Our digital future and legacy DNA often clash.

Digital environments and processes, mazes of 0s and 1s, frustrate our taste for simplicity. That's why I’d like to explain the future of digital asset management (DAM) with a bicycle wheel.

The DAM Bike Wheel Analogy

DAM is often misunderstood to be a fancy media library. Sure, some old school or low-powered DAMs fit that profile.

The more advanced systems, however, are the hub in the marketing wheel. If you visualize a bike wheel, the spokes are the channels and strategies we use to reach people — and the rim is the audience, an arc of diverse people who can only be reached via certain methods.

Not to be forgotten, the tire represents the quality of experience.

We must inflate it for the wheel to roll. Pump in too much air though — too many posts, emails and notifications — and the wheel becomes too reactive and susceptible to flats. With too little air, the wheel rolls too slowly and tears more easily.

We seek a healthy balance between being invisible and being annoying.

The Hub of the Marketing Wheel

The hub is the center point in the wheel. It’s where the marketing cycle begins and ends.

Thus, the integrity of the publishing processes depends on DAM. Rather than try to be everything, DAM must be a great hub. It should help people find, share, publish, and analyze images, videos, and creative files. It must facilitate collaboration from brainstorming to repurposing.

DAM has limits. The channels belong to other solutions, like web content management software, marketing automation platforms and social media management tools.

Likewise, social listening and segmentation products are better disposed to understand the rim, the audience. But DAM still supports the channels, audiences and experiences by centralizing the visual content they require.

In Search of Better Marketing Hubs

So what’s the future of DAM? How does it become a better hub for all your marketing efforts?

First, DAM must prioritize data and analytics. Asset-level metrics on reach, downloads, social sharing, geographical location, video watch times and video drop-off points should be standard in DAM. Marketers need ways to understand performance and the most elusive trait of all: quality. What content is actually worth creating?

Second, DAM should scale digital marketing. More specifically, it should enable marketers to add more spokes, cover a wider rim, and inflate a fatter tire, without extra work. Unfortunately, some marketers spend hours per week lugging content between different distribution platforms. DAM has to play friendly and integrate with all the spokes. When spokes are disconnected from the hub, the rim warps out of shape.

Third, DAM should be optimized for aggressive marketing schedules. For better or worse, we crank out more content than ever before. The speed and volume test our organizational and creative limits. Planning, calendaring, reviewing and proofing are essential. DAM can and should play a bigger role in structuring these stages of content production.

Marketing Components Work Together

The wheel represents a harmony of components. When just one fails, the wheel can’t roll properly.

At more than 3,800 MarTech solutions — with more always on the way — we cannot avoid collaboration among software providers any more than marketers can avoid cooperation with their teammates.

The more our technologies diverge in function, the more they must converge in connection. Many will link to each other via DAM.

When the immensity of the MarTech landscape overwhelms you, return to the bicycle wheel. Much will change, but that simple analogy will ring true for many years to come.

Title image by Chris Becker