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The Widen digital asset manager series: Being a Widen DAMster with Phil Baird of 5.11 Tactical

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Phil is a Graphic Designer at 5.11 Tactical and a fan of Lord of the Rings. If you’re wondering what his work space looks like, here’s a shot of Phil at the office!

Phil Baird of 5.11 Tactical
1. What do you do at your organization?
I do a lot of different things. My title is Graphic Designer, but I do everything from producing assets to some art direction to managing external agency assets, photographing products and editing photos, to editing work from external studios and then putting assets up on the DAM system for other users. I’m a creator and admin. Packaging is my recent huge focus ­— apparel hang tags, accessories, and packaging for knives and flashlights. We have a really diverse product line so it is a pretty huge task. Luckily, we have great internal content and a great creative team. All of the final packaging files run through the DAM system, so we can get them out to the print vendors with accountability. I know who downloaded what, when, and from where.
I also spend a lot of time in the kitchen where I make a mean macchiato.
2. How long have you been a Widen user?
I don’t like to think about the dark times before Widen, when I started here 7 years ago, but I think it is about 6.5 years.
3. In what area(s) of your organization is Widen’s DAM system being used?
The DAM was originally launched to provide image assets to our dealer base. Today we use it for distribution of those same assets plus internal documents, outside agency work and are investigating new uses for it.
Primarily it’s used to get up-to-date brand assets, photography, and marketing materials out to our dealers for use in their catalogs, marketing materials, point of sale, and e-commerce projects. So that’s Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, but our design and development teams also use the same assets internally for their presentations.
Our team’s deep product and brand knowledge can be focused and passed on to other creative users via the DAM system.
We’re working on increasing usage right now. We keep our external dealers and external sales force up to date with our style guide via the DAM system. We also have marketing materials based on quarterly promotions, PDFs of our catalogs, POS materials, and photography for e-commerce in the DAM system. Now we’re starting to use the DAM more as an all-in-one content management system. We keep all product description and information (long and short) together for each product with those images. We’re trying to use the DAM system as our single source of truth, rather than going to multiple repositories. We now have 500+ employees — we’ve experienced a lot of growth, a lot of servers and a lot of different people touching that information. So, we want to make it the One Ring (for the lord of the Rings fans out there) that’s being used by everyone. Customer service has dealer customer inquires, Product design puts images in their PPT presentations, so it gets a lot of use internally. It’s also a place for our development team to have a place to keep their information — production standards, huge PDF docs for new factories, and ISO standards. We’d like it to be a way for them to provide information to vendors and factories overseas such as Tech-packs and our production standards guide. I’m really expanding the internal use now after watching people struggle with things they’ve been doing.
The internal push for more groups to use it has been going for about 6 months. They’re bigger and more complicated teams. I did training for 20 people about 6 months ago and they’re thinking about the best way to implement what I’ve offered them, but they really like the idea because previously they were going to a webpage pointed to a folder with no security and no visibility into who was downloading files. Some of that content was proprietary, so we had to turn it off (the webpage).
We have a couple of different outside agencies that have upload privileges. They go into an incoming creative agency bucket and from there we can view and download the assets and clean them up and then re-upload them into the DAM system. We’ve been using the DAM system a lot with Dropbox. I download to Dropbox a lot. We throw files back and forth a lot with agencies and internally, too, but then the final files go in the DAM system. For us it’s primarily finished stuff in the Media Collective rather than work in progress.
4. For what kinds of activities are you using it? And, about how much time do you spend admining the DAM system?
I currently spend about an hour a day managing users, adding new assets, correcting metadata, and working on my list of things to improve such as metadata types, and user roles. We have a couple of different designers who provide me with files or they can just upload and then I put those assets in the right place. Then I make sure it’s in the right category. Ultimately, I’d like those users to put it up there and put in the right place. But right now, it’s faster for me to be the guy who gets the assets organized and they can go back to work.
The really important thing is being able to find assets, so I rely heavily on files that are named properly. People are going to find it with keyword searches. For marketing campaigns, I rely on category structure and putting it in an area where the dealers can find it.
I’ve been asked if I could do a folder for each style number. That would be something like 700 categories! They should be able to just type in the style number and search for it if you know it. I like giving people different approaches into the content, different ways to find the assets.
Our first system we had was a just a simple director of folders and was super cumbersome and you couldn’t search.
5. How are your users using the Media Collective?
It varies from quarter to quarter, but we usually have about 300 internal users and about 1500 external users.
We have pretty heavy international use from dealers and from our sales team. Especially as new dealers start selling our products, or existing dealers go online, it is their best and maybe their only source for all of our product photography and information as well.
Sometimes they use the DAM system themselves, and sometimes it is someone from the Sales or Customer Service team that uses the DAM system to help out their dealers. Action photography, product photos, videos, and marketing materials are their primary focus.
Looking at orders right now, I see a lot of international orders. The DAM system is the one place where they can get all the photos they need and download to build a website. There are a ton of international dealer orders from the DAM. Mostly downloading. They don’t have any other privileges. When a dealer signs up, we want our photography and information to be out in the world. I’m not trying to keep people from getting at the assets, I’m trying to help the right people get what they need for their work.
6. What are some of the great things your organization does? How does the Media Collective enable your organization to do great things?
We make clothes and gear that is very important to the user. The clothes are not fashion, they are a part of your gear, how you do your job-- being a first responder, or protecting the public. Your clothes are part of your equipment. Our products have a purpose behind them. We provide really awesome gear to people who need to be really awesome. People who need to be ready and prepared, who have that mindset of preparedness, they have to have gear that protects and over-performs.
Always Be Ready, it is a tagline/motto we use, and we mean it. Like this story, Hemet Police Officer Delivers His Own Son, and uses a knife that has that phrase written on the side. It is a gift with a purchase, so we know that he has bought other products to even own it. We are always immensely proud of our end users when we see stories like this in the news, and we really strive to do our best for them, and for our dealers, and the DAM system really does help with that.
And the Media Collective? Many of our dealers are ‘mom and pop’ shops, like army surplus stores. We’ve taught them how to sell more and hopefully build their own retail brand. A lot of brands don’t provide the level of assets that we do to our dealers. If you’re a dealer, you can go to the DAM and get all you need for your store. You can pull from our library and get professional images that help your store professional, accurate. We exist within a very interesting space from a marketing and merchandising perspective, and so for a smaller retailer to be able to use our assets is a great help to them. Even some of our extremely large dealers will use our photography for internal signage and marketing, because we strive to keep our materials relevant and accurate to our brand and the tactical space where appropriate. Our dealers can’t afford a $10,000 photo shoot. We support the great product with great marketing materials for them.
We also provide photography to magazines for PR and editorial purposes, and we have a lot of partner/informal brand ambassadors out around the world that we provide access to as well.

7. What is the best thing the Media Collective does for your day?
I get a couple of emails every day that require me to hunt around on the DAM system a bit. I play Sherlock Holmes and make sure things match up, or if there are altered file names and then I send them to people that need them. Before the Media Collective, I did that 25 hours a week through our email system. It was so time consuming. I was custom resizing and fixing assets in Photoshop. And, now the DAM system just does that. And it does it better than I did.
So the best thing the Widen Collective does for me every day is work in a pretty solid way, and the orders continue to flow out, with just a nudge from me now and again. On the 30th, there were 240 orders in one day. A bunch of those are from a salesperson from Australia, ordering a couple of outfits at a time. That’s a hundred emails I didn’t have to read and write and respond to in one day.
8. What do you think is the most important thing other users should know about using a digital asset management system?
Some of the enterprise systems are super capable but they cost a lot of money and your IT team has to be fully on board with that amount of time, staffing and responsibility otherwise you have another system that doesn’t get used. With the Media Collective, it’s super scalable to wherever I’m at in terms of assets and users, and it is flexible since it is not a per user fee. That would be a nightmare for me. There’s all these different things it can do. The Media Collective is easy to use and it does so much, that it’s given our internal users the confidence to sign up on the DAM system and go find what they need on their own.
You can’t use things you can’t find. Pretty basic. I know people get a bit lost in the maze of terminology about metadata and taxonomies and whether you need folders or categories our asset groups etc, so just don’t panic. Be flexible in your approach and refine it based on what your users are actually doing. File names are a great place to start, and we have had a lot of meetings before getting ours standardized (which I need to retrofit into lots of assets online) to the point where the file name itself is most of the searchable metadata for a product.
It gives me a basic place to start for filling metadata in, and allows me to keep it really basic for our most basic and most used assets.
Last thought is this: Without metadata there is no needle to find. It’s all haystack.

Topics: Customer Stories, DAMsters

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