by Geoffrey E. Bock, Principal
Bock & Company 2006
Leave it to a cosmetics company for which beauty is everything to discover the beauty (and importance) of a digital asset management system. Meet Jafra Cosmetics International, a company that produces and markets its own line of skin care, body care, personal care, color cosmetic, and fragrance products.
Founded in 1956, Jafra sells directly through an international network of sales consultants, encompassing nearly 410,000 women in 22 countries. Headquartered in Westlake Village, California, the company has regional offices in Germany, Mexico, Italy, and the Dominican Republic for supporting its worldwide sales operations. Jafra reported worldwide sales of US$416.2 million for 2004, an 8 percent growth over the previous year.
In the 1990s, Jafra had begun to implement a digital production environment when it developed a serious operational bottleneck: marketers and graphic designers could not easily reuse photographs and artwork when producing the printed and electronic promotional materials for each marketing cycle.
"Our image library was just a mess," said Beatriz Gutai, Senior Vice Pres ident & Chief Global Marketing Officer. "If we needed a photo from an old catalog, it was often easier to go out and reshoot it, rather than try to find the existing one to reuse."
It was a mess, until Richard Williams joined the company as its Web Producer/Designer, and he subsequently found Canto, a company with a digital asset management system called Cumulus. Williams chose well, as Cumulus is installed at more than 12,500 sites worldwide.
Many tasks that used to take someone 20 to 30 minutes now can be done in 20 to 30 seconds, or less!
But to understand how these efficiencies were achieved, let's start at the beginning.
Jafra is a marketing-driven organization. It promotes its branded identity through a network of independent consultants who operate their own businesses.
Jafra relies on a sophisticated and integrated promotional approach including meetings, printed marketing literature, and the Web to create a strong corporate image. Jafra publicizes its products to the consultants and their customers through elegant catalogs and brochures that feature fashion photography and stylish layouts, and that are designed to reinforce the Jafra branded appeal in multiple markets around the world.
Selling cosmetics is a continuous yet cyclical activity. To sustain the consultants' enthusiasm in its current products and also to introduce new ones, Jafra launches a new marketing campaign every two months.
Jafra begins each bi-monthly campaign with an updated version of its cycle brochure—24 to 34 pages, featuring upwards of 50 special product promotions. Each version encompasses 30 to 40 original photographs, stock images procured from commercial providers, and redesigned page layouts.
Jafra also annually updates its product catalog, publishing photographs and descriptions of all 200-250 items in its product line.
Jafra marketers, including an in-house art director and graphic designers, spend two to three months prior to the launch of each cycle brochure, designing the pages, producing the photographs, and procuring the art work.
Once Jafra launches a new cycle brochure, marketers throughout the company reuse the photographs and artwork for many additional promotional campaigns. Publishing both in English and Spanish, they develop consultant-focused magazines, product catalogs, Web pages, and more.
By the late 1990s, once it had moved to a totally digital production process, Jafra had developed a serious operational bottleneck. Here's what was happening:
After each bi-monthly catalog was published, Jafra received the photographs, art work, and catalog page layouts as digital assets, stored on a set of CD-ROMs. All of the assets were indexed by thumbnail printouts that referenced the images, and were compiled into a loose-leaf binder. To support its international marketing initiatives, Jafra distributed copies of the binder for each cycle brochure to its regional offices.
Jafra had not yet implemented an online environment for storing and managing these assets. Reusing photographs and images required many manual activities. Whether they were updating the company Web site or producing a new printed brochure, the marketers and graphic designers were unable to access the photographs and art work on their own and in real time.
Rather, an administrator at the company headquarters controlled the information flow and spent hours each week as the information gatekeeper, manually fulfilling the many requests from other staff members. From time to time, she would also receive a request from a regional office. But, other than sending bi-monthly copies of the CD-ROM binders, marketers at headquarters had no way of coordinating the update of images with its regional offices.
Jafra needed to find a solution for managing its fast-growing collection of digital assets. The company needed to leverage its considerable investment in the images for the cycle brochures.
Specifically, Jafra needed to index and store all of its digital assets online, and make them accessible to the marketing staff at headquarters and at the regional offices. Marketers and graphic designers would then be able to:
Enter Richard Williams, whose task it was to implement and deploy a digital asset management system. Trained as a graphic designer, he had prior experience in managing a digital production environment.
Williams realized that Jafra needed a comprehensive yet affordable solution, capable of managing digital assets at company headquarters and eventually extending it to the five regional offices. He needed to deploy an image library, upload and index all of the images for each cycle brochure that are initially stored on CD-ROMs, add other images that the company produced, and make the library available to marketers and graphic designers on demand over the company intranet as well as the public Internet. The solution needed to work seamlessly with both Windows and Macintosh networked desktops—marketers and their managers used Windows clients while graphic designers relied extensively on Macintosh systems.
Furthermore, connectivity to regional offices was an issue. Many locations did not have high-speed Internet connections and could not reliably download the high resolution image files. The company needed to be able to distribute both low-resolution and high-resolution images to remote locations in a timely, reliable, and cost-effective manner.
Williams investigated a number of digital asset management systems on the market, and concluded that Cumulus from Canto was the most versatile, extensible, and affordable solution in its class.
We looked at several other options," Williams said, "but we did not consider them because of the differences in robustness, and the number of file formats they supported. We selected Cumulus as it had the most open structure, and would support all of the different image formats we used. Moreover, Cumulus had power and flexibility. It was well engineered and we knew we could integrate it with most any external enterprise application."
Most important, Williams knew he could easily adapt Cumulus to Jafra's production environment.
Williams worked with a systems integrator, Modula4, to launch a two-phased project: first to deploy Cumulus at company headquarters, and then to expand support to the five regional offices.
Out-of-the-box, Cumulus provided all of the needed features for the solution.
The first step was developing the image library. Cumulus provides a flexible, scalable, and extensible framework. It supports multiple criteria for categorizing content, and extensive querying and browsing capabilities. Marketers no longer needed to rummage through sets of CD-ROMs. Rather, they can assemble on-the-fly the image collections that meet predefined criteria.
Williams and the systems integrator decided to index the digital assets by the familiar, business-related criteria used within the marketing department, such as: Dates, Publications, and Subjects. Subjects would then be sub-categorized by terms such as: Business Tools, Logos, People, and Product Lines. Product Lines would be further tagged by Product Family and Product Names.
Cumulus does not limit indexing to a single schema (or set of categories). Rather it supports multiple categorization criteria. At Jafra, Williams also indexes images by the cycle brochures in which they are first published, their file formats, and their creation dates.
The second step was categorizing the digital assets as they are uploaded and stored within the image library. When adding a new image to the library, an indexer needs to view the photograph or catalog page, and then enters on a form all the product names, subject categories, and other terms that describe the asset.
Once tagged with the descriptive terms, the asset is easily findable within the image library.
Defining the index terms was critical. Williams used Jafra's existing lists of product names, publications, and other marketing terms as the categories for tagging the digital assets. Marketers and graphic designers could thus continue to use their familiar terminology.
The third step was providing marketers and graphic designers with an application to access the image library. Williams has deployed both the Cumulus native Windows and Macintosh clients, as well as Cumulus Web Publisher Pro, a browser-based client.
At company headquarters, a select group of marketers and graphic designers now uses the desktop clients to connect to and browse through the image library. They have high-speed access through the company network. In addition to searches, they need to be able to easily download to their desktop systems the multimegabit files required for high-quality print publications.
Other managers, contractors and staff members working from external locations rely on the Cumulus Web browser and an Internet connection to access the image library. They can easily browse and view the image collections, and can download a low-resolution image, suitable for an electronic display. Users who have the appropriate privileges can request large image files to be copied to CD-ROMs for distribution.
As of October, 2005, the Jafra image library contained roughly 32,000 photographs, catalog pages, and other digital assets. Growth is at a clip of 1,500-2,000 new images a year. Modest by commercial standards, the collection nevertheless has improved the company's strategic marketing operations.
For Jafra marketers and graphic designers, the end result is the speed and flexibility of a self-service environment. They no longer need to call and wait for an administrator to try to locate the photos they want on a CD-ROM. With just a few mouse clicks, they can find and download as needed the images on their own.
For instance, as shown in Illustration 2, a graphic designer can quickly locate a complete collection of images about Royal Jelly (one of Jafra's premier products) by navigating through the list of terms in the image library. Alternatively a marketer can query the image library by a date range, a particular cycle brochure, or other relevant criteria, and view a collection of images.
"The image library saves a lot of time," says Beatriz Gutai, the Jafra executive responsible for overall marketing strategy. "It has given our people the ability to go to the library and find things with more ease, alleviating a lot of frustration, wasted time, and duplication of efforts."
There are fewer phone calls to an administrator. Staff members can work at their own pace and on their own time schedules.
In a marketing-driven, fashion-oriented business, producing the right image is essential. Cumulus provides a critical business benefit that improves throughputs and reduces expenses. There is no bottleneck any more.
Jafra now needs to decrease the required time and effort to launch new marketing campaigns in multiple markets around the world.
"We want to speed up distribution of promotional materials and give the regional offices more marketing support," Gutai says.
Jafra plans to provide regional offices with the electronic versions of predesigned high-quality collateral on a bi-monthly basis. Marketers in global markets can then translate and print the promotional materials on demand, But simply providing Internet access to the image library is not enough for two reasons.
Rather, Jafra wants to create special collections of digital assets for its global markets. And to overcome the bandwidth limitations, it plans to duplicate a portion of its image library, install copies at each of the regional offices, and then update these regional image libraries on a bi-monthly basis by distributing new images files via CD-ROMs.
Williams will rely on the scripting capabilities within Cumulus to manage the updates from the CD-ROMs. The scripts will perform export/import procedures to update the regional libraries with the new images stored on the CD-ROMs, and also to remove old images which are no longer part of the collection. The scripts are designed to run automatically.
Once again, Cumulus demonstrates its flexibility as a digital asset management solution. Using Cumulus, Jafra will be able to adapt to different business situations, manage the physical distribution of high-quality images (stored as large files on CD-ROMs) and support online distribution over the Internet.
For Jafra, Cumulus is the power to manage all of its digital assets.