Digital asset management (DAM) systems are a central part of the technology infrastructure of an organization. The purpose of DAMs is to house, catalogue, search, and deliver all digital files. More than that, they streamline workflows and provide file access to multiple users. As a technology hub, they are commonly associated with IT.

So why should marketers care about DAMs? Aren’t they largely outside their scope of work? Not quite. In fact, DAMs are literally transforming marketing organizations: they are changing how global teams interact with each other, share knowledge and resources, and connect people who previously worked in silos.

Marketing is really at the center of all DAM usage. Marketing and design teams create and use the most files in a company, from uploading branded assets for the rest of the organization to use, to incorporating assets into their creative. As such, DAMs should be marketing-led, integrating with existing creative workflows.

Let’s take a closer look at how DAMs have functioned in the past, and where organizations should take them in the future.

DAMS ARE A CENTRAL REPOSITORY

The necessity of DAMs has grown over the years, making them a central part of an organization’s tech infrastructure. As we move through the Information Age, companies are presented with new and greater challenges. They must speak to more markets, more agency partners, more channels, and more products. Not to mention, attrition rates among employees have grown, with millennials being notorious job switchers. As such, centralized storage is more necessary than ever before.

If DAMs haven’t piqued your interest yet: buckle up. DAMs are so exciting that journals have dedicated their entire existence to researching them. A case study published in the Journal of Digital Asset Management highlights how a central repository preserved a museum’s audio and visual assets. Though a few years old, this case continues to ring true at many organizations. As digital is becoming the center of most communication, most of it mobile-first, the creative put forth by organizations is becoming increasingly fragmented and complex. This has important implications for the infrastructure of an organization: they need a way to organize, store, and distribute all of their assets in a single, central repository. Not only that, but employees must have seamless — yet governed — access to this storehouse.

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While some might argue DAMs are only significant in particular industries, another study emphasizes the importance of DAMs in organizations outside of traditional media companies, including broadcast, music, and advertising, whose core assets are content. DAMs create value for a wide range of businesses simply organizing and archiving their digital materials. From legal contracts to company-wide presentations, or even materials for sales enablement, all of these files can be stored in and accessed from a DAM.

Overall, the trend is clear: DAMs will only become more important. They are becoming indispensable for small and large businesses alike, making this an area in technology that has gained increasing attention and investment, and should continue to. In fact, this system has proven itself so indispensable that free and open source DAM solutions have begun to crop up.

MARKETING IS AT THE CENTER OF USAGE

We’ve established that DAMs are an important, if not imperative, part of an organization’s technology stack. But who is at the center of all DAM usage? The answer to this question lies, in part, in the types of assets that are uploaded.

Organizations tend to use their DAMs to store images and videos from photo shoots, assets for advertisements, logos, typography, brand guidelines, templates, and more. The overwhelming majority of these assets are created and used by marketing and design teams. Moreover, as often as these departments use the assets themselves, they are also responsible for uploading and maintaining the branded assets that the rest of the organization uses. As such, we can see that marketing is at the center of all DAM usage.

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DAMs enable other teams to interface with marketing, resulting in successfully executed, global marketing initiatives. Global organizations in particular, with different rules and processes across their territories, benefit from a central repository governed by their marketers.

Research firm Forrester has also explained why DAMs are gaining necessity in the marketing sphere. One analyst wrote that this is a twofold process: for one, rich media content—a number that has exploded in recent years—is crucial for customer-facing experiences. In order to truly organize this content, enterprises require a DAM. Secondly, marketers are the individuals managing this content, both at a brand and campaign level. The chart below highlights how often marketers are now publishing, and with that creating, new content. Thus, marketers have truly moved to the epicenter of all DAM usage.

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So, if marketing has evolved to require, and really drive, this IT-heavy system, what does this mean for the future of DAMs? To answer this, we must take a closer look at marketing workflows.

INTEGRATING DAMS INTO MARKETING WORKFLOWS

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Marketing workflows weave in and out of the DAM in a variety of ways, multiple times a day. Teams manage multiple asset versions, maintain asset permissions and approvals, negotiate with external media vendors, execute large-scale campaigns, and more. All of this needs to occur seamlessly, if an organization wants to derive the most value possible from their DAM.

Enterprises have begun to realize the need for a system that goes beyond simple media storage, allowing their marketers to more easily incorporate their brand assets into other systems, processes, and teams. The DAM needs to integrate with marketers’ existing processes and technologies, streamlining their campaign management and marketing automation. What it seems enterprises need, then, is a user-centric design model, where marketers are the central users.

Enterprises must realize that DAM access needs to go beyond a lone silo: at the moment, DAMs are pieces of furniture, rather than part of the core tech infrastructure. Marketers access their assets in a random, isolated location and must then upload them to wherever they’re needed — whether that’s an agency brief, a Facebook post, or a media buyer. Beyond being cumbersome, this process disables operational analytics, consumer analytics, transparency, and visibility. There is no system in place to track the life of an asset, from its development all the way to its distribution. By connecting a DAM with marketing workflows, organizations can cut costs by improving efficiencies, run post-production analytics, maintain brand consistency across all channels and teams, and more.

So, significant value is unlocked by integrating an enterprise’s DAM with marketing workflows. For example, illustrators, film producers, or copywriters can do what they were hired to do — build creative assets — instead of looking for them. Marketing analysts don’t need to tap into four different systems and cobble together spotty analytics, as their asset can be created, distributed, and measured all in the same environment.

Now that we’ve shifted the DAM conversation away from IT, we can see the future of DAMs is in marketing. The most agile marketing organizations must take control of their enterprise’s DAM and integrate it into their marketing workflows. Significant value is unlocked by doing so. As such, digital asset management systems need to take an innovative, marketing-led approach, in order to truly provide the greatest value for the enterprise.

To learn more about how we’re rethinking digital asset management at Percolate, click here.