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DAM spending should stem from digital content needs

A recent survey indicates widespread dissatisfaction with digital asset management software. Unrealistic expectations are likely a factor.

Cutting-edge marketing campaigns may spur visions of buying costly digital asset management (DAM) software, but companies would do better to scale their purchases to target specific problems, says an expert.

DAM software provides tools for organizing rich media. Traditionally deployed to manage image collections, DAM software is increasingly touted for its potential to integrate rich media with personalizedmarketing scenarios. But many companies are struggling with the basics of managing digital content and unprepared for that next step. As a result, they tend to have inflated expectations of the software and be overwhelmed following a purchase.

The gap between potential and reality was a factor when DAM software users rated their overall customer satisfaction as "mediocre" to "middling" in a recent Real Story Group industry survey.

Real Story Group analyst Theresa Regli advised companies to keep it simple and to target specific problems when shopping for DAM software.

How are companies using DAM software?

Theresa Regli: A photo library or central photo archive are the most common uses, when companies need a central place to store and retrieve photos, logo images and things like that.

There are also more futuristic reasons to buy DAM, such as multichannel marketing or creating personalized mobile marketing experiences with different rich media, but those things are either in progress or something DAM can facilitate in the future. Today, it's really a central place for images, to manage a brand and maybe create some advertising and marketing materials.

How is DAM use evolving?

Regli: DAM is going from a single place for dumping images into something that needs to incorporate a lot of different things to facilitate uses like multichannel marketing and personalized experiences.

When it comes to taking DAM into the future, there are so many things that have to do with the management and preparation of assets and using multiple media. metadata is probably the biggest part of it -- making sure that the asset is enriched with that information and that it can travel and be read by other systems and devices. If you just stick an image into storage and you don't know what it is, it's pretty much useless.

DAM software remains relatively niche. Do you think DAM will be subsumed by other technology?

Regli: If DAM gets subsumed by anything, it'll be the larger concept of marketing technology automation. Marketing automation includes campaign management, lead management and personalization -- and many of those technologies have an asset library in the toolkit.

DAM vendors are starting to use terms like 'marketing automation,' 'campaign management' and 'personalization' -- but that's not necessarily a functionality they inherently have. It's facilitating that if there's good data, assets and metadata, but you need another technology to create the campaign and send it out. There's a lot of marketing talk about doing it in a more unified way, but no one is actually doing that yet.

The Real Story Group recently conducted a DAM software survey. Do you have any findings to share?

Regli: A lot of people aren't particularly happy with their systems. We asked respondents to rate their customer experience on a scale of 1 to 10, and the average was 4.8.

I think that's a mix of a whole bunch of things, but expectations are definitely part of it. The sales message is definitely way ahead of where organizations really are.

I was surprised at how unsophisticated a lot of the DAM use was. Most organizations are using DAM because they need a place to put pictures. These sophisticated discussions about omnichannel marketing and personalization, they get talked about a lot because they're sexy, but unfortunately people are still struggling with the fundamental problem of centralizing their assets.

Sometimes systems get blamed for organizational issues. For example, people will say their system search isn't any good, but [they are lacking key functionality because] they didn't put metadata on the images.

Do you have any parting advice for buyers?

Regli: My advice is always [that] to understand your problem is first. Understand what you're actually trying to solve and select the simplest possible tool to do that.

Salespeople often talk about how DAM is going to solve all these big omnichannel problems, but it's probably going to take companies two or three years to solve the fundamental ones. By the time those problems are solved, DAM technology and marketing technology are going to have evolved.

Theresa Regli is a featured speaker at the DAM NY conference in May. For further information on attending the DAM conference, contact Chris Smout at

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To what extent does your marketing strategy include digital content?
Entirely. I don't think my business or it's marketing could exist without almost total access, reference and inclusion of digital content.

A more interesting question might be "can any business survive without a digital marketing strategy...."

I can barely imagine any company surviving for long without an extensive immersion in the digital world. It's where the data physically is located, it's how it's disseminated.

Physical...? Or is that virtual...? It is after all, only a representation of the content we're checking.... Okay, I quibble.

My company produces films - films that are entertaining, educational, informational, instructional - virtually any visual representation needed by our clients. Except for rare analog processes (AKA "film", which grows rarer with every passing day), our content IS digital. It's recorded that way, it's stored that way, it's referenced, reviewed, edited and approved as digital content.

The "originals" are stored somewhere off-site for security reasons, but they, too, are digital.
Our marketing strategy makes very heavy use of digital content. As a media company, digital content not only enables additional revenue streams through online advertisements or by content being shown by our partners, but it also allows us to get and keep the viewers attention when they are away from their televisions, essentially giving us more face-time with them. We also make use of digital content on social media sites to better communicate to our viewers about upcoming shows, specials, and events, as well as receiving and addressing feedback from viewers in near real-time.
Both answers here hit the nail on the head. There is no world in which a successful marketing strategy and implementation can exist without digital content. We're in a universe where digital is how people get their information. It's how folks consume their news. It's how they stay in touch with family. It's how they do their jobs. To ignore digital content is to live in a stone castle in the 1100s and ignore the real world around you.
For me, entirely.
Great comments.  Thanks for weighing-in!