Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
The arduous task of maintaining the quality and consistency of marketing collateral across multiple regions is becoming a thing of the past for enterprise software vendor, Red Hat, thanks to a new technology platform.
Red Hat’s lead brand manager for global regions, Andy Fitzsimon, told CMO one of the big challenges the company had been facing when dealing with a rapidly expanding list of go-to-market materials across the Asia-Pacific was fragmentation and quality issues. The company operates in 50 countries and has physically distributed, in-field marketing teams, each with their own marketing priorities and tactics.
Being the brand advocate, Fitzsimon needed to make sure everyone was at a level of professionalism and design that matched the Fortune 500 brand’s stature.
“That’s quite a struggle when you’re dealing with a diverse group of people and different expectations of quality,”he said. “Campaigns and events grew, and we had a very large build of materials that required many permutations, with only slight differences that needed to be controlled in field - the kinds of things people would send emails to and fro about.”
While Red Hat could tap into translation agencies that deal with design services, these were not ideal for a technical business with custom terminology, Fitzsimon said.
“Being an emerging and fast-growing business, it’s hard to get the local resources towards translating these materials themselves as well,”he said. “To get a message to market, people were resorting to using Office productivity software, using the wrong fonts and so on. It’s humbling to be calling marketing professionals for using the logo wrong. It’s not their centre of expertise, they just need to get to market.”
Red Hat turned to its Australian design agency partner and software integrator, NetEngine, with a near impossible mission: Help manage the queue of production and requests coming through by coming up with a software solution that could put the design power into the hands of those requesting and doing the work.
“It was a fight or flight moment for NetEngine – either build software to do it better, or fire us as a client,” Fitzsimon recalled.
The resulting platform was Outfit, a cloud-based platform which applies constraint-based templates to the creation and management of brand assets. The tool has been in active development for two years and is now being used by several of NetEngine’s clients.
“These [design and brand quality] things, which were a massive part of business inertia, are starting to be released because of the self-service nature of the tool,” Fitzsimon explained.
“Over the past two years, we’ve given ourselves the challenge of first using it for an event, then a multi-city event, and eventually gotten to the scale where we’re running events with attendees beyond 2000 people in a completely localised, in-country way, all with a single aesthetic vision delivered through a template.”
Fitzsimon said one of the biggest change management issues Red Hat experienced initially was determining which employees would be given access.
“Giving the keys to the brands to trusted parties in-country has been a big point of contention, and whether or not they’re able to produce those assets is a benefit or encumbrance,” he said. “So we rolled out the platform incrementally, first to those we trusted to make this.
“But the fact is this is stuff we were not seeing otherwise. When using Outfit, the brand manager gets to see all materials being edited, not just the ones being produced, so we have a longer window of pipeline before things go to market. We’re seeing things in ideation stage, stuff that wouldn’t have been reported to us for approval.”
There are 800 Red Hat staff now using Outfit. Fitzsimon noted dependence on the tool saves dollars on people doing discretionary campaigns with agencies in-country.
“Market production in country can go from $10,000 to $100,000 depending on scale, size and duration of a campaign,” he said. “When we template globally and have it executed locally, we’re not taking anyone’s budget away, but we’re not seeing those invoices either. In-field teams are reinvesting that money in market, and we’re making a saving every time we do something in Outfit.
“Sometimes we see people spending that extra budget on video production or premium materials as giveaways. We’re not too concerned about absorbing the cost savings, we’re making sure we reinvest them in the appropriate way.”
Fitzsimon said another key benefit of the technology was that there was no cost of doing business from a base material perspective.
“That changes the way you think about your actions in market,” he said, adding teams are now more likely to undertake split testing, do more digital activities, or invest into new mediums where there was previously a cost inhibitor.
“It’s more about what we’re now allowed to do because there isn’t a cost.”
Red Hat has also realised features that weren’t initially part of its focus. These have included the ability to preview what a template looks like before it’s added to the user management or team process,to the way third-party people can do data entry. In addition, items rendered in Outfit are hosted on the platform, providing a more streamlined and efficient way of sharing assets globally, Fitzsimon said.
The next priority for Red Hat is publishing integration and what happens with assets once they are published.
“We want to use that in a more intelligent way and be more of a conduit to our business process,” Fitzsimon said.
Having seen several operational wins, Fitzsimon’s wider industry goal is now to ensure the Outfit platform scales and the approach becomes the “new normal” for brand asset management.
“The enablement of these features just make us more intelligent professionals and gives the access of design to people who want to make this stuff but don’t want to learn about layout and design,” he said. “More organisations need to step up and say this is what we need, and let’s make it the new normal.”