But once the conversation turns to how we can support digital storytelling through integrated content management, we find that we can better align the role of DAM with the business vision. This is a better story to tell than droning on about the importance of metadata (and yes, metadata is still important!).

Digital storytelling's rise parallels the rapid rise in the digital world's complexity, as well as the raised level of noise and competition for attention. Pushed in part by the social media revolution and by increased opportunities to interact with customers, brands and campaign managers have been struggling with “engagement” for the last few years. Digital storytelling is a way of more deeply engaging those audiences, and unlike traditional linear narrative (think books, theatre and movies), it offers many ways to involve the audience in interactive activities and multi-layered story worlds.

For example, a movie or publishing franchise may have a combination of video, books, games, toys, live events and social media activities all under the umbrella of a single unified story theme. The digital assets required to manage such a complex and multi-dimensional campaign are often staggering in number. A colleague recently told me about an interactive campaign for a global soft drink brand that required the management of around 80,000 pieces of digital video -- and the metadata needed to organize them!

The Challenges of Internet 3.0

Taking this kind of strategic approach to designing the narrative around brands and campaigns requires addressing the challenges and opportunities in the Internet 3.0 world. “Internet 3.0” is used here to encompass several emerging trends, including Web 3.0 (the semantic web, taxonomy/ontology, linked data, linked assets and content curation), integration of mobile devices, crossover connections between the virtual world and the physical world, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Transmedia storytelling” and “cross-platform distribution” have come into more common usage in the past few years in relation to the Internet 3.0 world. They are both important, but quite different from each other. Cross-platform distribution may mean that a particular video might be repurposed on the corporate website, a YouTube channel and Facebook account. With transmedia storytelling, a campaign spans across different, but complementary, media products. Transmedia always has one unified “storyworld,” but it may include many stories, forms and channels. 

A great example of transmedia storytelling is the now famous Chipotle Scarecrow story, deemed the most successful digital marketing campaign of last year. The video story and the popular soundtrack song (Fiona Apple’s remake of “Pure Imagination”) were repurposed and distributed on websites, YouTube, iTunes and social media, as well as a mobile device app. The mobile app included a multi-level game that picked up on several of the video’s farm and food themes. The company produced several behind-the-story videos to highlight Chipotle’s “food with integrity” brand message and tied it into the story of the company’s founder, who was appalled at factory farming practices and wanted to do something about it. 

The combination of well-crafted video story with other supporting transmedia elements created an immersive and interactive experience, while also positioning the brand as a hero against bad food practices. By sharing the video and playing the game, customers can share in the ideal of “food with integrity.” The company’s nonprofit foundation benefits from every iTunes download of the Fiona Apple song, creating an even stronger issues-oriented link to the business.

That’s powerful strategic storytelling and an engaging customer experience. The story succeeded because it created a strong bond of shared values between the customer and the brand -- it made it personal.

In another taco-related story, Taco Bell launched their Doritos Locos Tacos product with a campaign that was supported by massive amounts of user generated content (UGC). Taco Bell now sells about 1 million Doritos Locos Tacos every day, based on a successful UGC-driven social media campaign on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, and including customer selfies displayed on a digital billboard in Times Square. They also use UGC assets in their advertising. UGC creates another challenge for digital asset managers.

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Meeting these challenges and taking advantage of the tremendous opportunities they bring, requires a level of cooperation, agility and technology systems support that surpasses the capacity of most organizations. Yet the amount of industry attention that these approaches are getting speaks to the urgency to get this right.

This is where we might expect DAM to come in and save the day. But we actually need two key components within the organization: 1. the humans and 2. the supporting technology. The technology is important -- even vital, given the growing number of media assets and amount of information associated with their usage. But no technology will magically make an organization capable of strategic storytelling. Cooperation and agility must be addressed through training and culture. Integrating the technology platforms with the organization’s creative talent to produce cost-effective quality outputs is a social process, as well as a technology challenge.

Enter the Co-Creation Team

We’ve talked about some of the challenges of integrating systems previously in Future Proofing Your Digital Assets. So assuming we’ve got our systems integrated sufficiently -- our CMS and DAM/MAM and production/post-production systems integrated with our social media platforms, and our user-generated content, data and infographics, and our analytics -- are we good? Not at all -- we still need that vital human component.

While technology integrations have hard benefits that are easier to quantify, the benefits of integrating human and systems resources may be more compelling. These include linking assets and people across departmental silos, vendors and agency partners. A unified platform also supports routinized collaboration and integrated work practices.

We need to provide a unified vision and a storytelling team that knows how to use these tools together. This “co-creation team” should include all of the internal talent, vendors and other partners, who contribute to any project. It may include writers, producers, video and photography editors, DAM managers and post-production support. It should include support for website, social media and other distribution platforms. The DAM is an integral part of the “co-creation platform” supporting that team. It can ensure that the assets are sharable and findable, and that the rules for their usage are clear.

Abigail Marks is the director of strategy and operations at OgilvyEntertainment, the lead branded and original entertainment content group of advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Her group creates content across different, traditionally disconnected areas, in order to ensure that there is “a clear value exchange” for consumer attention.

Traditionally, digital communications teams have worked separately from e-commerce, social media, etc. These lines are getting blurred between social, sales, and the consumer’s expectations. In the new environment of greater competition for attention, it is important to create materials that are shorter delivery, but still have deep content,” said Marks.

DAM plays a central role in connecting these pieces across traditional divisions. Consistent curation and linkages between assets and systems is needed for co-creation teams to access and share digital assets, as well as to understand usage requirements. Production and distribution lifecycles need to be taken into account, including production/post-production, publishing and distribution platforms. According to Marks, “For DAM to be successful in the global environment, it needs to be searchable, accessible, and intuitively navigable. We have to make sure the metadata is complete, intelligible and translated for global access. Then we need to have methods for global assets to be used in local application.”

As the opportunities for digital engagement become more complex, so do the assets and requirements for managing them. Caitlin Burns, business strategist and transmedia producer at Caitlin Burns & Associates, believes that “it’s important to bring the co-creation team together to make it work well,” or the work won’t be well-crafted or engaging. “Narrative approaches are impacting on brands in their advertising, marketing and communications, and the story is becoming more complex in order to stay relevant. It needs to be holistic … older approaches to campaigns are disconnected pieces, rather than a unified approach to the brand.”

It is in this need to reconnect the pieces and tell a unified story that integrated DAM can make the difference. Brand and campaign managers feel an urgent need to avoid disconnected content offerings. They want to tell a unified story that leads to deeper engagement with their audience and customers. DAM professionals should align themselves with these interests by showing the value of integrated content management systems to support content production, story creation and distribution.

But this requires more than simply integrating DAM into the content system mix. The magic comes from bringing the content, people and technology systems together in a strategic fashion. The system has to be socialized into the culture and work practices of the organization in order to be effective.

This is the present and future of DAM. The successful DAM leader needs to tell this story so that management business owners can embrace and support this vital role, and show the benefits to content producers. The benefits include enterprise-level economic scale, as well as fewer mistakes or missed opportunities. That's the whole enchilada.

Title image by mary416 / Shutterstock.com