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Another DAM Podcast interview with Kenneth Wilson on Digital Asset Management



Henrik de Gyor:  [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Kenneth Wilson. Kenneth, how are you?

Kenneth Wilson:  [0:10] I’m good today. How are you?

Henrik:  [0:11] Great. Kenneth, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Kenneth:  [0:15] I orchestrate the operation of Kohler companies’ digital supply chain, the center of which is the company’s DAM system, and I’ve also recently taken ownership of the communications resource library. That’s how I’m involved in Digital Asset Management.

Henrik:  [0:33] How does an American manufacturing company use Digital Asset Management?

Kenneth:  [0:36] Kohler is a multinational manufacturing company. We have a very diversified group of businesses that are part of the Kohler company, that make up the company. Most people know very well in the plumbing, kitchen, and bath businesses.

[0:52] We also have a hospitality group that has The American Club, which is a five‑diamond hotel, that is in Kohler Wisconsin, along with many golf courses that make up Destination Kohler, along with golf courses in Kohler… Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run… along with a golf course in Scotland, the Old Course hotel. That makes up the hospitality group.

[1:17] We also have an interior section headquartered out of Chicago, where we have furniture businesses… Baker, McGuire. A custom tile manufacturing company called Ann Sacks in Portland, along with… can’t forget our global power group, who has a number of companies they operate throughout the world.

[1:38] All those companies make up the Kohler businesses and we handle a lot of the communications for all of those different businesses. Right now, we use our DAM system to store a lot of the final marketing images, and the graphic layouts for most of our North American businesses.

[1:56] The global businesses also use the system to some extent. A lot of the products are US SKUs that are also sold in other places but some of our global businesses have SKUs that are specific to them. We’re actually trying to work to encourage them to supply our system with those unique‑to‑their‑location assets.

[2:21] The DAM system that I manage will house the packaging images, the web images that are used for the catalog, as well as the layouts for printed literature, catalogs, the sell sheets that go to our showrooms and also archives digital imagery that serves to document the history and happenings of the company. This documentary and archived footage is mainly captured digitally now.

[2:51] We’ve begun efforts to digitize years’ worth of the history that was not digital, both still and video, and that will all make its way into the system as well. At the digital supply chain, if we look at it as a whole, the front end of it we’ve got a lot of different content creators. We have our own photo studio.

[3:14] We’ve got photographers, who create content, and at the front end of that supply chain, you’re not trying to shape the standards for file formats and making sure things are consistent there. While we have our own staff photographers for the different businesses, globally, we’ll use a variety of photographers, so trying to make sure everything comes in in a consistent form.

[3:37] On the back end, assets from our DAM system are syndicated to a content delivery network (CDN), so that they can be published to our websites and to the web catalogs, and also manage that practice.

Henrik:  [3:52] Kenneth, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with DAM?

Kenneth:  [3:58] Personally, one of the biggest current pain points that I have comes around tracking renditions of assets that are headed for both digital and print destinations. It’s tricky to figure out what should be a version when changes are made, or what should really turn into a derivative asset. That’s probably one of the biggest pain points that I currently have.

[4:24] It’s really about educating the art directors on what it means when they version something versus what it means when they create a brand new asset. With all those businesses, we’ve got a lot of printed stuff that we still do, but there’s also a really big focus on digital, of course, using the web. A lot of our businesses are starting to do website redesigns, so that’ll continue to frustrate me this next year.

[4:53] That’s one of our biggest challenges right now. It’s trying to make sure that we don’t have a lot of duplicate content that varies so slightly that people couldn’t really do a search and be confident in the results they find within the DAM, and not really have to sort through, oh, this one’s slightly brighter, this one’s slightly darker.

[5:18] One of the biggest successes that I’ve seen in DAM lately is starting to overcome the notion of simply being a storage repository for the organizations that adopt it, more than a search tool to find things that already exist.

[5:34] One way we’re trying to get over that is the reuse of things we’ve already shot. An image that was shot for our hospitality businesses could be reused in marketing materials for the power businesses.

[5:50] So, that return on investment there. One of the bigger successes is DAM’s ability to shape workflows. One of my major initiatives this year is to implement a review on an approval workflow that we call creative review. In a digital form, it’s something that our creative groups already do, and it’s largely on paper. Trying to move that into a digital space is the big win.

[6:22] One of the major benefits we can get out of it is being able to inform content creators, our photographers, how successful they are shooting to a shot list, by having those discussions by art directors around the images and content they’re creating.

[6:41] Having some sort of record and being able to say, “It’s done, this set of images, you can do this slightly differently and these images will be able to serve a wider range of uses.”

[6:55] That’s one benefit of that workflow type of creative review and approvals implementations.

Henrik:  [7:02] These are very common issues that many organizations have. Getting collaborative tools to your point, and also getting the tools to not only deduplicate, and control renderings, and version control, but also to know what the single source of truth is for brand consistency.

Kenneth:  [7:18] Absolutely. That single source of truth is another pain point. I attend conferences, and a lot of the organizations that are attending may be in search of just starting the DAM process, as far as finding which software to use and how to set it up, how to govern it, and that’s always a battle with whoever holds the purse strings.

[7:41] I think one of the things I may have to be an advocate for within Kohler may be a greater emphasis on a PIM system, product information management tool, and how it integrates with a DAM system, because we use our DAM to drive that syndication of assets out to our web catalog. All those images have to marry to information about whatever’s pictured.

[8:05] Those catalog images, the data from that should come from a PIM. Right now we’re taking that information and inserting it into our system, manually, per asset. We have an opportunity there to automate that more by establishing a single source of truth for that product information.

[8:32] When product information changes, if something gets discontinued, all that information will flow automatically into the DAM system, and so that metadata is more dynamic, living, breathing kind of metadata.

Henrik:  [8:47] That’s a very popular and hot topic in DAM, is to get to product information management to your point, tying with DAM so you don’t have to reproduce the data from one system to another, and have the master record of your information, your catalog items, and all the SKUs, product codes, et cetera, in your PIM, and sync up with the DAM.

[9:06] Your master record is your PIM and the repository of all the imagery that may or may not be active, to your point, is in your DAM.

[9:14] There are several vendors who are very interested in making that easier for companies. You’re not the only organization out there that has this issue, which is great to hear.

[9:24] Kenneth, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Kenneth:  [9:29] That’s a good question. I can share a little bit of how I got there. Maybe that helps those aspiring to becoming DAM professionals and even inspires those who are. There’s a lot of talk about convergence. One of the topics at a recent DAM conference was, “Are we all becoming each other?” In a way, the convergence helps us push past some of the boundaries we run into.

[10:00] The breadth of knowledge has definitely been a factor in the success that I’ve had with DAM here at Kohler. Before being in this role, I was pursuing a career doing photography professionally.

[10:13] I’ve got an understanding of what the photographers, who are delivering creative content to be stored in this repository, a frame of reference to what they’re thinking or doing. In addition before that, I studied at the University of Michigan.

[10:29] I studied industrial product design, and I was in a school of art and design, and was able to take all the photography requirements as well in my time there.

[10:41] The industrial design thinking, the problem solving, the creative problem solving, those have really been helpful in coming into Kohler, a place that already had an established DAM system, and being able to see what was already happening, and trying to come up with new, more efficient ways to do some of the things they were doing.

[11:06] Our studio’s been digital for probably the last 10 to 12, maybe 15 years. There was a lot of existent content when I got here, but we’re creating more and more images each year than before.

[11:20] The design thinking has really helped to push the boundaries and to come up with creative, new ways of looking at solving the workflow problems, or how content comes into the supply chain, how it moves around and really completes a circle for the asset life cycle, I like to call it, where it may go out to a vendor, but it’s got to come back and it lives in the system. How does that asset end up becoming an archive that we reference back, historically.

[11:49] This year, I’ll be collaborating a lot more with our corporate archivist, as she digitizes a lot of the historical content that she has in her archives. Our history is increasingly becoming captured digitally. We’ll still have physical artifacts in archives in the future.

[12:09] A lot of the speeches that may have been written 60 years ago, that we have a paper‑printed copy, they won’t have a digital equivalent. Trying to preserve some of these things so that they are useful, working assets now, but turn into archives later, that design background has really helped me there. Even before that, I started off pursuing an engineering degree.

[12:37] Coding, computer science, writing code, is also a really good set of skills to have when implementing a system, working with IT to resolve and troubleshoot issues. I think that convergence is something that will really help shape and push the boundaries of the industry. That’s what I would share.

Henrik:  [13:01] Great. Thanks, Kenneth.

Kenneth:  [13:03] Thank you.

Henrik:  [13:04] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to Another DAM Podcast has over 150 podcast episodes for you to listen to, including this one. Visit If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me at Thanks again.

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Another DAM Podcast interview with Steven Brier on Digital Asset Management


Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • Why does an international hotel chain use Digital Asset Management?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?


Henrik de Gyor: [0:00] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Steven Brier. Steven,
how are you?
Steven Brier: [0:10] I’m just fine. How are you?
Henrik: [0:12] Good. Steven, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Steven: [0:15] I’m the Product Owner, for lack of a better term, of the Marriott
Digital Asset Management System, and several applications that leverage the
DAM to activate brand voice, and automate marketing and sales efforts for 11
different brands worldwide.

[0:34] In this role, I develop a strategy. I prioritize
the development. I manage all the internal and external resources. Whether that
be our development shop, advertising agencies and others. I serve as liaison
between the business and what we call the tools, which includes the DAM and
any of the other applications that link into the DAM. I also project manage any
integration efforts between other applications in the DAM which is extremely
[1:05] We’ve made the DAM accessible through an API. That makes it much
easier for other applications to tap into those assets that live there, further
gleaning and pulling value out of those assets.
Henrik: [1:23] Why does an international hotel chain use Digital Asset
Steven: [1:28] Marriott uses it to secure the investment that’s made in digital
assets from a property standpoint and also, from a corporate standpoint.
Whether we have assets for brand and brand marketing, human resources, internal
communications, we use the DAM to secure that investment. Also, to glean
the maximum value we can out of those assets.

[1:56] Before we actually had this
thing, assets were stored on servers in hard drives and disks. You really couldn’t
access them, not in a global fashion, and certainly not even a cross department
way. This now allows people to use these assets, and to actually get them out
to people.
[2:18] The reason why we initially built it was to help build our brands. We were
going to a strategy of brand distinction. We really needed to categorize assets
that would be used specifically for each brand and not cross pollinate, if you will,
so that we could get a distinction.
[2:40] I guess the final thing you could say is just to save money, because they’re
specific. We collapsed nine different databases around the world, and I wouldn’t
even say that was all of them.
[2:56] We did that in a formalized way, but then I think there have been other
teams, groups, and organizations throughout Marriott who have since found our
tool and added their assets to the system, as well.
Henrik: [3:12] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and
people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Steven: [3:18] The first thing is, if you’re going to be taking something on like
this, you’ve got to have some thick skin, [laughs] because it’s very sensitive.
Everyone has their own ideas how it should be done, and then they’re very
protective as to their assets and the control of those assets.

[3:38] In large corporations like Marriott it is, as I like to say, a house to house battle. It’s pretty rare that you see a company that scopes out to centrally fund an enterprise like
solution, because many times it’s millions of dollars, you have to fight through all
of the systems, and there are misunderstandings.
[4:00] A way that we were able to do it was we built small. We proved it out, the
concept to do a certain set of tasks, or to solve certain problems. Then, as we
proved that out, we started to evangelize the system to build that support and
get others to take ownership of their slice of the pie.
[4:24] In a sense, I guess you should be a salesperson, too. That’s not always
something that people in this position really aspire to or have the skillset to do,
but it’s just a matter of getting out, talking to people, and helping paint the picture
for them so they can see what the Digital Asset Management System can
do for their group, and what centralization of that, the value of centralization,
can have to their organization.
[4:57] The other thing is just to be open and solicit feedback, even criticism and
complaints. This is somewhere all the good ideas for our system have come. I
always like to say that, when people stop complaining, [laughs] I don’t have a
healthy system, because it means people are starting to disengage.
[5:15] I have really fostered this open door policy so that people understand that
if they have an issue with the system, if it can be solved. We’re perfectly willing
to do that.
Henrik: [5:28] Allowing people to complain, but taking those complaints and
seeing what challenges can be resolved to make the system better. That’s a
great piece of advice there as well.
Steven: [5:36] Right.
Henrik: [5:38] Thanks Steven.
Steven: [5:39] You are quite welcome.
Henrik: [5:42] For more on Digital Asset Management log onto Another DAM Podcast is available on Audioboom,
Blubrry, iTunes, and the Tech Podcast Network. Thanks again.