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Digital Asset Manager vs. Content Management System: What's the Difference

Technology stacks have grown exponentially, keeping pace with the digital revolution. It’s not enough to have a website; it needs all the bells and whistles when it comes to martech like analytics, personalization, CRM, etc. With so much needed to run a successful digital marketing program, you wouldn’t want to add anything you don’t really need.

Most of the heavy lifting is done by a Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal. Because of this, organizations might feel like they have their assets under control. However, rich media assets are another story. Which leads to a common question: Why do I need a Digital Asset Manager when I have a Content Management System?

On the surface, both manage what is generically called “content”. But the two have some fundamental differences. The biggest is that your CMS, whether it’s Drupal or Wordpress or a proprietary vendor solution, doesn’t just help you manage your website; it’s the entire foundation. Content management systems don’t just deal with assets but every single piece of content that will be displayed. The term “content” refers to anything that is on a website, not just things that marketing cranks out like blog posts or images. If you take away a CMS, you’d be left with nothing to manage your content, and your site would basically cease to exist.

With the steady growth of media-rich marketing channels that require images, video, animations, and even augmented reality, the need for more rich media assets extends beyond your site. Bandwidth cost is next to nothing and smartphones have powerful graphic processors that can display images and videos in high-resolution. On top of that, the modern-day consumer demands nothing short of a captivating experience; their attention spans are short, they are simultaneously wary of advertising but also expect a personalized experience from brands they engage with.

DAM services more than just your website; it can power your entire sales and marketing organization. DAM is both a central repository for the approved creative assets, and a collaborative workflow engine between marketers and designers for creating, reviewing and approving those assets. Capabilities of a DAM are often extremely focused on a vibrant set of features that can include; asset tagging, searching and filtering, providing or revoking permissions, image resizing, archiving, managing asset expiration dates, mark-up tools for images and videos and more. These out-of-the-box capabilities work as soon as someone logs into the DAM and drags in their first hero banner image. DAMs are the bridge between graphic designers and digital marketing to manage the creating, approving and organizing the deliverable for marketing activities.

Now, organizations often try to function without a DAM but should they? Do-It-Yourself asset management can cause major headaches for an organization. Digital asset creation is most commonly a partnership between creative designers and marketing (even if they are within the same department).

Designers work with marketers to develop assets for the website, but also web applications, social media, product labeling and packaging, presentations, ads, etc. During the asset creation process, many companies rely on email, IM, cloud-storage, Google Drive, and so on for creative review and approvals. While it might work for a while on a small scale, it renders important aspects, like version control, meta-data, and in-context markups non-existent.

With DIY, once assets are finalized and approved, the entire process is plagued with inefficiencies. Assets get scattered on the aforementioned digital locations but also on people’s hard drives. Final assets are often left in cloud storage after they have become outdated, never replaces, where they are easily shared across the company. Outdated or off-brand versions of assets thrive and continue to be shared with prospects. This isn’t just a branding nightmare; assets with limited-time licensing can rack up hefty fines if they’re shared after their expiration date.

Some DAMs offer benefits beyond just asset control and organization. For example, Acquia DAM has workflow tools built in that streamline efforts and keep collaborative communication going throughout the creative process.

When evaluating a DAM, it shouldn’t be considered an add-on or a “nice to have” but a necessary piece of your marketing stack. The benefits outweigh the costs or concerns. It’s a DAM good investment (I limited it to one pun per post. You’re welcome).


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