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YouTube, Flickr and Google Picasa boast ‘digital asset management’ features, but marketing directors, brand managers and creative teams all know that they don’t do the DAM job.

Everyone Needs A  DAM Kitchen at Home

The argument that companies don’t need DAM any more is like arguing that the employees at your company don’t need kitchens at home anymore because you have a kitchen at the office.

Follow along with the metaphor, and I can assure you of two things: First, you’re going to be very hungry; and second, you’re going to understand why marketing organizations need the power of a real DAM system.

Let’s say you’re going to have the extended family over for dinner. You go to the grocery store and you pick up two fresh whole chickens, sweet potatoes and green beans. You have cookie dough in the freezer, so you’ll bake that for dessert. You have some olive oil, spices galore and other ingredients stored in the pantry, and you know exactly where to find them. You have all the tools you need to cook: a stove, oven, pans, utensils, maybe even a thermometer.

You start cooking, and you get your kids to set out the plates, forks, knives and napkins. Your extended family arrives, so naturally some of them come into the kitchen to pick at the raw, thawed cookie dough and chat, so you shoo them away. You've been reading a Paula Dean cooking book, so you melt a stick of butter and pour it over the roasting chicken.

You finish cooking. The chicken goes on a serving plate, the roasted sweet potato slices and green beans go in bowls and the cookies go in a basket. Everyone loads a plate and sits down to eat.

Now, imagine trying to prepare this meal in your “office” kitchen and you have an idea of what it’s like to make Flickr, Vimeo, Dropbox, or even shared folders your DAM system. Your office kitchen isn't nearly large enough or capable enough of handling food prep, multiple family members, cooking and serving. Your office kitchen has a specific niche use case which it serves very well, but you need a kitchen that's designed to serve all of these needs plus more in order to deliver a comprehensive dining experience.

Much like ingredients for a recipe, if you need raw images for your communications you have to spend money. Whether you hire a photographer or purchase stock images, you then need the space to store full-size images. Likewise, you need a place to store raw video footage -- after being uploaded to YouTube, videos are too low quality for serious editing.

Your office would be a terrible place to store ingredients -- imagine trying to fit two fresh whole chickens, sweet potatoes and green beans in the mini-fridge in the corner break room. Plus, do you really have salt, pepper, rosemary, butter, flour, olive oil and all the other multi-use ingredients in a shared closet or stored under your desk? Like a shared folder system would allow, do you want everyone to use your ingredients without your permission?

The Power of a Real DAM System

A faux-DAM system is purely designed for making finished products public or sharable with a very small group. A real DAM system is designed to migrate and manage large volumes of digital assets in varying formats, give them meaning, make them usable and give you control over their use, just as your home kitchen gives you control over a cooking ‘workflow.’ Your home kitchen is designed for collaboration, management and distribution. Your office kitchen is designed for microwaving cold pizza.

When you have tens of thousands of photos, Picasa doesn't cut it. You need DAM’s ability to categorize every photo with custom metadata so it’s easy to find images -- just as it’s easy to find ingredients in a familiar pantry. When you’re done using the photos, you want to put them back where they can be reused, just like your spices and olive oil.

With faux-DAM systems, you’re stuck with low quality files. With a real DAM system, your creative teams enjoy on-the-fly conversions in downloadable formats they need because you uploaded the file in the highest quality form.

Learning Opportunities

Technically, a lot of cooking happens outside of DAM in programs like Final Cut Pro and Photoshop. However, like a chef who needs to control access to ingredients, or the kitchen itself from those who will pick at the cookie dough, DAM provides governance that faux-DAM cannot provide.

If you need to safely store a photo that is a work in progress, a DAM system lets you do that safely. As the owner, you choose who has access to it. Marinade your aged Angus steak at work and someone might throw it in the trash to make room for their peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Good luck protecting unfinished images in a shared folder in a faux-DAM with one access password.

Then there are expiration dates. Just like with perishable food, stock images have expiration dates that need tracking. A real DAM system lets you enter licensing information directly into metadata and even receive warnings about license expiration dates, whereas faux-DAM systems will let assets go rotten.

Faux-DAM vs Real DAM, the Choice is Clear

The reality is that Vimeo, Facebook, Flickr and the like have specific niche use cases and are good for serving assets publicly. When you want high-quality assets to remain securely within your organization -- for use by marketing, sales, executive, partners and others -- DAM is the only distribution method that serves an asset throughout its lifecycle with governance.

Using faux-DAM, you’re organization is stuck with ramen, frozen meals, cold pizza and some leftovers -- or expensive catering.

DAM is what enables marketing organizations to safely and efficiently take images and videos from raw ingredients to a gourmet meal. If you’re looking to post photos of your friends and family, stick to Facebook and YouTube. If you have a serious marketing organization with diverse brand assets, you can do better that a mini-fridge and a microwave.

Editor's Note: Looking for more on DAM? Take a look at DAM Beauty and Usability and The Building Blocks Of Digital Asset Management Interoperability

Image courtesy of YanLev (Shutterstock)