We live in a digital world today, and that means digital assets are everywhere. From the photos stored on their smartphones to the movies they stream from Netflix or Amazon Prime, the documents they store in the cloud, and more, most people are interacting with digital assets hundreds, if not thousands, of times throughout the day. But what is a digital asset, exactly? And more importantly, why should you care? If you’re thinking about implementing a digital asset management (DAM) solution for your organization, having a solid understanding of digital assets and the role they play is crucial in making an informed decision.
Definition of Digital Asset
In the simplest terms, a digital asset is content that’s stored digitally. That could mean images, photos, videos, files containing text, spreadsheets, or slide decks. New digital formats are constantly emerging – MP3s were unheard of before the 1990s, for instance – so the definition of a digital asset is always expanding. Rather than a definitive list of file formats that qualify as a digital asset, a digital asset can be any content, in any format, that is stored digitally and provides value to the company (or to the user or consumer).
There are, however, some common types of digital file formats that are digital assets:
- Slide decks (such as PowerPoint presentations)
- Excel spreadsheets
- Word documents
- Plain-text files (such as Notepad files)
- Graphics (such as logos and other brand assets)
- HTML documents (and associated files, such as CSS)
- Audio files
To get a bit more specific, DAM expert and Digital Asset News editor Ralph Windsor defines a digital asset as, “a collection of binary data which is self-contained, uniquely identifiable and has a value.” Binary data is the only form of data that can be directly understood and executed by a computer, so this is the defining feature that makes an asset digital. This leaves us with three defining characteristics that qualify a digital asset:
- It is digital in nature.
- It is uniquely identifiable.
- It provides value to the company.
Benefits of Digital Assets
All digital assets provide value, but not all digital assets are valued equally. In fact, some are irreplaceable, having a value that far exceeds the cost of creating it. Think about digital assets that are impossible to recreate, such as photos or videos of once-in-a-lifetime events. These assets are more valuable to a company or an individual than assets that may have taken time to recreate but, with some time and effort, can be replicated.
Consider stock photos. While you paid a licensing fee for the right to use a stock photo, it’s easy to find an alternative option (at a cost) if you’re unable to locate a specific photo – simply search for other photos with a similar theme and pay the licensing fee. A 100-page digital user manual for a software program that contains a variety of diagrams and other content, on the other hand, is much more difficult to recreate and therefore has a greater value.
Today, companies rely heavily on digital assets to influence buying behavior and build brand awareness. Digital assets provide a visual representation of your products or services, and they enable you to connect with and engage your target audience through a vast array of channels and mediums. In short, from your company logo to your advertising copy, digital assets are the foundation of your brand identity, so effective digital asset management is a must.
Best Practices for Managing Digital Assets
Because they’re uniquely identifiable by definition, digital assets are also searchable and discoverable – but only with an efficient digital asset management system can the process be most effective. While most people have developed some sort of system for storing and managing digital assets, the basic file folder systems of old are no longer adequate for organizing the vast number of digital assets most companies manage today.
Most companies are investing substantial time, money, and other resources into creating digital assets. However, the only way to extract continued value from those assets is to ensure that their team members can quickly and easily locate the digital assets they need.
What makes digital assets searchable? Metadata – the data used to describe a digital asset, transitions your workflow from “finding” to “searching.” With a digital asset management solution like MerlinOne, your team’s workflow no longer consists of racking their brains to remember what folder they stored an asset in and on whose computer. Instead, your creative and marketing teams can quickly and efficiently retrieve assets by searching from associated fields in a database. And when you make smart use of metadata, they don’t even need to recall specific file names.
If you’re losing valuable time finding important digital assets, or if your team is struggling to manage your ever-growing volume of files with varying permissions and formats, it’s time to consider a DAM solution. Schedule a demo today to learn how MerlinOne can help you get more value from your digital assets.