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The History and Evolution of Digital Asset Management

Carlie Hill avatar

Carlie Hill

Director of Growth Marketing

4 min read

The History and Evolution of Digital Asset Management

Digital asset management is a tool used by organizations worldwide to help them manage their brand and scale marketing performance, but DAM wasn’t always the vital part of the marketing stack that it is today. Here’s how DAM for marketing transformed from a niche media storage tool to an organization-wide enabler.

Evolution 1: A basic print and media library

DAM first emerged about 30 years ago as a specialized solution for media, publishing and print companies who needed a way to store and organize their videos and photos. At the time, these systems were mostly on-premise and only met the basic requirements of the DAM systems you see today. A few major tech companies were also in the market for these on-prem DAMS, but they required lots of customizations and a complex implementation process to meet the functionality the companies required.

Evolution 2: A creative library for big brands

It was only recently, in the last 5 to 10 years, that DAM reached its first evolution out of the basic media solution stage. With the growing importance of branding and visuals, DAM vendors expanded their storage offering to include graphics and visuals to meet this demand and the increase in asset production. With this new use-case, retail and major consumer brands started adopting DAM systems within their creative, photography and video production departments to allow for easy access to brand assets. It also became common for general marketers to use a DAM as a brand portal for sharing logos, ensuring brand consistency and enabling their team with on-brand visuals. But the DAM was still primarily focused on managing photos, videos and visual documents.

Evolution 3: A key part of the MarTech stack

In the last few years, with the rise of content marketing, asset types have become drastically more complex. Organizations started investing more money and time into developing brand visuals, and the need for more content had created a whole new priority: re-use.

As companies began spending more on developing and using content, it became vital to stretch each visual to multiple channels in multiple formats. This change made DAM essential to scaling marketing strategies and made metadata that much more important for automating the marketing process. This shift also meant DAM vendors began investing heavily in creating and improving integrations with key martech platforms, such as eCommerce, marketing automation and social media management tools, as well as content creation tools, such as Adobe Creative Cloud and Office Suite.

Evolution 4: A storage solution for the whole company's files

It wasn’t until the last year and a half that DAM vendors truly began unlocking the potential for DAM to be an organization-wide tool. A few key changes were made that made this possible. First, media file storage expanded into nearly all digital file types, such as Autodesk® AutoCAD® files, and major improvements were made to the user experience (UX) around viewing multi-page documents. Second, the ability to work with digital assets in Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents was added, expanding DAM capabilities to the documents used in essential business activities. This change, along with pre-existing permission structures, made it possible for departments such as sales, HR and support, to enjoy the benefits of a DAM system. And with DAM vendors that offer unlimited users and training (sometimes for free), organizations had no barriers to extending the benefits to anyone that needed them. DAM became the tool for managing and distributing all company collateral, from sales presentations and training manuals, to onboarding documents and budget spreadsheets.

Evolution 5: The center of digital transformation

So where is DAM now? It’s certainly still being used as a cross-organizational tool, a creative library, and honestly, even just as a media solution, but with the emergence of “digital transformation,” it’s clear that DAM can be so much more.

DAM is now working towards not just enabling different departments with assets, but encouraging those departments to work in cohesion with each other. By breaking down these operational siloes and using a DAM to connect all internal and external platforms, organizations can have the ability to create a “consolidated ecosystem” that can provide all its customers with a seamless, consistent experience across all channels. By using a DAM to connect company assets and content to every touchpoint, from sales to support, companies can strengthen their brand identity and truly transform into a digital workforce.

Many companies are still in the early stages of digital transformation. If you're looking to get started with a digital asset management system, make sure you check out Vendor Comparison Guide here.

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