The idea for Kodiak Cakes came to CEO Joel Clark when he was just a child. Joel would travel around the local neighborhood, selling his grandfather’s whole-grain pancake mix to friends and family. Flash forward a couple of decades, and after an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, Kodiak Cakes is one of the best-selling pancake mixes in the country. Today, you can find their products in retailers nationwide.
Brett Miller, the Creative Director at Kodiak Cakes, heads up the internal design team. His team is responsible for packaging design, ad campaigns and all social media and marketing assets. As the director of an in-house creative team, it’s key Brett ensures digital assets are centrally organized for quick project turnarounds.
Before Kodiak Cakes hired a staff photographer, they outsourced the whole photography process – from photoshoots to image storage.
“We would essentially send products to these companies that represented various retailers and they would photograph our packaged products in different angles and styles, and then put them in their own DAM systems. Our retailers would be able to access assets through those systems,” says Brett.
It became a necessity to own the entire creative process, so they shifted to a completely in-house team. Brett wanted ownership of not only how the products were being photographed, but also where the images were being stored.
“I wanted more control over how our assets were photographed, stored and shared and just the amount of content that we were able to capture and share,” says Brett.
After Kodiak Cakes established this team, they stored files in a few different systems simultaneously. Assets became scattered and they had trouble with what should have been simple functions.
“We were utilizing several different tools internally, like Dropbox, which had its own inherent issues with image sharing and searchability,” says Brett.
After testing other solutions, Brett chose Canto for its clean interface, robust global search and speedy sharing features.
“We looked into several different solutions, including some of the ones that our retailers were using. In the conversations and in the demo, we realized that Canto had the best and the easiest user interface, from the backend to the frontend of the tool,” says Brett.
The team now centralizes their videos and images in Canto. The marketing and creative teams use stored content for the website, social media and marketing campaigns, while the sales team curates this content for external collaborators.
When it comes to metadata and organization, it’s all about simplicity. The team’s number one priority is asset searchability, so they have everything keyworded and tagged to make it easy for everyone to find what they need.
“We wanted to make it easy to search by product name, image type, and whether it’s a lifestyle, packaging or product image. Our basis of organization is searchability for our internal teams,” says Brett.
The team organizes metadata in two categories – what the assets are and how the team will use them. The search and filter functionalities are also super useful for this agile team.
“The search and filter tools are pretty magical. To be able to filter down into set criteria based on how we know people are going to use the assets is really useful. I think that was developed really well,” says Brett.
Collaborating with external partners
With Canto sharing content is a breeze. The sales team uses Collections and Share Links to quickly send assets to retailers so they can develop their own campaigns internally.
“The sales team members will create a Collection or select a grouping of files and then share those with a retailer. We haven’t given retailers access to the main library, there’s so much content that we don’t want to overwhelm them,” says Brett.
A lot of Kodiak Cakes’ retailers, such as Target, use agencies for portions of their creative work. Kodiak Cakes works directly with these agencies and gives them full access to their Canto library. In turn, agencies can go in and find the perfect image for a campaign.
“If we’re working with an agency, a lot of times we’ll just give them full access to the library and they can download as they see fit,” says Brett.
Enabling simple workflows
Seamless workflows are key for Kodiak Cakes’ quick-moving teams. Since everything is now done in-house, they’ve taken ownership from conception to completion. Canto acts as both the in-process and finalized asset repository for the team.
“When a product is launching, our product development team tells our web team. By the time the product launches, we have digital renderings in Canto and then within two or three weeks, we have prepared food imagery and lifestyle imagery for the launch,” says Brett.
To make workflows even more efficient, the creative team utilizes the Canto Connector for Adobe Creative Cloud. When they work on projects in Adobe Illustrator, they simply pull over assets from their full Canto library and insert them directly into the application.
“We do a lot of print ads, recipe cards and coupons that are designed in Adobe Illustrator. Being able to access the Canto image library right in Illustrator is pretty handy,” says Brett.
The Clarks built Kodiak Cakes on the foundation of family and hard work. Brett and his team have the responsibility of sharing the brand’s impactful story and need the right visuals to do it justice.
“We want to represent the brand in the best possible light and make sure that we’re connecting with our audience in an impactful way. It’s important to develop content and tools that tell a story and leave an impression on our audience,” says Brett.
Kodiak Cakes’ images and videos are now available on-demand for both the internal team and external partners. With Canto, everyone is empowered to utilize digital assets to produce and share campaign content with ease.