Digital Asset Management, 2014-13-August-Puppets.jpgDigital asset managers often find themselves in the difficult situation of trying to explain or defend the arcane arts of DAM systems management to both business owners and asset creators. Business owners know they need DAM, but can have trouble justifying the resources to fully support it, let alone take it to the next level.

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.


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.