March 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

Content sprawl sparks a solution

Put the needs of content management and the needs of dynamic imaging together and you have one big headache for multi-channel retailers of any scale. You also have a newly identified discipline--brand asset management.

Put the needs of content management and the needs of dynamic imaging together and you have one big headache for multi channel retailers of any scale. You also have a newly identified discipline-brand asset management.

AMR Research Inc. estimates that globally, retailers and manufacturers of consumer package goods will spend up to $30 billion annually to put their products on the web and into other media. Brand asset management aims to slash that cost, and if there were any question that it’s an emerging market, a new offering that unites two of the major players who attack different ends of the problem provides an answer.

IBM Corp. has integrated the latest version of its DB2 Content Manager with dynamic imaging technology from Scene7 Inc. Content management provides a repository for storage and management of company files ranging from PDFs to images to PowerPoint presentations, while dynamic imaging provides a way to transform and publish images to suit the needs of various formats. Companies have pieced together systems that can handle both needs, but, says Scene 7 CEO Doug Mack, “To my knowledge this is the first pre-integrated total solution.”

A large retailer or manufacturer’s digital assets across a variety of formats could include images and content for web sites, catalogs, print ads, store kiosks and signs. AMR estimates that the end-to-end cost of producing and entering a single SKU on a web site, including content and images, averages $350, with the cost going up as images and content become more complex. According to AMR, some retailers have paid more than $5 million to put 10,000 SKUs online.

“Companies are asking how they can have one image of a product they can use across the enterprise for all these different purposes. That’s the essence of brand management,” says Mack.

Brand asset management that lets companies acquire, store, maintain and access an enterprisewide view of all product information can reduce content acquiring, labor and storage costs by 50% to 70%, says AMR. Adding dynamic imaging capability that reduces redundant photography costs by streamlining image rendering for different formats and using computer generation vs. more photo shots for different product views can reduce that number further, says Mack.

“It depends on what the company has in place, but we estimate the typical customer can reduce images under management by 80%. They can also expect a double digit decrease in the number of product shots they need to do,” he says.

Though it promises to ultimately reduce costs, total brand asset management isn’t cheap. IBM’s Content Manager product is priced at $24,000 per server and $250 per seat. Scene 7 also bases charges for its Dynamic Imaging platform on the number of servers and seats that need access; its typical entry-level ticket is about $80,000. The two providers retain their own price structure in the combined offering, but customers who add either the content management or dynamic imaging functionality to existing systems will save cost on integration that’s already built in, Mack says.

With other technology providers focused on different elements that go into brand asset management, the integrated solution’s biggest competition at this point isn’t so much other vendors with similar soup-to-nuts offerings, but the home grown systems retailers and manufacturer have assembled from disparate parts. “This is a new problem that people are just identifying,” says Mack. “And this is a next generation answer that takes them to the next level.”

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