DAM vs CMS: 4 major differences

2 Nov


Written by

Bella Foxwell




DAM vs CMS: 4 major differences
Dark mode
Dark mode
Switch to light mode
Switch to dark mode

With a growing library of digital assets to manage, which technology should you choose: a Content Management System (CMS) or a Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform?

Deciding between the two isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

While both tools share similar features — like the ability to collaborate on content — they are two distinct pieces of software with very different capabilities.

Which one is best suited to your organization comes down to whether you create content just for websites or whether you create content for a range of other channels including social media, e-commerce sites, sales collateral, and more. 

To understand which system (or indeed a combination of both) is right  for you, let’s take a closer look at the definition of CMS and DAM, and explore the four major differences between them. 

- DAM vs CMS: Primary function

- DAM vs CMS: Asset types

- DAM vs CMS: Workflow and collaboration

- DAM vs CMS: Distribution

1. Primary function

The major difference between a DAM system and CMS is their functionality.

A content management system is responsible for managing content on your website. 

Digital Asset Management is the process of collating, organizing, and distributing a variety of media files across myriad offline and online channels.

Let’s take a closer look at the features of both and how they differ.

DAM vs CMS table

Whether or not your organization will benefit more from a DAM, a CMS, or both depends on your unique needs.

Most companies require a CMS as this serves as the foundation of their website. Tools like Wordpress or Drupal feature templates that designers can use to build and maintain a website. And they serve as good repositories for associated photos and videos.

However, a CMS is not (and should not be used as) the place to store an organization’s digital assets. It lacks the features to effectively organize and distribute hundreds (if not thousands) of media files consistently across sales and marketing channels.

Since a DAM system is built for media delivery and consistent digital experiences, it offers features like brand compliance that a CMS doesn’t.

This is one of the reasons why insurance brand Covea implemented DAM. Not only does it help the company streamline content creation and distribution, but it also involves legal, risk and compliance managers in the content validation process. That way they can stay in full control of regulatory and brand compliance.

2. Asset types

Digital Asset Management software excels in managing a wide range of digital assets. This includes (but is by no means limited to) photos, videos, 3D models, mp4 files, and PDFs.

A CMS, on the other hand, is adept at handling text-based content, web pages, and articles. It offers a searchable content library and a place to store website-related photos and videos, but the multimedia management is lacking. 

And with a tool like Wedia, finding the most up-to-date asset among thousands of files has never been easier with AI-powered search and classification. 

This is hugely beneficial for global companies with content to distribute across many regions in multiple languages. Thanks to intelligent auto-tagging, brand assets can be correctly labeled and organized, and therefore easily found.

Take the automotive industry, for example. With partners and franchisee networks spread nationally (if not globally) car brands require something more robust than a CMS to manage a multitude of content.

This was the case for Volvo Car France, which implemented Wedia in order to provide its 126-strong dealership network with materials to support local marketing efforts and drive sales.

3. Workflow and collaboration

When looking at the differences between a DAM and a CMS, it’s important to consider how they facilitate workflow and collaboration.

For teams managing website content, a CMS offers streamlined publishing across multiple sites. It makes it easier for them to edit several pages at once, maintain consistent messaging across all, and track content performance.

It facilitates collaboration by allowing multiple users to access content simultaneously, keeping team members on the same page by allowing them to track changes and revisions to content across websites, intranets, mobile apps, and microsites. 

So if a CMS helps streamline workflow and improves collaboration, why invest in a DAM?

Because CMS is primarily built to support content delivery for websites and the individuals that manage them.

It cannot meet the content needs of an entire organization.

If someone uploads and edits an image in the CMS for a regional website, no-one else (beyond possibly the web team) will know which is the latest version. That’s if they can find the right image to begin with. 

Since a CMS lacks sophisticated tagging or search functionality, it makes it very difficult for brand and sales teams to easily access the up-to-date assets. You can see how this causes big issues for productivity and collaboration. 

A DAM, on the other hand, offers companies one place to store their entire asset library. This can be accessed by everyone (who is authorized) and keeps version control so that the latest files can always be found without time and resources wasted on unnecessary duplication. 

For retail brands, this is absolutely essential. They cannot scale using a CMS alone. Instead they need an advanced DAM system that can manage the huge range of visual content required for every product, medium, channel, and market. 

And to further improve the customer experience, e-commerce brands can opt for a Digital eXperience Management (DXM) module. This offers personalized customer experiences and makes it possible to measure and monitor the success of particular content and which assets drove most sales.

Using a DAM as Single Source of Truth makes workflow and collaboration so much easier.

Decentralized teams across multiple locations can come together to create, edit, and review assets, ensuring that a brand’s message remains consistent no matter where it’s received in the world. 

To learn more about the positive impact of centralizing assets on a company’s workflow and collaboration, download the Engie Solutions case study. With 12,000 employees, Engie wanted a solution that would allow them to easily respond to internal requests, store their media in an optimized way and manage validation workflow.

They moved from a variety of CMS systems to Wedia and now benefit from streamlined content management, better control over access and user permissions, and advanced analytics.

Designing a website


4. Distribution

A DAM solution is able to distribute a huge variety of assets across myriad channels. CMS, on the other hand, is limited to the distribution of website content. 

From photos and videos, to presentations and PDFs, DAM gives companies the ability to publish media assets on a range of different channels from websites and social media channels, to e-commerce sites and internal communications platforms. 

But more impressive is the ability for organizations to tailor this content to individual audiences. A retail brand can release product photos to promote its latest collection and depending on who is viewing the images (and where), the photos will automatically adapt.

For example, a person in Italy might see a Mediterranean background while someone in Norway sees a Scandinavian background. Any text would also be changed so that it’s relevant to their location. 

And thanks to an optimized Content Delivery Network (CDN), geographically distributed servers speed up the delivery of content by using a server closest to the user. This gets the content to them faster and more efficiently,  While this is also true of CMS systems, a DAM system has the added advantage of being able to Content Score assets, meaning that marketers can assess how any given media is performing and adapt their communication strategies for different channels based on that. 

This kind of enhanced media delivery and distribution is a major difference between DAM and CMS. 

And it’s why many large companies make the move to DAM — because a solution that enables the distribution of multiple assets and campaigns across multiple channels contextualized for each region is key to enhancing the customer experience. 

Combing the power of DAM and CMS

What if you didn’t have to choose between a DAM and a CMS? 

What if you could combine the power of both?

DAM systems like Wedia can easily integrate with CMS software such as Wordpress, Drupal or Adobe Experience Manager. This ensures that website teams and content managers have easy access to the latest brand assets without having to leave the CMS.

To experience the benefits of integration — streamlined workflows, increased productivity, and enhanced customer experiences — book a free demo today.

Articles you may find interesting

Get more marketing tips
& news straight to your inbox