Content creation can be a double-edged sword. Some brands struggle with the negative impact of not having enough content. While other brands face the challenge of having so much content they’re not sure what to do with it all.
Hilton, the world-renowned hospitality company with over 5,600 properties across the globe, used to have that problem. But as Hilton’s Senior Director of Content Strategy, Meghan Walsh, shared at Sitecore Experience 2019, the company is now able to push on to grander content-fueled campaigns thanks to Sitecore’s Content Hub being a foundational part of their digital asset management strategy.
In her presentation, Walsh walked us through Hilton’s DAM selection, migration, and launch processes, and then revealed the rewards that lay at the end of their journey to digital asset mastery.
Storytelling at scale
Walsh began by sharing why Hilton needed such a firm grasp on its thousands upon thousands of images.
“As a company, we’re storytellers,” Walsh said. “We’re storytellers to guests and potential guests, [giving them] inspiration for travel, and inspiration to stay at Hilton hotels in particular.”
“HR tells stories to future employees about why working for one of the best companies in the world is what they want to do. Hotel development tells stories to future owners about why investing in Hilton is going to bring them better business.”
In other words, Hilton has lots of stories to tell, to lots of people. To reach the right people with the right stories, they needed to personalize and localize assets and content at a pace and scale that went far beyond manual labor.
Their search for a solution wasn’t, however, a reactive decision. It was a proactive one. Hilton didn’t invest in Sitecore and Stylelabs “because we were in chaos. We [did it] because we wanted to capitalize on our core strengths and assets that we already had in place.”
Choosing a DAM: Hilton’s three-part criteria
When it came to choosing their DAM solution, Walsh said that she, along with her team, had three non-negotiable capabilities that they absolutely required:
Hilton’s DAM needed to seamlessly pull and push assets to and from the system.
“I didn’t just want a digital library,” Walsh said. “I had to have a product in place that could push assets out to where they needed to be and potentially even pull them in from a variety of other places. So, API capabilities [were important]. So we could pull stuff out of the system and distribute it to channels, to partners, to other systems around Hilton.”
“Content only has value if somebody sees it, if the right person sees it,” Walsh said. She then cited Jonathan Perelman: “Content is king, but distribution is the queen and she wears the pants.”
“Another criterion was this idea of interconnectedness,” Walsh said, “and metadata—whether you call it taxonomy or structured vocabulary—is critical to this.”
She wanted to be able to add those tags and descriptive pieces of data to each image easily, consistently, and regularly. Walsh also wanted to have the ability to easily translate them.
“I [also] needed to be able to use that metadata to make decisions about how my content could be used. So, could I set it up so that, based on the tags used in the DAM, each asset knew where to go? Or, another system knew which assets to call? [We were looking at] metadata as an enabler of distribution, not just as a search function. This was really critical to us.”
A great user experience
The last critical functionality Walsh and her team needed was an approachable UI, particularly for non-technical people.
“Software often forgets about the content authoring experience,” Walsh said, “and we've often accepted the pain of challenging user experiences in the system to deliver the better experience for our customers.”
However, she was committed to ensuring this sticking point didn’t follow Hilton’s migration to a new DAM.
“I have a very broad user base,” she said. “We weren’t looking for a marketing DAM. I needed an enterprise DAM. I had people from all over the organization signing in, most of them as consumers only, looking to search, share, and download assets quickly and easily. The other user group were going to be asset contributors, people who were uploading and tagging as well as downloading, sharing, and searching.”
So, Walsh, her team, and their new DAM needed to meet the needs of both technical and non-technical users across the company’s broad ecosystem.
Launching Hilton’s DAM
After assessing the solutions on the market, Walsh eventually tested Stylelabs. With distribution, interconnectedness, and ease of use, it checked all the boxes for her and her team, but she needed to ensure the platform would be intuitive to use for all users. She did this by testing it with various Hilton stakeholders and future users of the DAM.
“I had to know that people could actually use [Stylelabs] before we were willing to invest,” she said. “And [Stylelabs] passed.”
Walsh was impressed by the speed of the migration. She called it one of the “fastest implementations of any technology project in my career.”
After a period of transition, which included migrating assets en masse from Hilton’s previous DAM, Hilton’s brand-new digital asset management system, fueled by Walsh’s forward-thinking content strategy, was ready to launch.
“We launched with about 60,000 assets, and today we're at 624,000 assets in the system, with 165,000 uploaded and tagged by individuals – so they weren’t part of the initial migration or bulk upload.”
With over 350,000 searches, over 1 million page views, more than 3,000 individual users, and 123,000 downloads, Walsh’s quick answer to her rhetorical question about Hilton’s DAM makes perfect sense:
“User adoption? Check!”
She went on to detail that Hilton now has four integrations completed, feeding over 70 partner channels and applications, with around 400,000 assets distributed through those channels.
Hilton is currently enjoying the functionality of 13 DAM integrations. Some are push integrations, which enable assets to be pushed to third-party applications. Others allow Hilton to pull assets into the DAM, just as Walsh initially wanted.
“For instance,” she said, “we have approved photography partners. And previously they would send pictures to the hotel, who then sends it to my team, and my team uploads it to the DAM – which was ridiculous. Now, those photographers can just push the button and upload into our DAM, eliminating days and hours of work and angst.”
Hilton’s also improving its social media campaigns by using the DAM. As Walsh said, “[we’re] integrating with our social media platform so that we'll be able to provide assets that can be used in social media posts – and also gather user-generated posts through Instagram and other channels.”
By incorporating user-generated content and pulling it into the DAM, Hilton can then push it into other applications or re-use it as social media content.
While the DAM technology is essential, Walsh’s forward and strategic thinking is a huge part of what has made Hilton’s implementation such a success:
“This interconnectedness has been facilitated by metadata. Because we’ve used the same metadata in our DAM, CMS, and personalization platform. And using those terms consistently – it makes it easier for our systems to talk to each other.”
Digital asset management: The marketer’s not-so-secret weapon
With content being king and distribution being queen, it’s fair to say that a robust digital asset management system is the knight in shining armor that enables content marketing and delivery at scale for the marketing realm.
Walsh’s three-part criteria – API-first distribution, interconnectedness, and user-friendly experiences for content authors – makes a quick and easy litmus test for the right DAM. For those of us looking to up our content strategy by investing in a DAM solution, Walsh sets a great example, even a high standard!
Interested in learning more about all things DAM? Stylelabs, a Sitecore company, wrote the book on this technology: The case for a marketing content hub.