by Geoffrey E. Bock, Principal
Bock & Company 2006
When it comes to branding, Landor Associates does it all. From branding services, including brand research and valuation, to brand positioning and architecture. From naming and nomenclature systems to corporate identity and consumer packaging design. From branded environments and brand equity management to brand engagement and, yes, even digital branding.
It's little wonder that this branding giant's portfolio includes names such as Microsoft, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, BP, GE, Delta, Frito-Lay, Hyatt Hotels, Levi's, Japan Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and LG Group.
Nor is it any surprise that Landor—which turned to Canto's Cumulus software nine years ago to help manage the valuable digital assets that represent its bread and butter—is counting even more heavily on Cumulus today.
Founded in 1941, Landor pioneered many of the research, design, and brand consulting methodologies that are now standard in the global branding industry. To say Landor takes a holistic approach to brand creation and management is an understatement. Landor has a global network of 22 offices in 17 countries. It is part of the WPP Group plc, one of the world's leading marketing and communications concerns.
As part of its brand management services, Landor develops and manages a wide range of brand assets for its clients. Landor produces the logos, photographs, packaging art work, advertising, and a host of other graphical elements that encapsulate the client's brand identity.
These brand assets also form the basis for generating new business, entering competitions, and documenting Landor's 60 plus year history.
Landor adopted Cumulus as its digital asset management system in 1997. Reinforcing its reputation as a leader in its industry, Landor has steadily extended the capabilities of Cumulus to manage branded assets across the organization. Landor relies on Cumulus to provide the essential capabilities for delivering branding services over the Web, and for building long term relationships with clients.
For more than fifty years, Landor relied on analog media assets—film negatives and prints, hard copy art work, and 35 mm slides—for visualizing a company's brand identity. Organizing and managing the analog media archives was an ongoing challenge. The issues only got worse with the advent of digital media.
Finding even recently archived assets was a time-consuming problem. "When a client or an employee in one of our offices wanted to see the work we had done, a request was sent to San Francisco. Yet it was impossible for the person making the request to know exactly what was available," continues Orr. "As a result, our fulfillment process was often a matter of guesswork. It took a considerable amount of time and money to create, duplicate, and ship the slides back and forth. We knew there had to be a more efficient way for all of Landor's worldwide offices to access the brand assets we had created."
In the early 1990s, Landor started scanning the slides it had already created, making it easier as well as more timely and cost effective to transmit brand assets electronically. As digital photography emerged, shooting high-resolution digitized photographs replaced the process of scanning film-based images. Landor could begin to anticipate the business benefits of digital asset management.
However, these files were stored on a multitude of CD-ROMs, organized by client and project names. The ad hoc filing system essentially replicated the physical filing environment Landor had historically used, only this time in electronic form. Landor still lacked an overall online environment that would allow for someone to quickly and easily search through the growing number of digitized brand assets and retrieve the desired items.
By the mid-1990s, Landor knew it had to make the switch to a digital asset management solution. Landor assessed its needs and determined that it had two distinct business requirements.
At this point, Landor decided that it needed to store assets in a shared online repository, and turned to Cumulus for help.
Landor initially adopted Cumulus as a client/server application. Over the years, the company has steadily enhanced its corporate intranet—Landornet—around Cumulus's capabilities for managing digital assets. Landor now uses Cumulus as a scalable, customizable platform for maintaining diverse collections of brand assets.
Landor can rapidly catalogue all of its digital media assets within a central repository. Cumulus can easily ingest and index any type of file. Thumbnails are created automatically and stored as part of the catalogue. Metadata fields are completely customizable to meet the unique requirements of each asset type, project or client. Cumulus replicates the categories of Landor's existing filing system, ensuring that employees can continue to organize brand assets by familiar words and phrases.
Landor uses Cumulus to store brand assets for its key clients and projects in a series of online catalogs. These catalogs, such as one for a leading international beverage company that contains records for over 30,000 assets, are managed by Landor's in-house teams of brand asset managers and indexers.
Indexers use a Cumulus desktop application (running on a Macintosh or a Windows system) to catalog and store digital assets. Brand asset managers and other company employees then retrieve and download assets using a Cumulus desktop application.
Landor develops the information architecture for categorizing assets based on the brand architecture and nomenclature systems that it creates for each client. Landor can thus tag brand assets by the familiar terms used by the in-house project team to describe images. (See Illustration 1). Then, when project or account managers request photos or other images to send a client, Landor's brand asset managers simply access the shared repository, enter the search criteria, and find all relevant results in a matter of seconds.
Landor also uses Cumulus to develop Virtual Slide City, a globally accessible portfolio of its best work. This portfolio encompasses a collection of over 10,000 images, vetted and approved for non-proprietary distribution, that company employees can show to prospects when generating new business proposals, and to the public at large for public presentations. Landor adds about 1,000 images per year to this collection.
Landor manages the assets within the native Cumulus client application, while company employees access this collection through the customized Web browser. (See Illustration 2.)
In fact, Landor relies on Cumulus as a key server within Landornet. "Cumulus provides the powerful capabilities of a shared metadata store, enabling us to connect the client/server database into our corporate intranet," says Matt Sherman, Director of Knowledge Sharing and manager of the company's solutions development efforts. "We've been able to take advantage of the SQL connector to Cumulus (an embedded feature of the Cumulus Server) to replicate and store metadata about digital assets within our SQL database."
Here is what Sherman and his technical team have deployed.
As shown in Illustration 3, Cumulus features a SQL database integration capability. Asset metadata, stored and managed within Cumulus, can be exported to a Microsoft SQL Server database using an ODBC connection. Asset metadata, created and managed in the Cumulus client, is stored in a Microsoft SQL Server database using Cumulus' ODBC connection. The asset metadata is then distributed through Landornet, Landor's intranet environment which is based on Microsoft's Active Server Pages.
As a result, brand asset managers and other company employees can search and access photographs and other brand assets through the Web browser, using metadata that is maintained by Cumulus. End users can easily access, retrieve, and download brand assets over the Web, on their own. Cumulus fuels a self-service environment.
Landor initially implemented Cumulus and began cataloging its brand assets in a matter of days. The SQL database integration was also completed on schedule and within budget, as part of the company's overall intranet development initiative.
Using Cumulus, Landor has been able to significantly improve its operational efficiency in a number of areas.
Cumulus has helped Landor dramatically improve response time and efficiency. Thus, Landor has been able to improve customer service and increase client satisfaction and loyalty. "As Landor produces more brand assets and expands how we use them, Cumulus grows with us," says Orr.
Now that Landor is managing digital assets on the Web, it can extend and reinforce relationships with its clients by offering companies access to all of their brand assets over the Internet. In the not too distant future, Landor will no longer have to send assets to its clients on request. Landor is beginning to develop a self-service extranet for its client companies. Once deployed, employees at Landor's client companies will be able to connect to a Landor-maintained Web site, and retrieve the brand assets that Landor has developed for their clients.
"We can become the brand stewards for our client companies. We will take responsibility for managing their brand assets over the Web," say Mains in his role as Landor's technology strategist. "We already manage the keywords, the nomenclature, and the brand architecture for our clients' brands. Providing our clients with direct access to their brand assets will be a great service."
Behind the scenes and fueling this innovative business strategy is Cumulus. Once again, it is going to play a key role in a new business opportunity.
Landor already relies on Cumulus to manage the metadata for cataloging and accessing its clients' brand assets. Landor already defines the brand architecture for its clients, and then uses Cumulus to categorize assets by company-specific keywords and nomenclature. In the future and with only modest additional investments, Landor will be able to extend Cumulus's capabilities and to deploy a self-service extranet for clients to access and retrieve brand assets over the Web. In so doing, Landor will continue to enhance its reputation as one of the world's leading branding and design consultancies.