 7,193 assets, but those were off-brand and not aligned with the new strategy of the brand or the Collective. When Courtney started in March 2016, the graphics team had already begun cleaning up assets to remove any that didn’t align with what they wanted to be in the Collective, and they narrowed down to just 919 assets.

As they worked to further define the Collective strategy when Courtney joined the team, they continued to hone the on-brand assets available to users and further narrowed down the 919 assets to 636. That was their true starting point for growth. With the Collective strategy and continued honing of on-brand assets defined, the team created and grew the number of assets to 2,031 by January 2017! That's a 219% growth in on-brand assets that are now available to Kerry Collective users around the world!

Downloads also saw great growth. From January to May 2016, there were an average of 200 assets downloaded per month. Once the assets got to a place where they were on-brand and what users were looking for, the number of downloads improved. From June to December of that year, there were an average of 468 assets downloaded per month, which is a growth of 134%! The growth didn’t stop there. From January to May 2017, the Collective downloads averaged 1,214 assets per month, which is a 507% change from the same time in 2016.

In summary

It took Courtney about nine months to redo all aspects of the DAM system and retag all of the assets. This was with her dedicating about 40 to 50% of her time each week. It took her a little longer because she had to learn all about Kerry and Widen in the process. But it was definitely worth it, especially when she started hearing people talk about the Collective positively. Around July 2017, she overheard a conversation between two marketing team members. One said, “Hey, have you checked out Widen lately? There is actually a lot of really useful stuff in there now.” This was one of her proudest moments in the cleanup.

Your own DAM cleanup

We’re sure after this great success story with DAM, you’re starting to think about your own DAM needs. So what if you need a DAM cleanup? How do you get started? Here are 12 tips to help you conquer a DAM cleanup.

DAM cleanup

  1. Listen to your users — Consult them for feedback. If they’re frustrated, there’s probably something in your DAM that needs to be addressed.
  2. Break it down — A total cleanup can be very overwhelming. Set a strategy and purpose and break it down into manageable pieces. If it takes nine months, it takes nine months. But keep working at it.
  3. State your purpose — Understand what you want your DAM to do and what problem it’s solving. Knowing that will allow you to ensure your strategy is aligned with your overarching goals.
  4. Share your purpose — Make sure you communicate your DAM’s purpose so that your users know what they can expect. Help them understand why they should care.
  5. What’s your workflow? — Develop workflows to keep your DAM system running smoothly. Consider how the Collective works with other highly-adopted tools and processes. Knowing what tools users are already using regularly and understanding how your DAM workflows connect with them will help ensure alignment across all of these tools and processes.
  6. Metadata! — Your DAM system will only be useful if users can find things. And they’re likely to find things through search. You won’t have effective searching if metadata is incomplete or ineffective...hence, metadata, metadata, metadata.
  7. Know your audience — We know that training is critical to DAM success and it’s just as critical for a cleanup relaunch. Like any training, it’s also helpful to know your audience. So if they’re visual learners, consider more visual training tools.
  8. Make your Collective a priority — You could keep a note on your computer to remind yourself to look at the Collective. You could add it to your task list. Whatever you need to do to make it a regular part of your day or week will help you identify issues before they become too overwhelming and will help keep your DAM in working order.
  9. Remove obstacles — Find a way to make tagging easy and not overwhelming. Tackle 10 assets per day so that you’re not left with 50 at the end of the week. Find what makes it easiest for you to stay on top of tagging.
  10. Your DAM is alive! — Well, not really, but DAM is a living and ever-evolving tool because its assets and users are ever evolving. It should be looked at as something that needs proper maintenance to keep in working condition just like a car or a bike.
  11. Embrace the admin life! — Have a dedicated, engaged admin. Even if your admin doesn’t have a background in taxonomy, metadata, or DAM strategy, they should still be excited by and engaged with the system. They should also understand and be committed to the DAM’s purpose. This will make it easier to commit to regularly making time for your DAM system.
  12. In the end, it’s all worth it! — A total DAM overhaul can be exhausting! And it can seem never-ending. But it is worth it. Take time, set obtainable goals within realistic timeframes so you don’t get frustrated, and hold onto those little wins.

It really is possible! You too can increase user adoption, downloads, and on-brand assets in your Collective site (or any other goals you want to achieve!). Just follow the tips above, stick to a plan, and, of course, use some of resources to help you along the way. You can use the Metadata Bundle for all things metadata and our Admin Playbook or Governance Planning document to get started. And remember, if no one can find anything in your DAM and they dread talking about it, it might be time for a cleanup.

Topics: Customer Stories, DAM

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