Q&A: Jake Athey, Widen: On common mistakes marketers make with DAM – and realigning content post-Covid

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

For marketing professionals today, a lot of the job depends on their ability to not let things get on top of them. Data and data sources are increasing, as are the number of tools at hand to deal with them. What companies need, therefore, is something to centralise processes and smooth out the rough edges.

Ahead of his session at DMWF Europe Virtual on 24-25 November, Jake Athey, VP marketing and customer experience at digital asset management (DAM) software provider Widen, spoke to MarketingTech around how Covid-19 has challenged organisations to reassess their martech stack, how it has impacted Widen, and the steps savvy marketers should take with their content and asset strategies going forward.


MarketingTech: Hi Jake. Tell me a bit about your career to date and roles and responsibilities at Widen?

Jake Athey: After finishing university in 2004, I joined Widen as an intern and never left! I became the company’s first marketing employee in 2005, when Widen was preparing to launch its cloud-based digital asset management (DAM) system and needed to communicate this new technology to the market. 16 years later, I serve as Widen’s VP of marketing & customer experience and focus on growing our brand.

MT: What mistakes are companies making when it comes to digital asset management currently – and what do they come to Widen with in terms of problems which need to be solved?

JA: The most common DAM mistake is to assume that technology alone can fix an organisation’s content problems. Usually, these challenges include disorganisation, multiple disconnected storage systems, slow content approval processes, and how to get people content without a barrage of email requests to the marketing department’s unofficial “finder of stuff.” To solve the real problem, we help our clients develop a strategy that aligns people, processes, and technology towards desired marketing outcomes. 

MT: With the wide array of tools marketers use – the company mentions Hootsuite, Salesforce, Slack, WordPress etc as its main integrations – how important does a company like yours become in the martech stack? As more tools become available, how difficult does that make your job therefore too?

JA: In a martech stack, Widen is the central content repository for every team that uses content and every system that publishes it, including the ones you mentioned above. Our specialty is to help brands build a searchable content library, protect brand consistency, streamline content creation processes, and prepare eCommerce listings with our product information management (PIM) tool, the latest addition to the platform. Having integration partners does not make our job more difficult—rather, it makes our technology more accessible and useful to teams spanning marketing, sales, eCommerce, engineering, HR, and beyond. 

MT: Could you give me an example of the most interesting customer story and how Widen helps them?

JA: HARMAN International, a leader in connected car technology and audio innovations, came to Widen when they were launching numerous consumer products at once but struggling to get marketing assets to their worldwide business units, distributors, and dealers. After developing a strategy with HARMAN, we set them up with our DAM+PIM solution, which serves as a system of record for all of their product content and information across 21 languages. Today, HARMAN can go to market significantly faster because its stakeholders can access up-to-date, accurate content from their DAM system, anywhere and anytime—in fact, they’ve downloaded over 284,000 assets in the last 21 months.   

MT: You wrote a blog last month with regards to how image recognition software (AI) can be used to streamline DAM workflows. How are marketers – as well as customers and prospects – seeing AI technologies in this context currently, and what in your opinion is the optimal use case for this going forward? Will it be key in putting together a 360 degree customer view?

JA: Currently, AI is a powerful tool for auto-tagging assets with metadata upon upload, which saves DAM administrators loads of time and enables users to find and leverage new content quicker. Soon, AIs will recommend assets and find related content for users, who will no longer need to learn metadata taxonomy to find what they need in their DAM system. The combination of auto-tagging and recommending marketing assets will be the most optimal use case for AI in the near term. 

MT: What has the impact been of Covid-19 on Widen in terms of customer acceleration towards DAM solutions, customer renewal and acquisition? Are more companies understanding the benefits of DAM as a result?

JA: Covid-19 challenged organisations to rationalise their martech stack, keep the essentials, and discontinue services that aren’t mission-critical. Widen has maintained its 95% customer retention rate throughout the pandemic, and our numbers show higher utilisation and ongoing growth. DAM is seen as more important than ever, especially for distributed teams that need to not only plan, produce, and publish content remotely but also demonstrate its value using analytics, which Widen provides.  

MT: You will be speaking about ‘Brand Chaos To Strategy: The Tools And Tactics Of Realigning Your Brand To A Post-Covid World’ at DMWF. What will the audience take away from this session?

JA: The audience will learn that the strategic choice to realign a brand has a massive impact on the way marketers plan, create, manage, publish, and analyse content. For many audience members, this presentation will be a wakeup call to make their brand more relevant and relatable in the next stages of the pandemic. A lot of repositioning has already happened, but as economies reopen again (hopefully more permanently), marketers who realign their messaging, content, and experiences to this reality will bounce back strongest. 

Read more from Jake: Why agility has been the number one marketing skill of 2020

Picture credit: Content Marketing Institute/YouTube

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Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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