Digital content remains an indispensable strategy for engaging consumers at scale, amid the growing landscape of channels for engagement. However, the reality is that today, brands are being asked to do more with less – and it’s getting harder to keep up.
Growing enterprise brands have more products to promote across more online platforms (with new social platforms popping up regularly), and teams want to put out personalized and authentic content to their audiences to keep marketing campaigns relevant and effective.
This alone puts a huge load on creative and marketing teams, but brands also need to jump on ever-changing trends and social responsibilities, such as incorporating DEI initiatives. Plus, in today’s economic climate, budgets are getting tighter, and many marketing teams are shrinking due to the economic pressure.
Faced with these compounding challenges, which limit the content that teams can execute on, workflow automation is a game-changer.
Kimberly Jauss, Director of Creative Imaging at Saks – a leader in luxury e-commerce, known for its exceptional blend of online shopping and personalized experiences – recently and successfully implemented a brand new DAM.
Kimberly walked us through how leveraging automation to orchestrate workflows has allowed the Saks team to build strong governance around asset data processes and expedited creative processes (if you have an hour, check out the full webinar here).
In this blog, we’ll explore how strategic automation in the DAM can transform your creative workflow to optimize output and resources. With the example of how Saks implemented workflow automation in their creative process, you’ll see how automation serves to streamline content creation and enables marketing, brand, and creative teams to keep up with growing content demands.
What is workflow automation, and why does it matter for creative teams?
First, let’s start with the basics.
Workflow automation is leveraging technology to streamline and simplify your complex workflows. It involves orchestrating software and tools to automatically manage, execute, and monitor tasks with predefined steps triggered by data.
You can think of it as having a digital assistant to ensure tasks move seamlessly from one stage to the next.
Automating components of the creative workflow with digital asset management (DAM) software and connected technologies can help brands work smarter by eliminating manual interventions and repetitive steps. This allows DAM Managers and creative teams to free valuable time and focus on higher-value tasks.
Benefits of Workflow Automation Within the Creative Asset Lifecycle
In a typical asset lifecycle, there are multiple back-and-forth steps as you move through the creative stages, from ideation to content approval, rights management, and finalized published content.
Here’s an example of a traditional creative workflow process – with more or fewer steps depending on your orchestration and governance processes.
Within each of these stages, you’ve got the assets themselves to store and distribute to the relevant teams who have action items. You’ve also got data and metadata that need to be seamlessly passed on to the teams throughout these phases to ensure every team has the right version and the data to go with it.
Doing this back and forth manually is a painful task with lots of room for human error. Plus, if it’s not done well, it can cause significant productivity issues.
Here’s a classic example.
Say your team needs to edit an image. After finding the rights information, they might download it from the DAM and open it up in a creative tool like Adobe InDesign. They might spend a day or so going back and forth on Slack before agreeing on a final image. Then, your creative head goes to your legal team for their approval. After a couple of weeks of continued back and forth, you get edits and need to make changes…essentially starting the process over from scratch.
Apart from this taking a long time, what else can go wrong?
As soon as the asset is downloaded from the DAM and changes are made, version control becomes a massive issue. There could be versions of this asset on an employee’s local hard drive – and your DAM is no longer your source of truth.
User error can also come into play – perhaps the asset gets shared externally, deleted, or or lost in complex folders and sub-folder structures. This risk of error compounds with the already painful back-and-forth process.
Automation of approval processes has the potential to eliminate a lot of this pain – but ultimately, you need an underlying system that can connect seamlessly to other technologies to pass assets, metadata, and data in a way that works for your team.
That’s where the DAM comes in.
DAM's Role in Automation
A modern digital asset management (DAM) system is vital for orchestrating automated workflows – because it’s the only technology that actually touches every stage of the asset lifecycle, from ideation through to publishing the content.
A DAM is not just a repository for your assets but a smart system that talks to all the other tools that are involved within your creative workflows while ensuring that metadata (essential information about your assets), user data, and rights information are all attached to the assets throughout the process.
DAMs like Tenovos also empower brands to define their automated workflows to match their existing governance processes by embedding data triggers to initiate specific tasks and integrations. This dynamic customization allows brands to align the DAM with their unique creative process, ensuring that assets seamlessly transition through stages of the asset lifecycle with precision and speed.
Let’s delve into a real-world use case to understand how automation can enhance creative workflows: Saks’ use of workflow automation within their DAM.
An Overview of Saks’ Creative Process
Renowned as a luxury e-commerce leader, Saks offers a curated selection of fashion, beauty, jewelry, and home décor products, accompanied by editorial content and digital styling services.
As you can imagine, the workflows to produce their finalized seasonal and individual brand campaigns are pretty complex, and strong governance within each stage of their creative process is necessary to ensure alignment with the Saks brand, their vendors’ needs, and legal components.
Here’s a closer look at Saks’ creative workflow, which shows the journey from project ideation to published content.
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When Kimberly first joined the Saks team, this complex creative process was mostly manual, and they did not have a DAM to store their assets. As a result, time-consuming processes, fragmented asset management, and communication gaps led to inefficiencies, data inconsistencies, and bottlenecks during approval processes.
With increasing demands for creatives to push more personalized content with less time and resources, the goal of implementing a DAM was to centralize assets and automate as much of their existing creative process as possible. And with lots of different teams involved throughout this creative process, Saks needs to ensure that asset visibility is given to the right teams at the right times – within their internal workflow, connected technologies, and within the DAM itself.
Let’s get into the intricacies of the stages of Saks’ creative process and how they leverage automation to orchestrate this workflow with the help of their DAM.
Pre-Production & Creative Production: Setting the Stage in the DAM
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During the pre-production stage, every Saks project begins with a kick-off through their project management system, which is connected to their DAM and guides the process from inception to deadline. Merchandise teams gather products for the upcoming campaign, and photographers and art directors start cultivating the creative vision. This phase includes shoot logistics, like location decisions, model selection, and vendor coordination.
The Saks team knows that if heaps of files land in your hands after a grueling 12-hour shoot with minimal information, it’s a recipe for chaos – so here’s where the benefit of automation in the DAM first comes in.
The DAM team implemented an automated data tagging system that assigns a specific status to any asset upon upload to the DAM, paving the way for the coordinators to efficiently add metadata (we’ll delve into this shortly).
With shoot plans in place and the DAM read, it’s time to roll the cameras. The creative production stage kicks off by picking assets, which, for Saks, often happens right on the set. This initial selection gives the team a solid selection of content available to them in the DAM.
Then, these handpicked assets get fine-tuned according to specs, often with some extra paperwork like shot lists or production decks – depending on how each team operates. Once all assets are set, those assets are uploaded into the DAM. The automated data tagging created in the pre-production phase is triggered as the assets land in the system, correctly organizing them and flagging them as new
Post-Production & Content Creation: Shaping Visual Stories
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In the post-production stage, the assets are in the DAM, and have been tagged automatically as newly added or in the early stages of editing – so the team has visibility and knows they’re not finalized.
The team identifies the net new assets requiring data, and crafts a data sheet, filling in essential production, image, product, and usage data from various sources – spreadsheets, Google decks, you name it. This is where a large piece of automation will come into play, in order to efficiently and accurately attach data from all these sources to the assets, allowing the DAM team to scrub data, rather than inputting data.
Once this data is ingested into the DAM, art directors get pinged to make their selects, go through image approvals, mark up images, and hand them over to the retouching team. This is also when design and copy directions are briefed in.
With the appropriate eyes on the assets, teams can start requesting designs, copy variations, and plan out the desired looks and feels for the campaign content. This all takes place within the DAM through integrations to creative tools, simplifying back-and-forth communications.
Reviews & Approval and Content Distribution: Navigating the Finishing Line
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In these final stages, assets move into the review and approval stage, where cross-functional teams review the content. Automation in the DAM keeps everyone informed – notifications and updates are automated surrounding approvals, ensuring that the right eyes are on the content at the right time.
This meticulous review process extends to every asset Saks publishes – from book reviews to design elements like GIFs and HTML components. With the finalized assets, the wider team, including marketing and web developers, gets involved in reviewing and fine-tuning webpages, custom emails, and social assets before they’re released.
There are usually two stages of reviews: revisions and finalization. The review process unfolds through rounds of communication via platforms like Wrike, which also integrated the DAM. Once assets receive the “gold star,” final metadata updates are made, and the content is ready for distribution, ensuring Saks’ campaigns reach their intended audiences flawlessly.
The Outcome: A Transformed Creative Process with Workflow Automation
Prior to DAM implementation and leveraging automation, Saks’ creative teams encountered various pitfalls during content creation; timely review processes, version discrepancies, copies scattered across platforms, and uncertainties about asset usage limited efficiency.
Today, Saks has leveraged automation to build strong governance around asset data processes mitigating previous challenges. Version control has become seamless, with automated tagging and metadata ensuring accuracy, while the synchronization of tools across internal and external processes has simplified collaboration.
Data is the key to successful AI and automation, triggering processes and tasks. The availability of comprehensive data empowers the creation of adaptable automation that further enhances Saks’ creative workflow, supporting control, efficiency, and collaboration across the board.
Saks’ story is not just one of success but a blueprint for brands seeking to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of content creation. The integration of automation within the asset lifecycle and the strategic role of DAM serve as guiding principles for efficient content management. Innovation and creativity thrive when automation is thoughtfully integrated, creating an environment where brands can produce, refine, and deliver exceptional content in a dynamic and demanding landscape.