Some marketers conflate digital asset management (DAM) with web content management (WCM). It’s an innocent mistake. After all, WCMs often have a media library. Just like DAM, right?

Not so much.

Let’s imagine the customer experience is a dinner party you host.

DAM is the kitchen. It’s where you store, mix and prepare ingredients. Like a modern kitchen with an oven, stovetop, and utensils, DAM has specialized tools for handling rich media, metadata, workflows, versions, formats, image rights, governance and more. Just as you won’t find a blender in your bathroom (I hope), you won’t find those tools in other software.

WCM is the rest of your home. It encompasses all the spaces you use to entertain guests. Just as a foyer, living room and dining room serve different purposes, so too do landing pages, product pages and blogs. WCM manages the web content (text, links, images, video, data, etc.) that fill each space.

What Users Want From DAM

Depending on your guests, and what they expect, you can create different experiences using your kitchen and home. Your Uncle Jim might park in front of the basement TV with a beer, eat nacho dip, watch baseball and not say 10 words. That’s what Uncle Jim does.

If you prep his favorite nacho dip in the kitchen (DAM), and take it to the basement (WCM), two of those 10 words might be “thank you.”

Like Uncle Jim, each type of guest at your dinner party goes to a different room for a different reason. There are kids who eat bagel dogs and make a mess in your son’s upstairs bedroom ... friends who actually eat in the dining room and enjoy your grilled chicken kebabs ... siblings who camp in the living room with wine, in view of the kitchen, so they can get first dibs on homemade apple pie and vanilla ice cream.

Notice that each group wants something different from the kitchen, the central hub that cooks up personalized experiences for each audience.

Can WCM Offer Something for Everyone?

You might ask: why can’t WCM just be the kitchen too?

For a few reasons:

Learning Opportunities

First, remember that your website is your home — a space you own. WCM media libraries are kind of like a microwave that can cook very basic meals. Want frozen pizza hot? The media library can handle that. But, if you want to cook a gourmet content meal; if you want to take a nice dish to a potluck (social media); if you want to send your kids off to school with pack lunch (e.g. decks for a tradeshow or mobile sales team); you need a real kitchen.

DAM serves as a kitchen for every place you practice marketing, but a WCM media library can only serve the properties covered by WCM.

Second, when guests aren’t around, where do you and your family normally eat? The kitchen. When your co-workers, retail partners, franchisees or other teammates need content, you rarely send them to the dining room. In the kitchen, they can help you cook and they can just take what they really want to eat. In that sense, DAM is about access, creation and collaboration; WCM is all about presenting the final, polished experience to guests.

Third, DAM lets you prep food for a wider range of experiences. Not every meal is gourmet; we all store simple food like cereal. That cereal might fill your Product Information System (PIM), where your family (teammates) searches for images based on product specifications. Maybe you want to programmatically serve simple content on your CMS, e-commerce page or advertising platform. When you swap in a new cereal box — Cheerios for Chex, let’s say — it should be automatic. You don’t have to worry about “updating” your bowl and spoon, too.

By now, either the differences between DAM and WCM make sense, or you’re just hungry. And who knows: by 2045, we might just have a singular marketing AI, a lonely, all-powerful logo in a Matrix-like world that used to have 3,800 MarTech companies.

Until then, heed the difference between DAM and WCM. Your guests will thank you.

Title image by Jay Wennington.

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