What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)? Explaining Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMs)

The process of organising and efficiently using digital assets, digital asset management is a rapidly evolving area of the marketing tech world, with new platforms, products and services adding fresh choices and benefits. While digital asset management systems (DAMs) and solutions have been around for a while, a new generation of DAM platforms are disrupting the marketplace. So, what are these latest advances and how can they add value to your organisation?

What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) refers to the process and software involved in organising, storing, securing, and sharing digital assets throughout a business. A digital asset is anything that contributes to a business’s operations, branding, or online presence and can be any form of content or media in a binary source, including photos, videos, audio files, presentations, documents, and more. 

Examples of Digital Assets:

Digital assets include: 


  • Images: This includes photographs, logos, infographics, and other graphic designs. 
  • Videos: From promotional videos to training materials, webinars, and user-generated content. 
  • Audio Files: This can be music files, podcasts, voice recordings, or sound effects. 
  • Documents: Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations, and text files. 
  • Website Content: This includes blog posts, product descriptions, customer reviews, and HTML files. 
  • Software Applications: Any type of application software like mobile apps or desktop applications. 
  • Databases: Collections of data organised for fast search and retrieval. 
  • Social Media Content: Posts, comments, likes, shares, and other user interactions on social media platforms. 
  • Emails: Business correspondence, newsletters, promotional emails, etc. 
  • Animations: Animated graphics or motion graphics used for various purposes. 
  • Digital Art: Artwork created using digital tools and software. 
  • E-books: Digital versions of books, guides, manuals, etc.
  • Webinars and Online Courses: Educational content delivered digitally. 
  • 3D Models: Digital representations of physical objects or environments. 

What is a Digital Asset Management system (DAMs)?

Whether it’s using the right iconography in PowerPoint presentations or rolling out a new corporate video to promote an emerging trend, digital assets underpin marketing activity. Marketing is dependent on digital assets and DAM systems are designed to streamline their relationship between them.

The original DAM systems were the tools that stored an organisation’s digital media files, and they began life as basic media libraries.

However, old style media libraries often caused more problems than they solved, largely because they lacked the organisational capabilities of modern DAM systems. Their old fashioned approach centred around storing digital assets in folders, and this one-dimensional method limited both their application and impact across organisations.

Furthermore, the greater the number of images that were stored in the outdated DAMs, the worse the problem became. Bloated repositories meant that finding the right image was confusing and painful – let alone finding the right image size.

That’s why selecting the right type of DAMs for your business is essential in experiencing the benefits of these systems. 

How Digital Asset Management Systems Work

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how these systems function: 

  • Ingestion: This is the initial step where digital assets are uploaded into the system. During this process, the DAM system may automatically extract metadata from the assets, such as file type, size, creation date, etc. 
  • Cataloguing & Organisation: Once the assets are in the system, they’re organised for easy retrieval. This can involve tagging assets with relevant keywords, adding them to categories or folders, and linking related assets together. 
  • Storage: The DAM system securely stores the digital assets. This goes beyond simply saving files; it also involves managing versions (so you can revert changes or view previous versions) and sometimes includes features for handling large files or formats that require special software to use. 
  • Access Control: The DAM system controls who can access which assets. This can be as simple as a system of user accounts with different permission levels or as complex as a set of rules determining access based on factors like an individual’s role in the organisation, the current date, or the assets lifecycle stage. 
  • Search and Retrieval: DAM systems make it easy to find and retrieve the assets you need. This typically involves a search function, which can often search not just the assets filename but also its metadata, tags, and content. Assets might also be discoverable through browsing categories, folders, or collections. 
  • Distribution and Use: Once the required digital asset has been located, it can be downloaded for use, shared with others, or published directly to certain platforms or channels. Some DAM systems include features for resizing images, converting file formats, or otherwise preparing assets for use.
  • Tracking and Reporting: Many DAM systems track how assets are used and by whom, providing valuable data that can inform decisions about future content creation or asset management practices. They may also offer analytics and reporting features to help businesses understand and optimise their use of digital assets. 

What are the Benefits of Digital Asset Management Systems?

Enhancing efficiency, productivity, and overall business performance there are several benefits of Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems: 

  • Improved Organisation: DAM systems provide a centralised location for storing and managing digital assets. They often include features like tagging, categorising, and indexing, which make it easy to find and retrieve assets when needed. 
  • Increased Efficiency: With a DAM system, you can quickly locate and distribute content, saving time that might otherwise be spent searching for assets across different platforms or drives. 
  • Collaboration: Allowing multiple users to access and work on the same digital assets simultaneously, DAMs foster collaboration among team members. Users can also control who has access to what, ensuring the right people have the right resources. 
  • Brand Consistency: By providing a central source of approved assets, a DAM system helps maintain brand consistency across all channels. This ensures that all marketing and communication efforts align with your brands image and messaging. 
  • Greater Security: DAM systems often include security measures, such as user permission settings and secure storage, to protect your digital assets from theft or loss. 
  • Reducing Costs: By streamlining workflows and minimising the need for duplicate work, a DAM system can lead to significant cost savings. Additionally, it minimises the risk of losing valuable assets, which can be costly to replace. 
  • Scalability: As your business grows and the number of your digital assets increases, a DAM system can easily adapt to accommodate this growth. 
  • Preservation of Asset Integrity: DAM systems often include version control features, ensuring that original files aren’t accidentally overwritten or lost. 
  • Easy Integration: DAM systems can be integrated with other software and tools, such as content management systems (CMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, creating a seamless workflow. 
  • Analytics: Some DAM systems offer analytics and reporting features, providing insights on asset usage and performance, which can inform business decisions and strategies. 

By implementing a DAM system, businesses can ensure they’re maximising the value of their digital assets and using them effectively to drive business success. 

Management is a key feature of a Digital Asset Management

As digital assets are continuously being added to the system as a company grows, it was in fact the management – the same problem DAMs were designed to solve – of these digital asset management systems that became irritating, time-consuming and unproductive.

In the context of a fast moving marketing environment, where deadlines are tight and pushbacks costly, conventional DAM systems did not evolve with the times. The primitive user experience of these traditional systems left users frustrated with the vendor solutions available.

However, contemporary DAM solutions do much more than hold assets. They centralise, manage and categorise using taxonomy – or other naming conventions – to help users quickly find what they need. This enables users to create and edit master files, with sophisticated access and rights control combined with powerful tiered distribution mechanisms.

Why choose a cloud-native DAM?

The introduction of genuine cloud-native DAM systems has taken the tool one step further. Now, users can access digital files in any location and on any device via a web browser, greatly expanding the systems’ usability and flexibility.

Being specifically designed for the cloud, rather than simply migrated from a server room like many ‘cloud-based DAM solutions’, also means faster and cleaner performance and functionality.

The latest generation of DAM systems share another common feature too: they all function with an open application programming interface (API) layer. APIs enable DAM systems to talk to and integrate directly with other back-end platforms, such as Content Management Systems (CMS) or Product Information Management Systems (PIMS) without having to recode any information or invest in development.

The API also enables the DAM to integrate with a range of front-end solutions with only the API layer requiring a modest development phase, such as websites, ecommerce sites, mobile apps and even wearables and augmented/virtual reality.

This integration represents a paradigm shift in functionality and user experience. For example, a series of integrated platforms enables users to easily embed images and videos from the DAM into their CMS content without needing to download the image from a media library, edit it to the correct size and then upload it to the content.

So, if the source image in the DAM changes, the corresponding asset in the CMS is updated via an integrated connector through the API layer. This simple – simple in coding terms – arrangement comes with a range of benefits such as time-savings, productivity and brand consistency and compliance.

Cloud-Native DAMs improve productivity and control

The benefits of cloud-native DAM solutions extend beyond just being able to access digital files via a web browser. For example, they contain Google-style contextual search functions that enable users to easily find the exact file easily without folder and file browsing.

Advanced file distribution features render old-style lengthy email chains obsolete, as stakeholders simply receive a link used to access the source file in the DAM directly. Alongside time savings and productivity gains, these distribution features also deliver much greater control over digital assets.

Cloud-native DAM platforms are centralised, meaning the stakeholders at the top of the hierarchy have complete visibility and power over which assets they want to distribute to certain users, and at which times.

Some users might have to pass through permissions platforms and digital files can have watermarks added. Features like these have many applications, such as when sharing digital assets with external stakeholders in the media.

What to Look for in a Digital Asset Management Solution?

DAM system scoping and selection

With many DAM systems to choose from, understanding organisational requirements and creating the right specification from the outset optimises the benefits. This sounds obvious, but a common cause of marketing technology project failure is a lack of clarity over the objectives. The needs of the organisation should drive the features and benefits that it needs in a DAM, and, therefore the DAM solution it finally chooses.

This includes users, as they are typically protective of their processes and digital files and may be averse to changing to a centralised system. If the solution’s users are not fully committed, the benefits are unlikely to arise.

So, the potential users of the system must not only buy into the concept, but also be part of the selection process and implementation plan.

At the time of writing, some of the leading DAM platforms include Bynder, Censhare and Assetbank. Each platform has different specifications tailored for different target end users, so a discovery stage is important to determine which solution is the best fit. Working with an agency partner can facilitate this stage.

Contemporary DAM Solutions: Futureproofing investment into a DAM

The marketing tech landscape is continuously evolving, so by the time the latest digital investment is implemented, it is potentially out-of-date.

The benefit of the latest generation DAM solutions is their use of open API layers. These connectors talk to all kinds of platforms without the need for extensive, time consuming and expensive development work, meaning the DAM platform can react to change quickly and is therefore fully futureproofed.

Contemporary DAM solutions are also typically commercially positioned as platform as a service (PaaS), which delivers multiple benefits. Vendors work harder to retain customers, continuously improve their platforms, and listen to customer demands when upgrading performance.

PaaS models are also generally categorised by finance functions as an ongoing operational expenditure (opex), rather than significant capital expenditure (capex). This means benefits for budgeting, approvals, and cash flow.

How DAM is Essential to Your Digital Transformation

In today’s digital era, effective management of digital assets is crucial for businesses. A DAM system plays a pivotal role in digital transformation by enabling businesses to manage their digital assets effectively and efficiently. This not only improves operational efficiency but also enhances collaboration, ensures brand consistency, and ultimately leads to better customer experiences. By providing a centralised, accessible, and secure repository for digital assets, a DAM system can help businesses successfully navigate their digital transformation journey. 

Maintaining control and compliance of digital assets whilst enabling multiple stakeholders to access, use and exploit them is a challenge, but one easily overcome by choosing the right DAM system vendor and implementation agency partner. 

We’ve taken many organisations through the journey of electing and implementing their first DAM, or transition from older solutions into a contemporary cloud-native solution.

Discover how our cutting-edge DAM and open API strategy can boost your digital performance. Contact us now!

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