Digital Asset Management (DAM)

What is DAM?

Digital asset management (DAM) is software that allows an organization to store, organize, manage, find, and share its digital content from a single location.

That's the simple definition, but for your daily work life, it can mean a lot more than that.

Digital asset management can be how you get your time back.

But, how?

In this article, you will learn:

•    What digital asset management is
•    How digital asset management saves time
•    Who benefits most from digital asset management
•    Other forms of digital assets

How Digital Asset Management Saves Time:

Digital Asset Centralization
Digital asset management means every piece of content is in one place. There's no more checking the shared drive, Google Drive, or Dropbox, then asking your colleague, going through your desk to find an old thumb drive, or, worse yet, trying to search your email for an old attachment. Using a digital asset management platform as one central location for all your assets can give you a single source of truth for your content.

Digital Asset Organization
Besides all your content being in one place, it is organized precisely how you want it to be for your team. There aren't hundreds of personal folders messing up the view for everyone else. By utilizing a straightforward folder structure or relying on descriptive tags on a digital asset management platform, everyone can browse through and find the content they need exactly where it should be.

Digital Asset Search
Digital asset management or DAM makes your content more usable. You can't use what you can't find, and most online storage options don't make things easy to find. Anyone searching for a file in an overstuffed Dropbox or Google Drive knows how frustrating it is to find the correct file. With digital asset management, you can apply tags, descriptions, and other metadata (more about that below) to make your content findable. When something can be found, it can be used.
After all, isn't the point of creating all this content to use it?

Digital asset management SaaS allows you to grant access to the right people for the specific content they need and makes it simple for those people to find and use that content.
You no longer have to field dozens of file requests daily because someone can't find something or because they don't have access to something they should have access to. It's called self-service, and with the permission and access tools digital asset management provides, people can go in and get the content for themselves.

And the even better part? They only have access to the content you want them to have access to. You don't have to worry about someone using an old logo because they only have access to the new, approved stuff.

Put that all together, which can mean an extra hour or two back in each day to do what you should or want to be doing.
But what is the content that we're trying to manage?

If you go online and visit any site, you'll see them. You'll likely see thousands of them in just a few minutes. They are digital assets, and they are everywhere in our digital lives.
•    Every image you see
•    every ad blasted your way
•    every document you can download
•    every video
•    every logo

They Are All Digital Assets.

If you're reading this, you most likely are interested in the types of digital assets used in typical digital image management applications. That means photos, videos, documents, audio files, PowerPoint files, excel files, logos, design files, and other files most often used in everyday business.

Get More Than Just a PIM Platform with Marketing Delivery

A leading digital asset management expert, Ralph Windsor, defines a digital asset as "a collection of binary data which is self-contained, uniquely identifiable, and has a value."

This comprehensive definition covers all common types of creative content, such as images, videos, logos, creative files, and documents, as well as other digital assets that go beyond these more common types.
Let's break it down. There are four parts to that definition.

1. Binary data
These 1s and 0s of binary data are what make the thing digital. For a computer to understand it, it needs to be binary.

2. Self-contained
To be a digital asset, it must be a complete unit.

A random and partial string of code plucked from a website or piece of software is often not self-contained and wouldn't qualify for this definition.

Image files, videos, documents - all of these are self-contained units that can be stored and transferred.

3. Uniquely identifiable
If you can't find it, you can't use it, and it's tough to call something an "asset" that you can't find or use.

For digital assets, making something identifiable is where metadata comes into play. Metadata is information about your information.

It provides context to your files and makes them identifiable, searchable, and usable. That can start with just a file name and include embedded metadata and other metadata that a digital asset management system may apply.

4. Has a value
To be an "asset," that thing has to have value.

The amount of that value depends on several factors, including the cost to create or license, the importance to the brand (for example, a logo is more important than a single lifestyle shot from a photo shoot), the goodwill it represents, and other factors. The company or organization that owns the asset is in the best position to assign some specific value.

A fundamental part of an asset's value is the ability to use and reuse it. The photograph lost on a thumb drive has much less value than the video file shared thousands of times.
All of your valuable digital content would be considered digital assets for your company or organization. It would benefit from some of the best digital asset management programs available to find and organize these assets easily.

Digital Assets and Metadata
 Metadata is critical to make digital assets identifiable and valuable. Metadata is the information and context that allows you to find assets during a search and use them appropriately.

Please read our two-part series on metadata basics to learn how metadata can help you organize, find, and use your assets.

•    Metadata definitions and history
•    How to use metadata in a digital asset management system

Other Digital Assets

"Digital asset" also refers to the digital entities with a specific financial value.
The most common types of "digital assets" of this type are the various cryptocurrencies:
•    Bitcoin
•    Litecoin
•    Ethereum
•    NEO
•    Ripple

And thousands of others, including an upcoming and controversial offering from Facebook called Libra, are all cryptocurrencies.

They all meet the same "digital asset" definition of being digital, self-contained, identifiable, and valuable, but how they are used is quite different from creative content "digital assets."

These differences between types of digital assets may increase confusion in the future, so it's essential to understand that not all digital assets are the same, and you should consider the context.

If marketing and creative-related, it's probably one type, but if talking about finance, it could be another type.

Who Benefits From Digital Asset Management?


Marketing departments often need a "brand central" to house all logos, fonts, guidelines, and campaign assets. Utilizing the best digital asset management system possible for their needs can go a long way in organizing and sharing company assets when necessary.
From this system, they can distribute assets, collaborate in-house, and work with agencies and outside vendors.

Designers and Photographers

Designers and photographers usually create the assets, or at least the underlying elements of the assets.

Keeping these files organized, accessible, searchable, and shareable is a top priority, making designers and photographers some of the heaviest digital asset management users.

Event Managers

Event managers must manage all types of work for the organization, supporters, and sponsors.
The amount of content for internal communications and external distribution, even for a small event, is enormous, and a DAM can help keep everyone organized.


A retailer needs access to product information and marketing collateral when carrying hundreds or thousands of products. Access to information in a DAM helps the retailer sell goods from various brands and keep inventory information up to date.

Product Managers

Product managers must manage teams, sponsors, workflows, and a lot of content.
In a DAM, they can manage this content and the critical underlying metadata, like product ID, SKU, or copyright information.

Information Managers

Information managers are tasked with managing and securing the company's assets.
A DAM allows for the organization of the files and the management of metadata; perhaps, more importantly, for an information manager, a DAM provides control of users.

Sales Managers
Sales representatives often have to make a presentation on the fly and need quick access to brand assets.

They can grab assets on the go and share them with a prospect or a distributor, all while the central sales office works with marketing to ensure brand consistency and proper user access.

Manufacturers and Distributors

Those working in manufacturing and distribution have to work with sales and may also have a network of retailers who need to self-serve for various purposes.

DAM SaaS allows everyone to have appropriate access and for the company to maintain brand cohesion across a handful or thousands of users.

Human Resources
Digital assets don't stop at creative assets used for selling products and services. One area is human resources, where employee handbooks, company policies, and other forms can be stored and shared company-wide or with whichever groups of employees you choose.

Managing Digital Assets

The value you can get from digital assets is only as good as your ability to manage and use those assets effectively.

That's where it can help to find the best digital asset management platform for your needs.
Digital asset management is the best tool to keep your assets organized, make them findable by the people who need them, allow them to be used and reused, and also understand how your assets are used so you can make adjustments for new asset creation.

There's a lot that goes into a digital asset and media management. Here are some guides on how to get started:

1.    Understanding what your team needs. In this blog post, you will learn more about how to get started with digital asset management. From finding out what your team is challenged with to understanding better what your team needs to do their jobs successfully, you'll learn how to take the first step to mastering digital asset management.

2.    Mapping the digital assets of your organization. You can't manage what you can't find. This post will teach you the process for finding out what content your organization has, where it's located, and how to create a plan for getting it all in one easy-to-access place.

3.    The best file types to use for each purpose. What's the difference between a JPG and a PNG? And when should I use which one? You'll find the answers to these and many more questions about the best file types for each purpose.

4.    Best practices for naming files. You can do a lot with a file name. It can add clarity, provide context, and let everyone on your team know what a file is without opening it. Get rid of those files with dozens of letter and number combinations that make absolutely no sense, and start using file names that can add value.

5.    How to set your goals for digital asset management. Setting clear goals is an essential early step to improving your content operations with digital asset management. This blog post teaches you what to consider and how to select the right goals for your team.

6.    How to meet and measure your goals. Setting goals isn't enough, however. You need to be able to track and work towards meeting those goals. In this post, you'll learn about what metrics to use and how to keep your team working in the right direction.

7.    How to manage users and permissions. Digital asset management isn't just about content and software. It's also about people. This post covers what you need to know about managing team access and ensuring the right people can get the right content.

8.    Metadata Part 1 - Definitions and history. This blog will give you an overview of metadata basics and how it is used in digital asset management. The terminology can be intimidating, but this post can give you the foundational knowledge to speak confidently about metadata.

9.    Metadata Part 2 - How to manage metadata in your DAM. In this second part of a short series on metadata, you'll learn more about how to apply metadata to your content and use it to make your content easily findable and usable by the people who need it.

10.    Image Relay FAQ. Please read our frequently asked questions for common questions about digital asset management and Image Relay.

We're a leader in our field for a reason

Browse our awards and reviews on G2 to discover what sets us apart from the competition. 

Experience The Power of Marketing Delivery!

Marketing Delivery is purpose-built to streamline workflow and assure brand consistency from one united, secure platform. Explore plans or schedule a demo to see it for yourself.