Since the start of the millennium, digital media has become a significant part of our everyday lives. Living in this digital world means that we are seeing ‘digital assets’ everywhere. Whether they be photos on our mobile devices or movies that we stream on services like Netflix, we interact with these assets every day. Hundreds to thousands of times, these assets are a prominent part of our daily experiences. What exactly is a digital asset, though?

What is it?

Defining ‘digital assets’ is tricky for some, with many believing them to only include photos and videos. That, however, has changed. Over the years, others would start to include various other digital files in their definition, like documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.

To describe them in the simplest way possible, a digital asset is content that is subject to digital storage. These assets are anything that exists in a binary format and comes with the right to use. Data that fail to possess that particular right are not technically assets.

Digital assets include – but are not limited to – digital documents, audible content, and motion pictures. They also include any other relevant digital data that are currently in circulation. Alternatively, data that is, or will be, put into storage on digital appliances. Examples of these appliances are personal computers, laptops, tablets, portable media players, storage devices, and telecommunication devices.

Binary data is inarguably the only form of data that a computer can directly understand and execute. Therefore, this is the defining feature that effectively makes an asset digital. From this, we have three key characteristics that qualify a digital asset:

  • Must be digital in nature
  • Needs to be uniquely identifiable
  • Provides a substantial amount of value to the company

Admittedly, the official definition of a digital asset is constantly changing. New digital formats are emerging in business, so the interpretation of a digital asset is frequently adapting to these changes. Despite this, it is important to keep in mind that the file format is only one part of the definition.

What’s the main difference?

Generally speaking, the most common types of digital files are photos, videos, audio files, and Word documents, among several others. This begs the question of what the difference is between a digital asset and another image or document. This separation was determined by digital asset management industry expert, Theresa Regli, who describes digital assets as the following:

“…something represented in a digital form that has intrinsic or acquired value.”

Put simply, the key here boils down to whether or not the asset adds value to the company. This, as you may recall, is one of the three defining characteristics of a digital asset.

Let’s use an image from a photoshoot as an example. Suppose someone uses this image in a social media campaign that’s promoting an upcoming event and drives registration. In this particular case, that image would technically be a digital asset. Conversely, let’s assume that a rough screenshot is sent to a potential client in a one-off email. In this context, the image possesses minimal long-term value, and thus would probably not be considered a digital asset.


All digital assets provide a certain amount of value, but not all digital assets are equal in value. As a matter of fact, there are some that are irreplaceable and possess a value that surpasses its creation cost. Think about the digital assets that are practically impossible to recreate, like photos or videos capturing a once-in-a-lifetime event. These assets are considerably more valuable to a company or an individual than assets that may take time to recreate.

However, while recreation is incredibly difficult, replication is a different story. With a good amount of time and effort, it is possible to replicate these valuable assets.

Take stock photos for example. You pay a licensing fee for the right to use a stock photo, but it’s actually easier to find an alternative option. That is if you are unable to track down a specific photo. All you have to do is search for other photos that have a similar theme and pay the licensing fee.

On the other hand, there are assets that are much more difficult to recreate and therefore have a greater value. A 100-page digital user manual for a software program containing an array of diagrams and other content, for example, will be quite tricky to recreate.

Nowadays, companies rely heavily on digital assets to have a strong impact on buying behavior. Moreover, they need to construct brand awareness. Digital assets typically provide something of a visual representation of your products or services. What’s more, they allow you to connect with and engage your target audience via a wide variety of channels and mediums. In essence, digital assets are the foundation of your entire brand identity. Ranging from your company logo to your advertising copy, sufficient digital asset management is incredibly vital.

Making them discoverable

Sure, investing time in the creation of digital assets is very important. The catch, though, is that the assets are only valuable if others can find them. When working with a lot of digital assets, it is crucial to take the proper steps to ensure that they are discoverable. On top of that, making sure that they can have efficient management.

Usually, this is done with the consistent use of two things. The first is metadata (keywords, titles, photographer’s name, etc.) and the second is smart taxonomy (i.e. structure of category).

‘Metadata’ is data that provides information concerning separate data. In other words, it is data about data. It supplies an extensive variety of information regarding the asset, primarily beyond its basic filename. Furthermore, you can divide it into two types:

  1. Technical metadata: Most of the time, this is automatically on display, such as resolution, the name of the photographer, dimensions, and size
  2. Descriptive metadata: This describes a resource for the main purpose of discovery, such as the title, and informative description, and keywords.

A ‘taxonomy’ is the combination consisting of categories, keywords, attributes, and various other metadata. Specifically, metadata that is useful in both organizing and describing a group of digital assets. By utilizing a taxonomy, users will have the ability to intuitively browse for assets in a digital asset management system. This is especially helpful when they are not 100% sure about what it is they are looking for.

The execution of a basic form of this can be in-house. However, a majority of companies are taking full advantage of digital asset management systems. With them, they can take complete control of their digital assets and give people in need instant access.

Digital asset management (DAM)

As both a discipline and technology, digital asset management (DAM) is all about the following factors:

  • Solid control
  • Flexibility
  • Portability
  • Access
  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Suppliers
  • Reporting of digital assets that exist between multiple organizations

The main concern of DAM is with the delivery of the right content to the right people. What’s more, on all devices and predominantly in real-time. Additionally, with the ability to track and measure digital asset engagement all across an enterprise, as well as potential global reach.

Even though DAM is first and foremost a discipline, it’s also – to reiterate an earlier point – a technology. A digital asset management system in its simplest form provides users with a secure repository. One that effectively facilitates the creation, management, organization, production, distribution, and eventual monetization of media files. These are files that, of course, count as digital assets.

Similar to other content management technologies, a DAM system offers basic library services. To elaborate, a frequent (often centralized) and secure location for you to store, organize, and retrieve files. Moreover, it provides core process services, such as specific facilities for rich media files and their metadata. Particularly, their handling, manipulation, conversion, security, transfer, and processing.

A good chunk of DAM systems are now able to integrate with other tools and systems. For a content marketer, this can prove to be extremely useful. There would be no doubts concerning whether you are accessing the legitimate or latest version of a logo or asset.

Looking Forward

The way we are conducting business is changing more and more. Emotions play a role in the influence of buying behaviors, but now more than ever does it go beyond impressive ads propelling customer demand. It is mainly about who shares the best connection with their customers. In this digital world, a majority of these connections occur across various online channels.

This is exactly where digital assets come into play. At their core, they serve as a visual representation of what your brand has to offer. Acting as key drivers of online engagement, digital assets are indicative of the connection between companies and customers. Furthermore, they allow interaction with customers when they like, where they like, and in the way they like.

Overall, digital assets are becoming essential tools of brand loyalty. Remember, though, that your assets are only valuable if others can find them and use them efficiently.