Best DAM Software: 2021’s Top Digital Asset Management Solutions

by Ryne Knudson

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Any high-quality digital asset management (DAM) system should accomplish certain tasks:

The biggest advantage of having a DAM, though, is the time it saves your team members looking for and retrieving assets. Storing your digital files in one easy-to-navigate software prevents creative teams from spending hours responding to (often repetitive) asset requests, allowing them to use their time more productively. And it ensures everybody, from other departments to sales teams and distributors, has access to the most up-to-date versions of your assets.

While all DAMs are obviously designed for clear asset management, some fall short in terms of sharing features, detecting duplicates, and integrating with other applications. Not to mention, commonly used folder-structured cloud platforms that aren’t DAM in the first place.

In this post, we run through how Brandfolder DAM works for enterprise, mid-size, and small businesses to organize digital assets and save teams time, then discuss some alternative DAMs. You can also book a demo to see exactly what you could do with Brandfolder at your disposal.

How Brandfolder’s DAM Works: A Walk-Through

Brandfolder is a cloud-based digital asset management platform that allows users to organize, distribute, manipulate and measure assets from a single source of truth. This DAM software is created by creatives for creatives, and many of our users choose Brandfolder over other DAM systems for its simplistic, user-friendly interface.

Let’s dive into how Brandfolder works. Read along or skip ahead as we talk about:

How Brandfolder Escapes the Folder System
User Groups Within Brandfolder
Uploading & Managing Assets in Brandfolder
Finding Assets Within Brandfolder
Navigating the Asset Overview
Sharing Assets with Different Users
Retrieving Assets from Outside Users
Brandfolder Integrations
Getting Started with Brandfolder

Built with a three-layer hierarchy system instead of a traditional folder hierarchy system makes navigating within Brandfolder easy. These layers include:

Let’s talk more about collections. Brandfolder’s layered system of organizing assets also allows admins to restrict permissions for different user groups rather than individual users, ensuring the right people have access to the right assets without overburdening admins.

You can set a collection to be Private or Public, and can even gate the collection by requiring a password to view assets within.

We also allow users to store over 250 different file types and there are no size restrictions on files.

Finding out-of-sync assets living in multiple locations? Updating assets at the Brandfolder level automatically updates them across the board, so digital files within collections are always the most up-to-date versions.

There are three different types of users within Brandfolder: admins, collaborators, and guests. On the sidebar, you can select the specific Brandfolder or collection you want to add the user to and restrict access to other collections. And administrators can edit user status at any time within the “Manage Users” tab.

Unlike other DAM software, we allow for unlimited guest users at no extra charge. So you can share links or collections with anybody outside of your organization and it won’t cost extra.

Uploading assets into a DAM can seem overwhelming, but we try to make it as easy as possible for users. All you have to do is:

Brandfolder will automatically detect duplicates and give users the option to merge duplicates in one asset file. You can take bulk actions to add meta tags or custom fields across any newly-imported assets.

Even after assets are imported and collections and Brandfolders are made, users can still take bulk actions later, such as bulk editing, rights management, moving or deleting content, tagging, sharing, merging, and downloading.

Of course, our customer experience team is always ready to answer your questions and assist during the onboarding process so getting set up in Brandfolder is fast, streamlined, and simple.

Storing and Managing Video Files in Brandfolder

Of the many file formats you can store in Brandfolder, you can also organize video content, up to and including 8K video. By and large, it’s all the same simple process. To import videos, you can simply drag and drop them into Brandfolder and organize them in collections. When viewing video assets, you’ll have access to all of the same information tabs and workflow functionality as you would when viewing any other digital asset.

There are also some more advanced features, such as the ability to convert the video file, adjust the resolution, clip the video length, or add a watermark.

For videos hosted on sites like YouTube or Vimeo, users have the option to embed these in the “External Media” section. Upon opening the embedded video in Brandfolder, users can view the same information and tabs they can see with an ingested video or digital asset. The only difference is that the embedded video doesn’t live within Brandfolder (so it doesn’t take up as much storage space). When viewing embedded videos, Brandfolder will redirect you to the website where the file lives — Youtube or Vimeo, etc. — to view the asset in its entirety.

One of the most convenient features of our video management system is Video AI - this tool transcribes your video and includes the transcription in the metadata information, so videos can be searched by title or transcription text easily within the search bar.

Adding Collaborative Docs into Brandfolder

Another neat feature of Brandfolder DAM is the ability to embed collaborative docs. If you work within Google Docs, you can embed your docs into Brandfolder to redirect users to the live document page.

When you’re working inside any given Brandfolder, it’s simple to customize settings to the way you and your teams search for assets.

Navigating Brandfolder is easy and intuitive requiring little to no training, making it possible for anybody to quickly search and download the asset(s) they need. The ease of finding assets within our DAM is one of the biggest benefits of choosing Brandfolder over other DAM software.

There are three main ways to search for assets within Brandfolder:

  1. Users can find assets through the search bar. Searching in Brandfolder is easier than searching within a Google Drive or a DropBox because you can search almost anything about a given asset — color HEX codes, file types, text on the asset, last time the asset was opened, etc — and find the right file. Our software even goes as far as transcribing video imports so you can search lines or phrases used in video files and find the correct asset. Smart filters let you refine your search even more, so if you aren’t sure what an asset is called or where it is located, you can use filters to weed out assets you don’t need.

  2. Users can sort by sections, labels, tags or common searches which can be “pinned” for quick access. “Sections” are broad types of content, so they can be categorized as logos, colors, brochures, headshots, social media assets, fonts, etc. Using “Pins,” popular search terms can be saved front and center to help users dive even deeper within the section they’re searching. Lastly, “labels” add one more level of search personalization. Think of them as a playlist for your assets that belong together based on things like use case or campaign.

  1. Users can simply scroll through their Brandfolder and scan the different thumbnails until they’ve found what they need.

Ultimately, users have options to intuitively search the way that serves them best. Whether you’re broadly searching a larger collection or narrowing down assets into specific categories, Brandfolder’s search is always customizable for finding the most relevant asset, every time.

After you’ve found and opened the asset you need, you can learn more about it within the asset overview.

Upon opening your selected asset, users are brought to the asset container where they can view the asset name, preview, description, custom fields, and tags.

Asset Name & Description

Asset names and descriptions can be modified with a simple click if you have the right permissions. We advise adding “Do’s and Don’ts” or “Asset Guidelines” within the description section so that end-user groups know exactly how and where an asset can be used.

Custom Fields

Custom fields allow you to add additional key metrics about an asset, including the campaign, channel, destination, language, licensing source, expiration date, and more.

Asset Overview

The asset overview lets users view the different file types of each asset so they can choose to download the JPEG, PNG, or PSD version of your asset. Users can even store assets of different sizes within the asset container, so other user groups can find the right asset in the size that they need.

This asset container feature can also be used to stack relevant assets all in one place; so for example, if you’re searching for a particular product image, you have the option of including all other images that can be used with that same product within the asset container.

When downloading assets, users have the ability to modify the file type and file size for their download so they can download a version of your asset that fits their needs without modifying the actual asset within Brandfolder.

Asset Meta Tagging

When importing a file, our software will automatically add any tags that are already associated with the digital media file you’re uploading. Users can also add their own tags to the asset once it’s been uploaded.

Our proprietary AI engine, Brand Intelligence, takes tagging a step further by analyzing the content you import and adding additional relevant tags that may be helpful for users who are searching.

It learns with users as it goes, so it’ll remember trends in tags used on other files or tags created by users and apply those to future imports. It will also begin to recognize specific items or products featured in your images, and automatically tag them accordingly.

Of course, you can approve or tweak tags so assets are always tagged appropriately according to your taxonomy.

This preview box also has tabs so users can look more at the metadata information, search for similar assets and merge duplicates, view asset usage guidelines, and generate asset links to embed on other sites.

All metadata is stored under the ‘metadata tab. This includes exif data and transcription or text recognition information which can be edited (in either the ‘metadata’ or ‘overview’ tab) after import.

Finding Similar Assets

Our Brand Intelligence machine-learning system pulls all images that are duplicates or “similar” so users can choose to delete or merge them with other files. Of course, “similar” assets can serve separate purposes which makes this suggested content feature especially useful for users who had success with a particular asset and want to find related ones.

Embedding Assets Directly from Brandfolder

The Smart CDN (content delivery network) lets users power their website or email marketing campaigns with assets embedded directly from Brandfolder. Within this tab, users will find an asset’s CDN link that can then live on a website or within an email marketing campaign. If the asset is ever changed within Brandfolder (for example, during a rebrand), the asset will update in all places where its link is being used.

Taking a Closer Look at Analytics

Assessing the true value of any asset means gaining a full picture of where and how it’s being used. This is where the ‘Usage’ and ‘Insights’ tabs in the Brandfolder asset container come into play.

This Usage Tab compliments the Embed feature as it shows all of the different pages and email campaigns where a certain link is used.

With the Insights Tab, admins can peek at asset analytics to see how many times an asset was viewed, downloaded, and shared. These analytics offer detail on how an asset is performing, both on a Brandfolder level or collections level. Admins can even peek at an asset’s live event feed to see how and when it has been modified (and by whom).

In addition, admins have access to view “Top Performers” and “Top Users” so they can see which assets are performing the best and who’s interacting with assets the most.

Collaborating Within Brandfolder

The Workflow Tab makes it easy for teams to comment on, edit, and update assets within Brandfolder. While it should be said that Brandfolder doesn’t replace project management software, it does integrate with Adobe’s entire suite of tools so adding and updating assets can allow creative workflows to continue without interruption.

Users can leave comments for others, reply to threads, make small tweaks to assets, and even check out assets for major changes. Once an asset is checked out, no other users can make changes until the updated asset has been checked back in. With the right permissions, view the entire version history within the “Version History Tab” and revert the asset back to a prior version at any time.

In addition to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Brandfolder integrates with a number of other tools to edit assets, including Microsoft’s suite of products, Sketch, Figma, and Canva.

Aside from adding users to your Brandfolder or collections, Brandfolder also allows users to share assets via a share link. Creating these share links is quick and easy — select the individual asset or assets you want to share and select the “Share Link” option from the bottom of the page.

Once the “Share” modal opens, you can change the name of the share link, make the link private, require an email address to access, disable the download functionality, or set the share link to expire.

When your recipient end-user opens the shared link, they’ll see all of your branded content that you chose as well as the link’s expiration date (if you set one). Upon opening an asset, end users can view an asset’s name and description, as well as the asset container, to uphold brand consistency.

If you work with freelancers or other content creators, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to receive assets from outside sources. Instead of making an outside content creator a collaborator or admin, you can send them a Guest Upload link so they can import their content right into Brandfolder to be approved.

Admins are able to choose where they want content uploaded to, and once uploaded, it will show as “Pending” in the desired section or collection.

So far, we’ve mentioned a few of the applications we integrate with, including Adobe’s Creative Cloud (including Photoshop, Illustrator, PremierPro, AfterEffects, and InDesign), Google’s GSuite, the Microsoft Office suite of tools, Canva, and Sketch, but we also integrate with a variety of other technology partners, including (but not limited to):

You can read more about all our integrations here.

Beyond just the features we mentioned so far, we also have a variety of modules and integrations so admins and collaborators can further customize their Brandfolder. Our customer experience team is available 24/7 to help with onboarding, training, and one-off questions when they arise.

To learn more about how our DAM software would work for your business, you can book a demo for a more personalized walk-through of our platform.

Additional Top DAM Software Options

While our Brandfolder solution is one of the best DAM software for businesses small and large, there are other digital asset management solutions available. Let’s talk about some of the other most popular DAM software solutions.

Bynder

Bynder was the first DAM software delivered as SaaS and, like Brandfolder, is designed without a folder hierarchy for better ease of use. The platform aims to spread their offering outside a focus on DAM and to include Creative Project Management, Branding Automation, and Web to Print.

Learn more about Bynder here.

Widen Collective

Widen Collective is a relationship-based software company that prides themselves on their customer service and support. Their DAM+PIM software does more than just organize digital content, it assists with managing the content lifecycle from creation to distribution.

Learn more about Widen here.

IntelligenceBank

IntelligenceBank is a marketing operations software for enterprise companies. This software has some DAM functionality but also works to manage marketing assets and campaigns. Overall, IntelligenceBank has four main offerings: Digital Asset Management (DAM) software, Brand Portal software, Marketing Operations software, and Marketing Resource Management (MRM) software.

Learn more about IntelligenceBank here.

Canto

Canto is a DAM software that operates on a folder/album hierarchy and offers more basic DAM features than Brandfolder. It’s designed a bit like Apple’s iPhoto application with more filtering and sharing options, and it works best for smaller businesses that don’t have a ton of assets.

Learn more about Canto here.

Cloudinary

Cloudinary is a real-time image and video management solution for developers, marketers, and everybody and anybody who needs access to your brand’s assets. Cloudinary’s “Media Experience” software helps teams manage, edit, optimize, process, and distribute their assets at scale. They primarily work with e-commerce and retail businesses, travel and hospitality companies, nonprofits, and media and entertainment companies.

Learn more about Cloudinary here.

Best Digital Asset Management Software FAQs

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about DAMs.

What is AEM? Is AEM a DAM?

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is both a content management system (CMS) and a digital asset manager (DAM), and it integrates with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. It lets you create assets, store them in one place, and publish rich media files across multiple channels. On their website, Adobe refers to their AEM as, “a comprehensive content management solution for building websites, mobile apps and forms that make it easy to manage your marketing content and assets.”

Adobe’s AEM is helpful in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t have as many sharing options as other DAMs, and it’s one of the more difficult and technical DAMs to implement and use. Most of the time, IT teams have to assist with setting up AEM, and users need strong HTML skills to use the software to its full potential. In addition, it’s quite costly, so it’s not always a viable option for smaller businesses. (Plus, Adobe’s Experience Manager requires a third-party integrator to use, adding to the overall cost.)

How much does a digital asset management system cost?

Pricing for a digital asset management software usually depends on several factors, including:

A business with millions of assets and hundreds of users is going to spend more on a DAM than a small business with only a couple thousand assets and a handful of users.

Guest seats can also hike the price of a DAM — some DAM solutions charge per guest seat, while others allow guests to view and download assets for free. When comparing options, we suggest choosing software like Brandfolder that allows free guest seats to save money in the short and long term.

There’s no real “average” cost for a DAM as yearly costs can range from a couple hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Is a website a digital asset?

Yes, a website is technically a digital asset, but it’s not one that you would organize and manage within a DAM. Digital asset management systems primarily organize media content like images and video files, PDPs and brochures, templates, spreadsheets and word documents, design files and presentations, as well as sales collateral for marketing teams.

What are examples of digital assets? What is not considered a digital asset?

A digital asset is defined as, “anything that exists in a digital format and comes with the right to use;” this includes logos, photos, design files, PDFs, spreadsheets, marketing materials, videos, etc. That means digital content that does not come with the right to use is not considered an “asset.”

Finding the Right Digital Asset Management (DAM) Solution for Your Business

Choosing a DAM software doesn’t need to be overwhelming. We’ve built our Brandfolder digital asset management software to work for all types of businesses with features such as:

Not to mention, the ability to modify storage space and select add-on features makes our DAM a suitable solution for smaller businesses, large enterprise companies, and everybody in between. And our team is available to help you choose the right program for your needs and get set up in the software successfully.

To book a demo and learn more about how Brandfolder can work for your teams, get in contact with us here.