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Learn the basics of digital asset management

DAM systems offer a central repository for rich media assets and enhance collaboration within marketing teams. However, users may struggle with metadata and business processes.

Like their financial assets, organizations must carefully secure, protect and manage their digital assets.

Marketing teams have become increasingly reliant on digital assets, such as photos, videos and podcasts. These digital assets can have long-lasting business value, so organizations use digital asset management (DAM) systems to manage and protect them. DAM systems offer many benefits, such as a single source of truth (SSOT), enhanced collaboration, a monetized media supply chain and an expanded reach for branded assets. However, these systems also bring challenges, such as categories and metadata, business processes, digital experiences and large volumes of assets.

Before business leaders purchase a DAM system for their organization, they should understand its benefits and challenges.

What is digital asset management?

DAM is a class of enterprise software that stores, organizes and distributes rich media such as commercial photographs and professional videos. DAM software can help organizations improve brand consistency, accelerate media production for advertising campaigns and curate digitized artifacts for museum collections.

Organizations use DAM software to manage digital assets in the following ways:

  • maintain a central repository for digital assets;
  • tag assets with metadata -- descriptive information -- for easy search and retrieval;
  • deliver digital or analog assets to multichannel endpoints with APIs;
  • apply access controls so only users or processes with appropriate privileges can create, read, update and delete assets; and
  • manage licensing information for assets.

4 benefits of DAM systems

Any organization that manages digital assets can benefit from a DAM system. Major benefits include a single source of truth, enhanced collaboration, a monetized media supply chain and an expanded asset reach.

1. A single source of truth

DAM systems are more than networked file-sharing tools that store rich media files. These systems can support digital asset reuse and become an organization's system of record.

Marketers and creative teams no longer need to search through multiple online collections or request custom photoshoots for specific situations. Instead, they can incorporate photos and videos from a single DAM system into their products.

DAM systems also offer image recognition capabilities to automatically tag photos and images with metadata to help users find relevant assets. These systems also use versioning features to ensure that users can find the latest versions of assets. Additionally, DAM systems offer access controls to ensure marketers only use content that creative teams have approved for distribution and appropriately branded.

2. Enhanced collaboration

At the center of any marketing campaign is a creative team -- designers, photographers, videographers and editors -- who produce brand experiences. These professionals must work productively both individually and collaboratively.

Many DAM systems let users customize workflows to enhance how creative teams interact. For instance, after a photographer uploads an image to a DAM system, a graphic designer may receive an automatic notification to add a brand logo to that image. These collaboration features can reduce the time creative teams spend on administrative tasks, such as searching for files or making handoffs in a production process.

3. Monetized media supply chain

Digital assets can have commercial value. For instance, organizations may claim licensing rights for stock photos and brand video clips as well as require certain information on product labels. These efforts help organizations protect their brand identities, business personas and valuable content.

DAM systems offer digital rights management (DRM) features to monitor how organizations use digital assets to help organizations avoid legal risks, such as copyright infringement. These features verify whether assets have licenses for use within specific geographies. DRM features also help organizations record those required fees and keep track of whom to pay.

Additionally, many DAM systems can track how customers engage with assets across campaigns. For example, these systems can measure which promotional videos customers clicked on the most in past campaigns to help marketers identify the best videos for future efforts. DRM features and engagement capabilities help organizations get the most out of their digital assets.

4. Expanded reach for branded assets

A DAM system's centralized nature helps marketers easily find assets from past campaigns to repurpose. For example, a marketing team could search its DAM system to find in-store assets, such as poster images, that they could adapt for upcoming e-commerce campaigns.

Also, DAM systems use APIs to integrate with various tools, such as product information management systems, within organizations' software ecosystems. These integrations let organizations easily distribute assets across various marketing channels, such as company websites, social media platforms and e-commerce sites. In this sense, the DAM systems' centralized nature and integration capabilities help it expand the reach of branded assets.

4 challenges of DAM systems

DAM systems can help marketing teams optimize workflows, but they typically require customization and ongoing maintenance. Common challenges of DAM systems include categories and metadata, business processes, digital experiences and large asset volumes.

1. Categories and metadata

A DAM system organizes files into categories and tags them with metadata to help users find assets. Metadata types include the following:

  • descriptive metadata, such as names of objects within images or scenes in video clips; and
  • contextual metadata, such as the date, time and location a photo was taken or natural language variants and display resolutions for videos.

A functional DAM system requires a well-defined information architecture to identify relevant categories and metadata. Many DAM systems include or integrate with AI tools to offer image recognition capabilities. However, organizations must continually refine and update both metadata categories and AI techniques as business operations evolve.

2. Business processes

A DAM system structures how users generate and use digital assets within an organization. However, creative and marketing activities are often implicit and designed to resolve operational issues quickly.

As business leaders adopt DAM systems, they must assess creative activities and identify costly bottlenecks that the system could eliminate. Leaders must then redesign business processes and manage operational changes to ensure the creative and business teams can adapt to new ways of working.

3. Digital experiences

Digital assets increasingly contribute to digital experiences. For instance, partner marketing teams might personalize video content to different customer segments to stay competitive and relevant. DAM system capabilities must evolve with rapidly changing business needs to manage rich media and create relevant digital experiences.

But enterprise IT teams will need to incorporate DAM capabilities into their cloud-based enterprise architectures and manage the technical risks of embedding digital assets in their business operations.

4. Large asset volumes

A DAM system can manage various digital assets, such as infographics, video advertisements, product demonstrations and podcasts. However, organizations that store vast numbers of assets may struggle to stay on top of workflows. For instance, an organization's photography, videography and graphic design teams may each upload 100 assets to the DAM system, but the editing team may lose track of which ones they need to edit and brand. Organizations that manage large volumes of assets need automation processes to ensure assets' provenance, quality, and on-brand messages.

Organizations can find ways to add their DAM system's capabilities into complex workflows. However, business leaders must define and develop innovative tools to augment these new workflows successfully.

Key takeaways

As multimedia content becomes increasingly important to marketers, DAM systems can help organizations manage these rich files. DAM systems offer many benefits, such as an SSOT and enhanced collaboration. However, whether organizations use a dedicated DAM system or DAM features within a digital experience platform, organizations must prepare for potential challenges, such as metadata and business processes.

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