Find out what digital asset management is and how it will help you and your brand
If you have heard about Digital Asset Management, or DAM software, chances are you are struggling to control, share and distribute the mountains of marketing content and brand assets necessary to build strong brands and memorable brand experiences. A digital asset management platform can help solve these issues. But before we go on; what is digital asset management?
Firstly, a few definitions
- Digital Asset Management is the process of storing, organising, managing and making available rich media files called digital assets.
- Digital assets are files such as images, videos, audio files, marketing artworks and
- Digital Asset Management Software (System, Platform, Site) is a piece of technology that is your database for your digital assets. Your DAM software will be accessed via a computer or mobile phone.
Why use a digital asset management platform?
An online digital asset management platform makes the brand, its assets, and everything associated with communicating it’s meaning available to those responsible for building that brand.
It is equally important for communications and marketing departments to understand how to express a brand and its messages as it is for every employee, supplier and external agency employed. A digital asset management system offers simple yet powerful tools to help brands communicate seamlessly, whoever is doing it.
Internally, a new manager or an external marketing agency are empowered to produce better campaigns which truly further the product and company in the right way when it’s crystal clear what the main differentiators are and they have easy access to all the right visual assets such as strategic positioning information, guidelines, logos, images and artworks.
A digital asset management system enables all parties to access the right brand materials at the right time and produce consistent marketing communications to maximize impact in the market.
What is a digital asset?
Your digital assets are any files which need to be used by multiple teams in different locations, and/or need to be reused many times. In the context of Brandworkz, they will most usually be brand assets and guidelines documents; marketing content and campaigns. Depending on the industry your business is in, there may be more of one type than another. For example, a law firm might have a larger number of text documents in Word format and PDFs while a design agency might have more images and videos or advertising layouts over documents. The common theme is that all these files are business critical and being able to access and share them easily is extremely important.
These digital assets need to be made available centrally so that decentralised teams can self-serve what they require.
Here is short (ish) list of the different digital assets that may be stored in a digital asset management system:
- 3D drawings
- Audio files
- CAD files
- Creative files
- Text documents
What are the different types of digital asset management system?
There are several different types of systems that digital assets can be stored in and these are defined by the technology that underpins them. Here is a broad list of the different types:
Internal server or file system
If you are reading this on your laptop or computer you will probably have some sort of file system on your desktop where folders and files are stored. Your company might also have an internal server that is only accessible to people within the business where digital assets are stored. This will be most people’s fist interaction with digital asset management and unfortunately it might not be a great first experience.
The issue with these systems is that they often get crowded very quickly as there is no proper governance or people in place to manage them. People will save multiple versions of the same file in folders buried deep within the structure. This makes finding anything a cumbersome, time wasting activity which results in people saving files on their desktop, therefore eliminating any chance of file sharing which will increase the amount of individual file request made to team members.
We speak to many businesses who realise that they need a digital asset management system after properly auditing their internal file server and realising the amount of time, money and effort being wasted.
File hosting service
Over the last decade there has been a rise in online file storage sites that provide a cloud based solution that is similar to your internal file server. Brands such as Box, DropBox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud and Microsoft OneDrive provide an online space where users can store and manage their files and sync them across devices.
While these services do allow you to access your files outside of your internal network and on multiple devices, they suffer with the same problems as your local file systems. Folder structures quickly become unwieldy, you are presented with a list of file names with no visual indication about what the file contains and search functionality is very basic.
These systems were designed for personal use and they work well in that use case but when businesses with multiple users start using them the same issues of poor governance, access and sharing start rearing their head.
Cloud-based Digital Asset Management System
A cloud-based Digital Asset Management System is an online tool that is specifically designed for the storage, management, retrieval and delivery of digital assets no matter where in the world the user is located. A digital asset management system is better at managing digital assets because sophisticated tagging and metadata options and other specifically designed features that facilitate easy search are available.
Metadata is often described as data about data and used to make finding what you are looking for as easy as possible. We will cover metadata in more detail later but it is important to note the importance of metadata management when it comes to selecting an appropriate DAM Platform.
A modern DAM system will look like a website with visual cues, dynamic elements and a navigation bar. Some DAM systems will be ‘skinned’ to represent the brand, displaying brand colours, logos, fonts and other branding elements that are designed to increase brand consistency and to provide an immersive brand experience.
A DAM System will also have features that make it easier to manage and find your assets, some of those are:
- Advanced search
- Album/shopping cart functionality
- Built-in sharing
- File editing
- File previews
- File transcoding
- Image recognition
- Insights on how/where assets are used
- Integration with 3rd party apps
- Metadata management
The benefits of a digital asset management system vs file hosting or an internal server
A Digital Asset Management system makes it easier to store, manage and share your digital assets. You and your users will have a centralised portal where they can find the digital assets they need. When you find the asset you are looking for, there are additional tools within the system enabling you to manipulate the asset as required. This could be downloading the asset in the format that suits best, sharing it direct from the system or making basic edits without the need for third party software or associated design skills.
Search functionality is the most important factor to consider when it comes to your digital assets and a digital asset management system. On average, marketers waste up to one hour a day searching for digital assets. With a digital asset management system that has developed best-of-breed search functionality, that time is cut to seconds.
While that’s great when you know what you are looking for, being able to discover assets that you were not aware of is a very important part of any DAM platform. Having features like hierarchical metadata which allows you to drill down to a set number of assets that meet your requirements, makes choosing the right asset a very simple task.
An internal file server or lightweight DAM system is not capable of delivering anywhere near the same level of functionality.
With a DAM platform, you can set site-wide permissions that control the access your users have to the materials within the system and the actions they can take with those assets. Confidential information stays confidential.
With lightweight DAM offerings such as Google Drive or Box, it is possible to invite others to view or edit a document, but this is done on a file by file basis which is often too restrictive. The default of most users is to make all files public which risks exposing confidential documents.
You have finally found the asset you have been searching for the last 20 minutes, the file name is vague but you think it might be right. Now, without a decent file preview you will be forced to download and open the file to ensure it is correct. With a digital asset management system, all files (images, videos, PDFs, Office files, artwork files) have a large preview that you can use to review the file before downloading or sharing.
User interface and user experience (UI/UX)
Having a digital asset management system that is designed to deliver an intuitive user experience and a visually appealing user interface that reflects your brand has numerous benefits when it comes to brand consistency, usability of the system and engagement. A world class UI and UX makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for, take the actions they want and to discover new materials.
As we’ve said, metadata is data about data. In the case of digital asset management for marketing, this will be the data about your images, videos and other files. The types of data will range from basic file information such as created date and file size to more client specific data types such as which channel the asset should be used in and what audience it is aimed at. Basic DAM and file management services do not have functionality required to manage metadata correctly and this is one of the contributors to why it is so difficult to find what you are looking for without a proper DAM system.
What is Digital Asset Management? Some DAM Definitions
- Albums – Albums are collections of assets that users might want to group together for downloading, sharing or to update. Can also be called Lightboxes or a shopping cart.
- Annotations – annotations are comments or notes that are added to a text document or artwork during the approval or creation process.
- API – API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of rules, methods and guidelines that allow different pieces of software to communicate with each other. APIs are used to integrate different applications, please see Integrations for more details.
- Asset manipulation – Asset manipulation is edits or changes made to an asset after it has been uploaded to a digital asset management system. These changes could include changing the file type, applying a crop, changing the quality of the image, editing the colour space or applying a watermark (see Watermarking).
- Assets – The broad term used for any file that is uploaded to the digital asset management system. Asset implies that the file has some value and it worth being stored.
- CDN – CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a distribution of servers around the world that hold a copy of your digital asset management system in their data centres to enable faster access and downloads.
- Cloud-based – An application that is said to be cloud-based is one that is made available from servers that share their resources. These servers are outside of the DAM providers network and are supplied by a 3rd party (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform). An on-site (see On-site) is the opposite of a cloud-based DAM system.
- CMS – A CMS (Content Management System) is an online application that is used for creating, managing and displaying digital content. Higher-end digital asset management systems will have an in-built CMS for the creation of pages to display content relating to the brand and the system, this can be used for Brand Guidelines. A CMS will not work as a DAM system on its own.
- Commenting – Commenting is a feature in some DAM platforms that allows users to leave comments about the asset.
- DAM system – A DAM System (Digital Asset Management System) is a technology used for the management of digital assets.
- Download reason reporting – Download reason reporting is an addition made to some DAM systems that allows admins to gain insights about what users intend to do with an asset after they have downloaded it. Normally this involves a short form that the user will be required to fill in before the download will commence.
- Embedded metadata – Embedded metadata is basic data about the digital asset that is stored within the asset itself. This metadata includes file name, file size, resolution, date created and file type. This information is stored with the DAM system when the file is uploaded.
- Faceted search – Faceted search is a way of searching for an asset by applying any number of different filters. The assets must be classified in a way that allows for faceted search.
- Federated search – Federated search involves the searching of multiple different databases simultaneously from a single search term.
- File format – File format is an extension displayed after the file name of an asset that is used for encoding.
- Folders – Folders are areas within a digital asset management platform where groups of assets are stored. Folders make it easier to structure your DAM system.
- Hierarchical metadata – Hierarchical metadata is a system where the metadata is structured in a parent and child relationship. For example, if an image of a skyline is tagged as London it will also be tagged as being in the United Kingdom and Europe.
- Hot folder – A Hot Folder is a folder that is connected to your DAM. If new assets are added to that folder they will be automatically uploaded to the system.
- Integrations – Integrations are connection between your digital asset management system and other applications. With an integration in place you will be able to pull digital assets into the other applications, reducing the duplication of assets in other systems. For example, you can integrate you DAM platform with your CMS so the asset displayed on your website comes from the DAM.
- Lightbox – see Albums above
- Metadata – Metadata is data about data. In your digital asset management system, the metadata is the information that is stored alongside your asset that makes it easier to find your files.
- Metadata management – Metadata management refers to the processes of managing your metadata within the DAM system.
- Navigation bar – The navigation bar is the set of links at the top of your digital asset management site that is used to get around the site and access different folders and files.
- On-site – An on-site digital asset management system is one that is provided by a DAM company and installed on your own servers but is managed entirely by your organisation. There are a number of disadvantages with on-site DAM such as lack of upgrades, lack of access outside of the business and an inability to scale.
- Permissions – Permissions are the rules for users that allow you to manage access to files and folders within your DAM system.
- SaaS – SaaS (Software as a Service) is a license and subscription model for DAM software products that are hosted in the cloud.
- Search – Search is the functionality and features that allow users to locate the digital files they want on a digital asset management system.
- Tagging – Tagging is the action of applying metadata and metatags to digital assets to make them findable within a DAM system.
- Taxonomy – Taxonomy is the hierarchical tree-like structure that encompasses all the data within the digital asset management system.
- Transcoding – Transcoding involves the converting a digital asset in one format to another.
- UI – The UI (User Interface) is the interface that is displayed within a digital asset management system. The UI is made up of all the different digital elements that make up a DAM platform.
- UX – The UX (User Experience) is the overall experience that a user has after interacting with a digital asset management system. A great UX is vital to ensure that you have successful DAM platform.
- Watermarking – Watermarking involves applying a marker to your images or videos to ensure copyright is adhered to and to avoid assets being illegally copied.
- Web-to-Print – Web-to-Publish is a feature in some advanced digital asset management systems that involves using templates for marketing materials that can be edited within the system. Web-to-Publish avoids duplication of content and ensures brand consistency.
- Workflow – Workflow is a feature in some advanced digital asset management systems that automates and digitises the production process of new materials.