Let’s get right to it. You’re reading this because you want to answer the question, “What is a digital asset?” We could jump straight into technical jargon describing assets, but let’s start instead by clarifying what a digital asset isn’t. Here are a few examples of what digital assets aren’t when it comes to digital asset management (DAM):
1. Digital assets aren’t cryptocurrencies
While the term is gaining popularity among day traders to refer to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, that isn’t the type of “digital asset” that DAM refers to. Digital assets do hold value, but in a far different way than an investment portfolio does.
2. Digital assets are not just pictures
Visuals are often the most common types of digital assets in an organization’s library. However, that doesn’t mean they are the only types. For example, in some organizations, their most valuable asset is a 200-page training manual.
3. Digital assets are not personal files
Digital assets refer only to files used by an organization. A portrait of your child, even if stored on your organization’s laptop, doesn’t count.
What is a Digital Asset?
Now that it’s clear what a digital asset isn’t, let’s define what it is. According to Stacks, a digital asset is a “digitally stored file that is necessary for company operations and provides value past a single-use”. While this definition technically answers your question, it fails to explain why digital assets matter. In the rest of this article, we’ll take a closer look at each of the three parts of the definition provided above. After that, we offer reasons why fully leveraging your organization’s digital assets can revolutionize your business.
Why do Digital Assets Matter?
1. “A digitally stored file…”
One common misconception about digital assets is that they’re files intended only for digital use such as social media sites, websites, or digital advertisements. While these files hold immense value, they aren’t the only files important enough to be deemed digital assets. Any file, no matter its intended use or ultimate fate, stored in a computer, hard drive, or cloud storage system, is a digital asset, as long as it meets the rest of the criteria. In more technical terms, the file must be made up of binary data, the kind of data computers are able to interpret and understand.
This distinction has important implications for different types of organizations. Even if they do business in less digital markets such as publications or manufacturing, it’s likely they’ve transitioned to digital storage. This means that effectively and efficiently managing files stored digitally is increasingly valuable and important to every type of brand. For example, take a retail company known for its seasonal catalogs. Their designers and product team spend hours creating each page of a catalog and store their work digitally. To meet deadlines and work effectively, they need to be able to quickly access their files and share them safely and securely.
2. “Necessary for company operations…”
As you know, not every file saved on a computer, hard drive, or cloud storage system is useful. Systems are often clogged with screenshots, gifs, downloads, and other junk unrelated to tasks that achieve the goals of the organization. While these files are digital, they aren’t valuable.
You may sometimes hear a manager or director say someone “is a true asset to our team” when they do great work that advances the organization toward where it wants to be. The same is true for digital assets. They’re digital files that help achieve tasks that drive organizational growth.
The application of this part of the definition depends on your role in your organization. For creatives, a logo for a new brochure to be sent to consumers could be an asset. In sales, it may be a stunning presentation used to close a deal. For marketers, it might be an audio clip of a celebrity speaking about a brand that they plan to feature in their next commercial. The point is that these files are valuable because if they went missing, it would delay or lower the quality of the work of the people who use them.
3. “Provides value past a single use…”
For an asset to be truly valuable, it has to be long-lasting. If an organization is rebranding tomorrow, the logos available today aren’t as useful as they once were. This isn’t to say that assets deemed “historical” no longer hold value. On the contrary, using older assets as references is a fantastic way to stay true to a brand and maintain consistency. However, if a file won’t be used again, it has no place in an organization’s digital asset library.
Every organization values older or less relevant content differently. Some, like football teams or massive consumer-facing brands, like to remind their customers of their history and heritage. Others, however, don’t have the same need for archived content. If this is the case in your organization, it’s best to clear storage space and reduce clutter by purging historical content. There’s also a real danger in keeping old files. For example, an inexperienced employee could use an outdated piece of branding instead of a current one. Worse yet, that employee could pull a piece of licensed content with outdated copyright permissions and get your team in legal trouble.
Digital assets that meet all three of the criteria described above are incredibly valuable and should be managed in a way worthy of that value. They directly lead to organizational growth and the achievement of goals. They maintain their usefulness over time by serving as references for new work. Their impact is felt across many parts of an organization. Without them, the organization would suffer in a myriad of ways, time would be wasted, and money would have to be spent to create them.
Now that you understand what a digital asset is, it’s important to determine how well your organization manages them. If you need help evaluating your current systems for managing digital assets or have a specific problem to address, contact Stacks! We’re in the business of making digital asset management easy and simple.