What are Digital Assets?

What are Digital Assets?

The term "digital asset" has become more common in marketing and creative communication - and with good reason. According to Venngage, 74% of marketers now use visuals in over 70% of their content. But, despite the increased use of digital assets, there's still a disconnect between what's considered a digital asset. Is it just any digital file? If not, what are the other criteria? 

In this post, we'll explore the key elements of digital assets, how to evaluate the value of your digital assets and why digital assets are important to your business.

The definition of digital assets

So, to start us off - what are digital assets? By definition, a digital asset is "any digital material owned by an enterprise or individual including text, graphics, audio, video and animations."

Historically, many people have considered digital assets to only include photos and videos, but over the years, we've started including other digital files in our definition, such as documents, presentations and spreadsheets. While the definition of a digital asset is constantly changing as new digital formats are emerging in business, it’s important to remember that the file format is only part of the definition. The other portion of the digital asset definition is derived from the value the asset brings to the company.

There are 3 key elements that make any single file a digital asset. A digital asset must:

  • Be a digital file owned by an individual/company,
  • Provide value to the individual/company, and
  • Be searchable and discoverable (usually with metadata).

What file types are included?

First, let’s take a look at what file types could be considered a digital asset. Common digital asset types include:

  • Photos,
  • Videos,
  • Audio files,
  • Presentations,
  • Graphics,
  • PDFs,
  • Spreadsheets,
  • Documents,
  • Design files,
  • 3D files,
  • and more.

But, what’s the difference between a digital asset and another image or document? Theresa Regli, a digital asset management industry expert, describes digital assets as “something represented in a digital form that has intrinsic or acquired value”. Put simply, the key lies in whether the file adds value to the company.

For example, if an image from a photoshoot is used in a social media campaign that raises awareness of an upcoming event and drives registration, that image would be considered a digital asset. However, if a rough screenshot is sent in a one-off email to a potential client, the image itself has minimal long-term value and would likely not be considered a digital asset.

A high-quality photoshoot image is a digital asset

A quick screenshot is not a digital asset

 

Evaluating the value of digital assets

When understanding the value of your digital assets, there’s more to consider than just the hard cost of the asset. It’s also important to consider the time spent producing it, and the ability to recreate it.

Time and Effort to Reproduce

When evaluating production value, consider the time, resources, people and planning that it took to create the asset. Often, an organization's most high-value assets are those that a considerable amount of time and effort. For example, as a marketing manager, losing a single photo, while inconvenient, can likely be resolved fairly quickly, either by re-editing the raw file or selecting another from the shoot. A fully-edited and ready-to-distribute eBook, however, will take significantly more time and effort to recreate and get re-approved, even if you still have each individual asset.

Woman on the phone

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A single image can be reproduced or replaced

An entire eBook is more challenging to replace

 

Ability to Reproduce

Assets also become increasingly more valuable when they’re impossible to recreate. These types of assets usually come from one-time, never-going-to-happen again events, where even all the time and money in the world couldn’t recreate that moment. For example, as the marketing department of a sports team would know this all too well, a single photo of a game-winning goal can be extremely valuable and can’t be recreated if it’s misplaced. When just looking at the costs to create that asset, it's just one of the hundreds of images taken by the photographers in a single night, but to the marketing team, this single photo is more valuable than gold.

Game winning catch

An image of a football is easy to recreate

A winning catch in a sports game can't be recreated

 

Why are digital assets important?

The way that we do business has changed. Emotions have always influenced buying behaviors, but now it’s more than just cool ads driving customer demand. It’s about who is connecting the best with their customers, and in an increasingly digital world, most of these connections are happening across online channels.

This is where your digital assets come in. At their core, digital assets are the visual representation of your products, services, culture and, ultimately, your brand. As the key drivers of online engagement, digital assets represent the connection between your company and your customers and give you the ability to interact with them in the way they like, when they like, where they like.

How to make digital assets discoverable

While investing in creating digital assets is important, the assets are only valuable if they can be found. When you’re working with a lot of digital assets, it’s important to take steps to make sure they’re discoverable and can be managed efficiently. This is usually done with the consistent use of metadata (keywords, titles, photographer name, etc.), and a smart taxonomy (category structure).

While a basic form of this can be done in-house, most companies are taking advantage of a digital asset management system to truly take control of their digital assets and give instant access to the people that need them.

Metadata

Metadata is data about data.  It provides a variety of information about the asset, beyond its basic filename and can be divided into two types:

  • Technical metadata is usually displayed automatically, such as resolution, photographer name, dimensions and size
  • Descriptive metadata describes a resource for the purpose of discovery, such as title, description, and keywords.

Most commonly, people tend to associate metadata with keywords. Your keywords are key to powering asset search and give you the power to label your assets in a way that’s relevant to your unique business needs. Here's a helpful guide to keywording.

Taxonomy

A taxonomy is a hierarchical structure that allows you to categorize and classify your assets to ease navigation, and identify relationships between assets. Using a taxonomy will help users intuitively browse for assets in a digital asset management system, especially when they’re not exactly sure what they are looking for. Here's a helpful post about building a taxonomy.

Digital assets have become the essential tools of brand loyalty, with every single digital interaction coming back to visuals and copy. But, your assets are only valuable if they can be found and used efficiently. For a step-by-step process to finding a DAM vendor, download How to Buy a DAM: The 8-Step Playbook.

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