Understanding the definition of a digital asset is one of the most important steps to starting your digital asset management system (DAM) research. Many people consider digital assets to only include photos and videos, but over the years, others have started including other digital files in their 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 that 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
- Provide value to the company
- Be searchable and discoverable (usually with metadata)
What file types are included?
First, let’s take a look at the most common types of digital files. These include:
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 asset 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 would not be considered a digital asset.
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.
For example, as a magazine editor, not being able to find a single image, while inconvenient, can likely be resolved fairly quickly or replaced with a something similar. A fully edited and designed magazine cover, however, takes more time and effort to remake, even if you still have each individual asset.
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, when all the time and money in the world, couldn’t recreate that moment.
The marketing department for a sports team knows this all too well. A single photo of a game-winning goal is extremely valuable, but can’t be recreated if it’s misplaced. If you’re just looking at the costs to create that asset, it was just one of hundreds of images taken by the photographers in a single night, but to the marketing team, this single photo is more valuable than gold.
How to make assets discoverable
While investing into 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 digital asset management systems to truly take control of their digital assets and give instant access to the people that need them.
What is 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.
What is a taxonomy?
A taxonomy is the combination of categories, keywords, attributes, and other metadata used to organize and describe a group of digital 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.
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.
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.