A digital asset is any file, stored in a digital format, that has intrinsic value to an individual, department, or organization. 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 why fully leveraging your organization’s valuable digital assets can revolutionize your business.
Why do Digital Assets Matter?
1. “...stored in a digital format”
One common misconception about digital assets is that they’re files intended only for digital use (for social media, websites, or digital advertisements). While files intended for these purposes do hold immense value, they are not the only files that can be deemed digital assets. Any file, no matter its intended use, which is stored on a computer, hard drive, server, or cloud storage system, is a digital asset as long as it also has intrinsic value. 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 an organization does not focus on digital commerce or marketing, their assets may be held digitally for use in print publications or in manufacturing. Many organizations have transitioned to storing their assets digitally, due to the accessibility and ease of the digital format. This means that effectively and efficiently managing files stored digitally is increasingly valuable and important to every type of brand. Employees' ability to quickly and easily access the assets they need for the projects they are working on saves an organization time and money. It also allows employees to work independently and confidently, increasing general happiness and satisfaction.
For example, take a retail company who does the majority of their marketing through printed seasonal catalogs. The design and product teams at this company spend countless hours sourcing and editing together images, logos, and text to design each page of the catalog. Their work requires them to be able to easily access a the digital assets, search for the asset they need, locate the necessary information to give that asset context, use design programs to edit/combine those assets, receive feedback and collaborate with their team, and go through an approvals process to finalize their catalog pages for print.
Ease of access to assets and relevant information and the ability to share and collaborate, all from one platform, allow employees to meet deadlines and be self-sufficient. This example illustrates the value of having all your organization’s assets in one place, so that your team can work to their maximum potential in a streamlined and straightforward process. Can you imagine a world in which people did not have to track down the individual who made an asset in order to find it? Can you imagine a world in which different technologies and a myriad of spreadsheets were not used to accomplish these processes? It exists! The majority of this process can be done digitally on a digital asset management (DAM) platform. For more information about what a DAM is see The Beginners Guide to DAM.
2. “...has intrinsic value”
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 are not 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 towards their goal. The same is true for digital assets. They’re digital files that can achieve tasks to drive organizational growth.
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 or archival no longer hold value. Using older assets for reference is a great way to maintain brand consistency, replicate successes. You can also use older assets to demonstrate the history and legacy of the organization. Some organizations, like football teams or massive consumer-facing brands, like to remind their customers of their history and heritage.
Some organizations don’t have the same need for archival content. If this is the case in your organization, it’s best to clear storage space and reduce clutter by purging historical content to a separate storage system, where only approved individuals have access. If a file will never be used again, it has no place in an organization’s digital asset library or DAM system. There is a real danger in keeping old files available to all employees. For example, an inexperienced but well-meaning employee could mistakenly use an asset with outdated branding instead of the updated one. Worse yet, the same employee could use an asset which contains a depiction of licensed content, but that asset’s copyright permissions have expired. This can get your organization in a world of legal trouble, costing you time, resources, and reputation. For more information on how getting your digital assets on a DAM system can help your organization avoid legal issues, see 5 Ways to Avoid Getting in Legal Trouble with Rights Management.
3. “...to an individual, department, or organization”
The application of this part of the definition depends on your role in your organization. For an individual working on creative assets, a logo or template for a new brochure is an invaluable asset. For the sales department, it may be a stunning presentation which has proven to effectively close deals. For an organization it could be a document with the mission statement, values, and goals of the company clearly laid out. The point is that these assets are valuable because, if they went missing, their loss would cause delays, poor quality, confusion, and potentially loss of revenue (not to mention the stress and frustration!). For more on how to manage your brand with DAM see, Manage Your Brand with the Power of DAM.
What is not a Digital Asset?
1. Digital assets are not cryptocurrencies
While the ‘cryptocurrencies’ are a topic of heated discussion currently, they are not the type of ‘digital asset’ this article is defining. While they are digital and can be considered assets, they do this in a far different way than a piece of creative content. While digital assets cannot be used as currency, we hope that by the end of this article you will be convinced that digital assets can be a tool in helping you create more revenue for your organization.
2. Digital assets are not just pictures
Still images are often the most common types of digital assets in an organization’s library. However, that doesn’t mean they are the only types. There are many other valuable digital assets, such as logos, colors, templates, videos, audio files, graphics, fonts, documents, etc. For example, in some organizations, their most valuable asset is a 200-page training manual. Just make sure these assets are all valuable and have long-term use in your organization.
3. Digital assets are not personal files
Digital assets refer only to files that add value to an organization or company. A portrait of your child, even if stored on your organization’s laptop, doesn’t count.
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, efficiency, productivity, and hopefully, increased revenue. Their impact is felt across many parts of an organization.
If you have identified that your organization has digital assets, the next step is to determine if and how your organization manages them. When you start looking into this, you may realize that your organization does not organize them at all! Or if there is an organization system, the practices around organizing your assets are outdated or ineffective. If you need help figuring out how to start gathering your assets, finding a DAM platform, evaluating your current DAM systems, or need some therapy to fix a mess that is the current DAM system, contact Stacks! We’re in the business of making your digital assets work for you.