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What Is Digital Asset Management (DAM)?

Discover why digital asset management is a must-have for organizations large and small

Demand for digital content only continues to grow each year. And shoppers can certainly confirm that companies are churning out thousands of new products per month online. This volume requires brands to find a consistent, streamlined way to produce, store, and organize every image and asset to support their marketing efforts. A digital asset management (DAM) platform gives them a single source from which to manage and distribute their digital assets at scale. 

Most CMO wish lists feature DAM platforms if they don’t already have one. And the DAM market is projected to grow from $3 billion in 2019 to $10 billion by 2026. But DAM is about more than just the software. Let’s take a look at digital asset management as a practice, who needs it, its benefits, the capabilities it delivers, and how to choose the right DAM system for specific business needs.

Table of contents

What is digital asset management?
Types of digital asset management
Who needs DAM?
Digital asset management capabilities
Digital asset management FAQs

What is digital asset management?

Digital asset management (DAM) is the practice of storing, managing, and distributing media files. DAM technology provides brands with a central source for their digital content, including photos, videos, graphics, and any files companies need for their marketing and beyond. 

DAM emerged in the 1990s, quickly growing into a foundational piece of marketing software. With the rise of digital marketing, it wasn’t long before marketers needed more and more digital content to communicate with their audiences, represent their brands, and competitively position their offerings online. 

When content volumes exploded, organizations labored to contain large libraries of images, videos, and graphics. Personal devices, messy shared folders, random hard drives, CDs, you name it — content lived everywhere. As a result, marketing teams struggled to find and distribute their content for product launches, campaigns, and other important business initiatives. 

To solve this challenge, DAM pioneers studied the information management techniques used by librarians and applied them to media files. Widen DAM was at the forefront of this initiative, launching as a web interface for an image database in 1996. Today, Widen is part of Acquia and is still a leader in the DAM space, offering an enterprise content management platform built with DAM at its foundation. 

What are digital assets?

A digital asset is content that’s stored in a digital file format. Organizations use digital assets to support their branding efforts, as well as their online and offline sales and marketing initiatives. Digital assets are critical in helping brands define and support their identity, communicate their offering, and shape customer experiences.

Types of digital assets include:

  • Images
  • Video
  • 360º photography 
  • Audio files
  • Brand guidelines
  • Documents
  • PDFs
  • Invoices
     

It's common for brands to rely on scattered hard drives, thumb drives, and basic cloud-storage tools to manage their digital assets initially. But many find they quickly outgrow these systems and need something more.

Types of digital asset management

DAM systems offer a range of capabilities that support various marketing practices. Understanding the challenges that marketing teams need to solve will help brands find the right solution.

Here’s a look at types of digital asset management solutions that marketers commonly turn to.

  • Brand management. Marketers use brand management software to ensure that colleagues and external partners represent the brand with consistent messaging and imagery. There are a wide range of brand resources that can be stored and managed in a DAM system.
     
  • Marketing resource management. Marketing resource management, or MRM, is software that unifies marketing teams, processes, and technology in one system. An MRM solution helps businesses track, manage, and report on marketing operations to optimize resources and make processes more deliberate.
     
  • Video management. Video asset management software supports the storage and organization of video files across their lifecycle from creation to archive. Because video files are often very large, VAM software needs to simplify how teams access, share, and publish such content.
     
  • Product information management. Product information management, or PIM, software assembles and distributes specs, descriptions, and content needed to market and sell a product. It also helps brands prepare accurate, compelling product listings for their global e-commerce channels.
     

Ideally, an enterprise DAM solution supports these four forms of digital asset management. While different roles in an organization will have different needs, a DAM system should empower everyone. With multiple teams using DAM for multiple purposes, which teams commonly benefit from a DAM system the most? 

Who needs DAM?

Anyone at a company who uses digital assets needs DAM – in short, everyone. And it’s not just the software; it’s also the digital asset management processes, guidelines, strategies, and tools that organizations with digital assets can (and should) adopt. For most brands, this means investing in a DAM system to streamline the process of storing, organizing, and publishing all those files. 

DAM systems help increase collaboration, create better customer experiences, and drive more revenue. A DAM platform enables a brand and all its partners to streamline its day-to-day content work. While everyone will benefit from DAM, some roles will benefit from DAM adoption more than others, including:

  • Creators. Creative directors, brand managers, graphic designers, videographers, and any member of creative or production teams save time, streamline workflows, and create better work with a DAM system. 

    DAM tools empower them to organize their library of digital assets and find exactly what they need. The right system also streamlines the creative approval process – tasks like sharing proofs, getting feedback, and securing approval. Once approved, final creative can be automatically distributed to companywide teams using self-service portals and share links. This helps eliminate long email chains and gives everyone more time to do their work. 
     
  • Marketers. Once the creative assets are approved and ready, marketers use DAM systems to manage the media files and build effective campaigns, product launches, and content marketing initiatives. 

    DAM platforms give marketers an easily searchable library where they can look for assets by keyword, convert file formats on the fly, and publish content to multiple channels. They can also create custom portals for sharing assets (like a media kit) with agencies, distributors, retailers, and other collaborators. DAM analytics tools offer insights that help marketers prioritize their work and make smarter content investments.
     
  • Agencies. Agencies use DAM software to protect their clients’ assets, simplify workflows, and access the most up-to-date content for use in campaigns and for building customer experiences.

    Account managers, agency creatives, and other client team members can use a DAM system to search for content or access curated collections of assets via a portal. One of the biggest DAM benefits for agencies is that whenever they update a file in their system, it updates anywhere the asset is embedded online. This feature helps agencies create consistent brand experiences, saving them time (and billable hours).
     
  • IT professionals. IT pros are the ones who do the hard work of integrating marketing technology (martech) tools into a cohesive stack. DAM systems give them a solution that reduces redundancies and improves collaboration between systems and teams.

    A DAM platform provides a central hub that can power all of a brand’s go-to-market technologies with content. With pre-built integrations and APIs, IT teams can connect their DAM solution to other systems, including content management, sales enablement, marketing automation, social media, customer relationship management (CRM), and more.

Benefits of digital asset management

Delivering personalized, high-quality content at every step of the customer journey is the main challenge and goal at the center of most marketing strategies. With a DAM system, brands have a tool that makes it easier to publish the right content across all their channels at the right time with the right message. This level of omnichannel customer experience grows lifetime value, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction. 

A DAM system gives brands a central source to store and organize their digital assets. That centralization leads to other valuable benefits like simplifying the creative process, ensuring brand consistency, and integrating the martech stack, which can lead to lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for martech.

Any brand that invests in DAM technology can realize these benefits:

  • Organized content in one system
  • Streamlined workflows
  • Brand consistency
  • Measurable content impact with analytics
  • Integrated martech stack
     

But these aren't the only benefits DAM technology offers; read here to learn about other advantages it confers.

Digital asset management capabilities

Fundamentally, a DAM platform is a central hub for the storage, management, and publication of all digital assets. From there, users can securely search for and access up-to-date and approved assets. These assets can be distributed across marketing channels because a DAM system can integrate with other martech and communicate with APIs

DAM tools streamline content workflows with automations. They also give teams the ability to refresh content embedded across the web by updating a single file in the DAM system – automatically or on an as-needed basis. Enterprise DAM systems include analytics dashboards that share useful insights, such as which content is shared, viewed, and engaged with most. While each team will have different priorities and goals for their system, brands should expect an enterprise DAM solution to be able to:

  • Centralize assets in one system. Everything from audio files to brand guidelines and product images can live at a single location. See and interact with previews for logos, documents, videos, work-in-progress files, 360° photography, and more.
  • Provide self-serve access. Empower teams — no matter their region or time zone — to find what they need, when they need it. Provide secure, permissioned site access; curate asset selections via portals; or share content individually.
  • Publish up-to-date, approved assets. Keep track of asset versions. Plus, update once and your asset is automatically published across all share and embed links.
  • Automate content-related workflows. Use metadata to fuel your workflows. Set up no-code, rule-based automation to notify users when new content is available. Use artificial intelligence (AI) to power auto- tagging and apply metadata.
  • Transform and reuse content. Convert images, videos, and audio files to other formats on the fly. Set up common conversions for social media, slide decks, and web pages or crop and resize them as needed.
  • Monitor content effectiveness with analytics. Leverage site- and asset-level analytics to inform decisions, as well as review version history for audits.
     

An enterprise DAM may have even more capabilities. Learn about other possibilities.

​​Digital asset management FAQs

With so much terrain to cover in digital asset management, it’s normal to have questions. Here are common ones to ask before investing in DAM.

Why is digital asset management important?

Digital asset management gives brands an approach and the technology to store, manage, and publish content across all digital channels. DAM tools promote collaboration, power omnichannel customer experiences, increase brand loyalty, grow customer lifetime value, and can ultimately lead to higher revenues. With a DAM solution, brands can compete in an ever-changing digital landscape with the ability to quickly adapt to new customer behaviors and build personalized experiences.

How do we choose the right DAM solution?

With so many choices, it’s important to carefully evaluate a DAM solution before investing in one — indeed, it’s so important that there’s a whole guide on how to choose a DAM system. Choosing the right software solution is a process, and it begins with a few simple steps. Start with common questions that every brand needs to answer, get clear about how a DAM system will change workflows, and identify areas of focus to discuss with vendors.

Why should we invest in digital asset management?

Maybe it's to create personalized, omnichannel customer experiences. Or maybe it's to save money on the creative process while increasing production capacity. A company can even use DAM to reduce TCO for their martech. It could be all three or the way to execute on almost any marketing strategy imaginable. There are many strong business cases for investing in DAM.

Where to go from here

Brands across all industries from consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to professional sports organizations are investing in DAM. Worldwide online retail sales are projected to grow to $7.4 trillion by 2025, and e-commerce companies can capitalize on this growth by investing in a DAM system. With streamlined product content and creative workflows, marketing teams can use DAM to grow lifetime value, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction. 

Ready to take control of your digital assets? See why you’ll love Acquia for DAM. Request a demo today.

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