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Creative Ops

Should you give a damn about DAMs?

May 17, 2021 · 7 min read

It happens to the best of us. You're in the middle of working on a project, and someone from your team asks you where to find an image or video clip. You take a few minutes to send them the file and get back to work ... until someone else asks for another branding asset.

If you often find yourself stopping your work to send someone a file or help them locate an asset, it's time to find a new way to organize and access your digital files. One way to do this is by using a digital asset management (DAM) system.

Let's dive into what a digital asset management system is and how to decide if one is right for your organization.

What is a digital asset management system?

A digital asset management system organizes and stores digital assets in a central location, so they are easy to access, distribute, and share. 

Keeping all your digital files in one place allows for ease of use across the organization and teams and makes it easy to manage access permissions for outside collaborators and clients. 

A DAM system can cover many software solutions like a digital file library (no rich mahogany included), photography database, and even a full-scale enterprise content management system (CMS). Many of these systems have strong core capabilities surrounding cloud storage, asset retrieval, sharing, usage tracking, automation, and overall brand management.

Five benefits of using a DAM

Here are just a few of the benefits of using a digital asset management solution:

1. Centralized location

One of the top benefits of using a DAM solution is having a centralized place for all digital assets. These include photos, music, videos, podcasts, animations, and other rich media content. 

With all of this digital content stored in one place, it's easy to secure and organize your files, and everyone knows where they are when they need them.

2. Instant discovery

You may be thinking, “Well, we already have shared Dropbox or Google Drive folders.” The downside with these is that they are often problematic for people to navigate and find what they need if they don't know the labeling structure.

DAMs make it easy to search for digital media, so no one has to sift through folders to find what they're looking for.

3. Increased efficiency and productivity

When everyone knows where to go to find the digital media they need, things run more smoothly. Designers and brand managers no longer get interrupted to find assets for other team members, and team members are no longer waiting on someone else to provide them with the right files.

4. Brand consistency

When everyone in your organization has access to digital files in one place that's easy to search, they're more likely to use the most up-to-date branding assets. (In fact, with version control, you can make sure that they're only able to access the most up-to-date files.) 

When everyone is on the same page and using the correct branding assets, your organization benefits from better brand consistency.

5. Context

Conveniently storing your content is just the beginning. Your creative and marketing teams should also be able to find what they're looking for and understand how it can and should be used. 

DAMs offer metadata, which provides context for your digital assets. The description, tags, usage rights, and other info will help your team better understand how to effectively use each asset in the proper context.

DAM best practices

To get the most out of your DAM platform, here are a few best practices you should follow:

  • Create clear workflows incorporating your DAM software. This will help everyone in your organization get accustomed to using the system. Some DAMs will even help you automate workflows—a great time-saver for frequently occurring tasks. 

  • Manage access and copyright permissions across assets. This gives creative teams, outside contractors, and any other necessary stakeholders access to assets they need and equips you to protect the assets they don't need. It can also help you stay on top of copyright or expiration deadlines on content and licenses. 

  • Implement a streamlined naming system. Everyone in your organization should understand the proper way to name digital files so that others can find what they're looking for when searching for assets.

  • Monitor your DAM analytics. This data can come in handy during planning and content creation. Check to see which assets are most frequently used or not used at all, and dig deeper into why. 

What are the drawbacks of using a DAM?

While there are certainly some benefits to using a digital asset management solution, there are also some significant drawbacks:

1. It's expensive.

Typical DAM software is relatively expensive, especially for smaller teams. The average cost of digital asset management software is $51,999/year for a vendor-hosted platform and $71,746/year for self-hosted software. While this is expensive, not having a method for organizing your assets in a centralized place can also have some costly consequences, like using the wrong branding or violating a copyright.

2. It can be hard to get everyone to use it.

It doesn't matter how amazing the software functionality is if you can't get everyone on board. Unfortunately, not every DAM platform is built for ease of use. If the user experience isn't great, there's a chance many people in your organization just won't use it.

3. Many require long-term contracts.

Most DAMs require you to sign a long-term contract, which means if you don't like the software, you're stuck with it for 1-3 years. Not to mention, these contracts often include onboarding and strategy sessions that drive up the cost of the solution.

4. Some of the software is outdated.

Many DAM solutions don't come with mobile apps. This outdated software was built in a legacy world for legacy teams, which doesn't quite work for the modern team working remotely or while on-the-go. So if you need a flexible and up-to-date solution, a DAM may not be the best for you.

5. There can be a LONG migration process.

Enterprise DAM software is often pitched to executives over a 6-month sales process, which means that it can be a while before you're even able to use the software—and that’s just the beginning. Sometimes, you’ll have a 12-week-long migration and integration process just to get your content into the system.

What if I don’t want a traditional DAM?

We know that for many teams out there, a traditional digital asset management software just isn't going to cut it. 

Smaller teams may not be able to pay the high monthly fees or want a long-term contract. Teams trying to scale may not want to implement something with a long migration process that may be too complicated for everyone to learn how to use anyway.

That's where alternatives like Air come in. Air has all the benefits of a traditional DAM without the high monthly costs, long contracts, or complicated navigation. It was designed with creative and marketing teams in mind, so it has all the features you need to keep your creative process running efficiently and smoothly. 

Search made easy

Smart search makes it so easy to find assets that the whole organization will want to use it. This tool turns your asset management system into a search engine using features like image recognition and smart tags to find any asset with ease. 

Visual workspaces

Air also provides a visual workspace, a unique interface where you can see your assets laid out like icons instead of looking at an endless grouping of named media files and trying to visualize them. This is especially useful for content strategy and social media. 

Seeing your visual assets laid out in front of you allows for easier content planning and provides an extra layer of visual inspiration as you collaborate and work.

Seamless collaboration

One of the most notable benefits of Air over traditional DAMs is the ability to seamlessly collaborate with both internal stakeholders and outside contractors in real-time. These collaboration tools make the feedback cycle painless by allowing team members, contractors, and any other partners to leave comments, have discussions, and get context on feedback by seeing who added content, when, and why.

Flexible Workflows

Air is flexible, offering many different workflow possibilities for organizations big and small. Stakeholders can see all the feedback given before giving final approval on Air. 

The versions feature allows your team to update asset versions with the newest version made available for team members to use, decreasing the chances of someone using an outdated one. Air also has adjustable views, so you can search and share in a way that makes sense for your team.

Choose the DAM that’s right for you

Whether your main goal is to streamline your workflows, store your brand guidelines and assets in a centralized place, or manage creative files with greater security and ease, there are many options available when it comes to digital asset management. The best software or platform is the one that will work the best for you and your organization. 

But remember, DAMs aren't the only solution. Air offers an affordable, flexible DAM alternative that doesn't come with a restrictive long-term contract or drawn-out, complicated migration process. See how Air compares to DAMs to find out if we're right for you.

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