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I was exposed to the need for DAM a few days ago. While wrestling with some clothes in a changing room my eye was drawn to some small graphics about the care and attention this business put into making its products.

Beautifully art directed, fantastic copy -- they stopped me in my tracks and I wanted to share them.

I'm a sucker for subtle, thoughtful communication -- the contemplative, diligent stuff that's powerful because it isn't trying to shout louder than everyone else, it just has a clearer voice.

DAM Builds Engagement

So, there I was. Desperate to engage with this brand -- to use my social platforms to congratulate them for creating compelling, engaging communication I actually wanted to share. Sadly, despite trying to connect with them, the response was lukewarm to say the least. They didn't have copies, couldn't send me anything, didn't even know where the artwork was stored. I was left feeling a touch discouraged.

In the end, the blurry photo I took myself acted as the customer's voice of their brand. A small, but relevant example of the need for a joined-up DAM system, one which could have reacted to a customer's needs and gone towards making their communication a virtue rather than detracting from it with my poor attempt at a reproduction.

This got me thinking.

DAM is one of the by-products of a new way of marketing and engaging with customers. It's an expression of a more relationship focused method to interact with customers. It's also why a fundamental perspective change is needed on how businesses communicate.

It's a Balancing Act

Evolving DAM strategy, just as with the boom of social, is a rebuttal to the one-way, minimal channel, broadcast communications model. It's a shift in the balance of power between business and the customer.

But with this new model come new responsibilities. Not just to interact on the channels customers choose to use, but also to be mindful of this balancing of the relationship. And perhaps an acceptance that there is only so much you can control. This, for me, is the key to where DAM can become a true asset for businesses.

Moves to control asset management are perhaps the businesses best chance at, if not controlling what customers say, then certainly the brand integrity with which they depict them. But this misses the point of why DAM has come to exist in the first place. It's an opportunity to play to the shift in power, and to use it as a vehicle to enable customers to interact and promote communication made for them.

Giving the Customer Control

If I had my way, every DAM strategy, and in fact every communication strategy, would come hand-in-hand with a MFT (made for them) counterpart. A reminder that asset management of this kind exists because customers now have a share of how a brand is perceived and communicated, and the business is responsible for delivering the assets in the right way, at the right time.

The role of DAM, as much as retaining brand integrity, is to reach out when customers choose to interact, and ensure the systems are there to support them when they do. To build the relationships that lead to advocacy not through tighter controls but through greater empowerment.

To realize the real winners from a customer-focused DAM solution, and social, and the shift in power, are the customers -- and through proxy, the business.

To recognize the personal, the thoughtful and the individual. Because it's not your brand, it's your customers.

To treat asset management as a way to control is perhaps missing the very point DAM has become so critical in the first place. With a new set of rules for the game comes the need for recognizing the need to control less and enable more.

A big challenge, and the need for a new perspective for many organizations? Quite possibly. A chance to make the most of shifting nature of customer relationships and conversations? Absolutely.

Title image courtesy of Margo Harrison (Shutterstock).

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