Emerging TechnologyThe story of AI-enabled DAM: From point solution to enterprise enabler

The story of AI-enabled DAM: From point solution to enterprise enabler

Cloudinary’s head of product marketing outlines the evolution of digital asset management (DAM) solutions and offers recommendations for deploying an AI-enabled DAM into your martech stack.

30-second summary:

  • Companies are accelerating their creation of images and video to deliver memorable digital experiences, but they must also manage the assets and associated workflows to ensure brand consistency and visual quality.
  • Over the past 30 years, digital asset management (DAM) solutions have evolved from a simple creative library for niche publishing companies, to a dynamic tool that impacts every team across the enterprise today.
  • Modern DAM solutions are pivotal to the martech stack for streamlined processes and gains in efficiency.
  • With AI-enabled DAMs, automation and intuitive UIs help brands keep a competitive edge in a changing digital landscape.

Visual storytelling is a proven marketing tool for customer engagement. As proof of this, nearly 90% of consumers rely on videos to help make purchasing decisions, with 55% of shoppers pulling up a product video on their phone while browsing in store.

Even outside of ecommerce, online visuals are more likely to make emotional connections for viewers, and they’re much easier to interact with than text, blog posts or PDFs.

As companies create visual content, they must also properly manage the assets and processes. How and where are assets stored and organized? How do teams collaborate, iterate and edit their work?

Beyond that, success isn’t only determined by a company’s management of digital assets, but also by the reliable and optimized presentation of visuals, at scale. Quality and performance – especially fast load times across any device – are paramount to delivering an experience that is meaningful.

Digital asset management (DAM) solutions bring continuity to the coordination of visual content, and if you look back to the technology’s origin story, it has come a long way over the past 30 years.

Most recently, the addition of AI has brought about incredible gains in productivity and efficiency, and made DAM a must-have for companies looking to boost their modern marketing capabilities.

Reviewing DAM functionalities by the decade

At one time, DAM software played only a minor role in the world of marketing. When first introduced in the 1990s, DAM was used as a basic media library for the convenient sharing of photos and video, used primarily by publishing companies.

Then, the first 10 years of the new millennium saw major consumer brands adopting more robust creative libraries: DAMs that could streamline creative workflows and facilitate collaboration where they hadn’t been able to before.

As vendors increased the types of visual content that could be supported within the DAM, brand marketers were able to start managing elements like web documents, PDFs, and audio files, along with emerging file types of images and videos.

From 2013 to 2018, we really saw the idea of a “martech stack” enter our marketing vocabulary as technology providers stepped up to provide best-of-breed capabilities for every process.

DAM vendors paid close attention to the synergy with other puzzle pieces in the stack – Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Product Information Management (PIM), Content Management System (CMS) ­– and started offering integrations and APIs for building scalable marketing strategies across all technology.

With critical metadata running throughout and across the tech stack, DAM solutions became key for connecting each platform and enabling marketing automation to operate efficiently.

With the additional emphasis on newer marketing channels such as social media and ecommerce, DAMs became the lynchpin for effectively managing all digital assets.

A modern and dynamic DAM emerges

Over the past two years, DAM systems have matured to facilitate truly dynamic and organization-wide capabilities, across the entire spectrum of asset management. With modern DAM systems, digital assets can be moved efficiently through an end-to-end pipeline from creation to distribution.

Traditionally, the lifecycle of an asset has followed four main stages: create, manage, distribute and archive. While these steps may still hold true at a very basic level, because visual content is increasing in frequency and volume, this process is now much more nuanced.

New stakeholders across development, marketing and creative teams must now review and approve assets to ensure brand consistency. The growing number of distribution channels each require their own aspect ratio, dimensions and file sizes. Plus, the expanding number of martech integrations naturally adds operational complexity.

It’s easy to operate in silos if there’s no cohesion across these teams. To address this, modern DAMs provide a single version of truth to eliminate duplicate efforts and needless manual tasks.

AI assists in the new digital asset lifecycle

Aside from streamlined workflows and simplified storage, modern DAMs enable marketers to transform images and videos dynamically, on demand, to any format, style or dimension.

It automatically applies the appropriate file sizes without sacrificing visual quality in the name of accelerated load time. These capabilities are made even more effective when fueled by AI automation and machine learning, enabling brands to do the following:

  • Create assets once, and automatically generate required variants for device, channel, screen size and orientation without delay or dependency
  • Compose and orchestrate new images and videos by combining existing assets, styles and effects.
  • Crop intelligently to identify key subjects and dimensions, while auto-cropping for the delivery of different aspect ratios
  • Pinpoint the primary foreground subjects of photos and remove the background to eliminate superfluous or distracting content
  • Generate smart video previews that showcase the best content, not just the earliest frames
  • Recognize subject, objects, optical characters, or celebrities for advanced AI asset tagging, facilitating the rapid deployment of searchable metadata

Perhaps the true value of AI for DAM technology can be best emphasized by the current pandemic-induced work-from-home environment.

AI bakes in intuitive self-help and collaboration features, allowing non-technical users to independently manipulate and optimize assets – while staying on brand – for any channel and user instantly, without needing a single line of code.

Teams are already working diligently to create visuals that resonate – shouldn’t the value of those assets be maximized through organization-wide collaboration and seamless delivery?

With the power of AI running through a DAM solution, organizations are realizing the benefits of an automated asset management in a quickly changing digital landscape, and you can gain that same competitive edge.

Milind Pansare has led product marketing, corporate alliances, and engineering at several Silicon Valley startups and larger tech companies. He currently heads product marketing at Cloudinary.

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