Luxury fashion house Chanel has highlighted how crucial a content management system is to securing and controlling the brand’s image.

Philippe Baumlin, global digital IT program director at Chanel, told the Day Software Ignite 2010 conference in Berlin: “We are an image company and our main assets are images. All that is becoming digital – how do we protect that and make it available?”

But as Baumlin explained, the assets are not simply images. A large amount of metadata, such as text, catalogue information, and marketing material, all translated into numerous different languages, is attached to each image asset, which is available on a wide range of digital platforms.

Furthermore, Chanel produces and manages thousands of assets daily. “Just the fashion show produces 5,000 assets,” Baumlin said.

The images appear on Chanel’s own platforms, such as its main site, its information blog site Chanel News and on its iPhone application. But they also appear on platforms that Chanel does not manage.

“[They appear] everywhere on the web,” said Baumlin. “Everyone picks our information and tries to put it very quickly on all information sites, like [fashion publication] Vogue.”

Four years ago, Chanel embarked on a quest to protect its brand heritage. A key challenge for the company was to protect the confidentiality of its fashion collections.

“Today, the biggest issue is to produce a huge event, and a picture [from the collection] arrives on the Web before the event. So how do we secure and control the brand image?” said Baumlin.

Another challenge for Chanel is to make sure that every channel using its assets will be updated at the right time.

“The issue is we are paying very famous people to be on our adverts, but only for a period of time. One day, you have to be able to take back those assets and make sure they are not available anymore,” Baumlin explained.

In addition, Chanel had to address the challenge of making the assets work for the business, to make it possible for the business to use the assets for new business initiatives.

Chanel’s digital platform comprises three main components – a digital asset management system (DAM), a product information management system (PIM) and a translation service system. Chanel is using Day Software's web platform CQ5 for the DAM and the PIM, as well as Day's enterprise content management platform, CRX, for the PIM. For the DAM, the company also uses Virage MediaBin, from Interwoven, which provides a central library for instant access to digital and rich media assets, and the translation system is from

A few years ago, Chanel decided to create a digital asset management (DAM) system that centralised all the validated image data in all formats. Previously, these assets were on workstations or on DVDs, and trying to find the original asset “was always a nightmare”, Baumlin said.

However, the company did not just want a new network folder. It wanted a system that would protect its assets, and make it possible for the business to retrieve original assets easily.

“We wanted to create a system that would support all the business processes. This means that every asset that arrives in the system has the right owner and the right metadata, and the best quality asset will be placed in the system,” said Baumlin.

Alongside the DAM, Chanel also implemented a product information management (PIM) system, which allowed it to centralise all the data and updated information.

“It wasn’t just an information system – it was a business process system,” said Baumlin.

In particular, Chanel’s digital platform had to be able to support short bursts of very high activity.

“Everything starts three days before a [fashion] show,” said Baumlin. “Creating the look is done two days before, and everything is done in three days. There are 300 people working night and day to make that happen.

“The biggest problem is how can we be sure that everybody will be able to retrieve the information at the end – who is getting which information where is just a nightmare.”

However, by building the process into the system, so that the business knows the exact location of the every piece of information, Baumlin said that the business is more efficient, with workers leaving at seven in the evening, rather than at two in the morning.

A project that Chanel is currently working on is a translation service, to avoid duplication of translations.

“Everybody is translating everything all the time – it’s just a nightmare. Everybody is translating the same sentence – the maximum we have counted for the number of times the same sentence has been translated is seven.”

The company is therefore training its staff to use its PIM system more efficiently, with the aim of designating the PIM as the business’s main database, where translated information that has already been entered into the system can be retrieved by other users.

By using the above three systems to manage its digital assets, Baumlin said that Chanel is therefore able to make the assets available and ready to use by a wide range of channels, in a controlled and secure manner. The company's next step is to invest in putting more catalogue information on its website, and making it site "more visible" on mobile devices.