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CMS vs. CMP vs. DAM: What Type of Content Management Do You Need?

November 14, 2022 | Samuel Chapman

While terms like “content management system,” “digital asset management,” and “content marketing platform” are occasionally used interchangeably, they’re actually very different. Knowing the differences between these systems makes a significant impact on the performance and management of your digital assets. 

When should you use a CMS versus a CMP? And how does a robust digital asset management (DAM) system empower your entire organization? 

Today, we’ll untangle these three content management concepts and cover the following topics:

  • Define content management
  • Outline the features of CMS, CMP, and DAM
  • Highlight the benefits of a DAM platform
  • Discuss the difference between these systems
  • Explain why DAM should be the basis of your content management

What is content management?

Content management is the method used to collect, retrieve, deliver, and manage digital information. This process enables the use of video, image, audio, and written content for an organization. 

The content management lifecycle consists of seven stages for conducting governance: 

  1. Organization: Create a storage and classification framework. Define and assign taxonomy and metadata to individual assets to make them searchable. 
  1. Creation: Create new content, or repurpose existing digital content. Then, classify using the categories and taxonomy defined in the previous step.
  1. Storage: Content is stored in a centralized, searchable repository. The repository (for instance, a digital asset management system or DAM) allows the content librarian or administrator to determine access rules and permissions for the use of each asset. Rules are dynamic and administered by role, department, campaign, location, or other required parameters. Digital rights management (DRM) features within a DAM ensure that only compliant assets and materials are used.
  1. Workflows: Ensure that in-flight assets move through the creation and approval process with rules for content use and approval. This also ensures that assets are only available for approved purposes and timeframes. 
  1. Version control: Create multiple iterations of assets through versioning. This also locks and unlocks assets during individual user access to ensure continuity and freshness. 
  1. Delivery: Publish customer-facing content or deliver content to external or internal end-users through brand portal features. As with asset storage, DRM features ensure that external users access the correct version of assets for their role, department, and location.
  1. Archival or deletion: Remove obsolete or time-expired content from the repository. This process reduces digital clutter, eliminates version issues, and ensures continuity and proper rights management. 

The benefits of connecting DAM to your CMS

A CMS is useful for organizing and publishing website-based content. When using a DAM, the benefits of organization and delivery go far beyond the web. 

With a DAM, marketing teams can manage the entire content lifecycle from ideation and collaboration all the way to downstream delivery:

Data governance: Full asset control allows a librarian to administer rights and access to every asset in the repository, implement DRM tools, and ensure compliant and on-brand use for every customer experience.

Data reduction: DAM helps teams administer the creation, storage, delivery, and deletion of assets at the proper time. By administering the end of the content lifecycle, librarians eliminate clutter, reduce non-compliant use, and reduce data storage costs and complexity.

Time savings: Asset organization and searchability increase creation speed, approvals, and delivery of completed assets for use. This speeds time to market and creates a competitive advantage for organizations using a DAM. 

Enrichment and insight: With a robust DAM, you can tie campaign and performance data back to the metadata in an individual asset to tell the full story of individual asset value. This enables more robust profiles for individual assets, and unites your return on investment (ROI) metrics with return on effort (ROE) metrics.

Digital assets are defined by Gartner as “anything that is stored digitally and is uniquely identifiable that organizations can use to realize value. Examples of digital assets include documents, audio, videos, logos, slide presentations, spreadsheets, and websites.” It may include raw images, text, and audio that become components of a finished piece of content. While content is a digital asset—content being digital media ready for consumption—not all digital assets can be utilized as content.

It’s important to note that not all DAMs operate the same. Some solutions are repositories—a place to park assets for later use. Modern DAMs like Aprimo offer ways to realize the value within each digital asset, with features that allow users to combine and repurpose content for maximum ROI.

A quick intro to modular content management

Aprimo takes a tiered approach to content features, also known as the modular content approach. Using modular methods, marketers assemble pre-approved, individual assets into groupings. These sets can be used across websites, social media, or in online and print materials such as white papers to deliver unique experiences without reinventing the wheel. 

Aprimo divides its content into three tiered categories:

Content blocks: Single, pre-approved assets for use in a campaign. This could be individual files (such as an image or a piece of text) or small content components (for instance, an image with included text in a brand-compliant font).

Content sets: Pre-approved content blocks that can be used together across multiple channels, to deliver an on-brand experience without needing to create similar assets for use in individual channels. 

Content experiences: Content sets as they are experienced “at the glass”—meaning on a website, mobile device, kiosk, etc. Customers may encounter separate but content experiences. 

For example, a customer may encounter a shopping website. Later through retargeting, the customer may encounter an experience featuring the same products delivered via Facebook ad or sponsored post. 

Likewise, digital asset management systems, content management systems, and content marketing platforms deliver different experiences and serve different purposes. DAM offers the most flexible and granular options for searching, creating, remixing, and delivering content in unique but consistent experiences. 

Modular content in action

To understand how modular content operates in the real world, lets look at the example of an online clothing brand. Clothing marketing requires a multimedia approach relying on visual, video, textual, and product-based content to sell products. Each component (an image, an item description, and product-specific info like specifications, sizes, and SKUs) is a separate content block made up of pre-approved, on-brand assets. 

The marketer can mix and match these assets together in different ways across channels in order to deliver the message most effectively where the customer is reading. This mix of content is called a content set. Multiple content sets may appear in different touchpoints across the digital landscape.

When the customer encounters these combined assets out in the world—on a website, in a retargeted ad, or on a social media page—these assets are used in similar but customized ways depending on where the customer is viewing them. These are called content experiences. These different touchpoints across channels help convert views to sales. 

Types of content management systems

While many sources use the terms “digital assets” and “content” interchangeably, there are important differences between these two concepts. 

To start, let’s define each of these terms before we compare and contrast them.

Digital asset management (DAM) 

A DAM is a sophisticated asset management platform used internally to manage all the assets a company uses to create communications. Aprimo DAM is a powerful, modern digital asset management platform that’s useful for managing content lifecycles for various digital assets: 

  • Marketing materials
  • Video and image files
  • Advertising content
  • Sales content
  • Customer service resources
  • Content marketing materials (blog posts, PDFs, etc.)
  • Templates

A DAM uses taxonomy and classifications to create a searchable, centralized repository of assets. Modern DAM platforms also offer other vital functionalities:

  • Workflows and approval automation
  • Dynamic, searchable files
  • Centralized collaboration and iteration
  • Versioning control
  • Delivery features (for example, brand portals)
  • Digital rights management (DRM) features

Content management system (CMS)

A content management system—also called a web content management system or WCMS—helps users to build, modify, and manage web pages without the need for web development and technical expertise. Popular CMS platforms include Optimizely, Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, and Contentful.

CMS software simplifies the front-end website creation process by creating a simple user interface and repository for web-based content. 

With a CMS framework, anyone can create pages, store images, text, and video, and build the look and feel aspects of the site. Some systems allow for small modules of code in HTML or CSS. They may also allow the user to safely access and modify on-page elements like meta info or alt-tags.

Similarly, some content management systems help companies organize and deliver internal documents to users. These document management tools allow authorized users to retrieve docs, PDFs, and other types of files for viewing and editing. 

The CMS accomplishes this by using two sub-systems: 

  • Content management application (CMA) lets users manage, modify, and edit website content.
  • Content delivery application (CDA) provides the back-end program that delivers the content to the page, stores it, and presents it correctly to website visitors.

Content marketing platform (CMP)

A content marketing platform helps marketing teams plan, create, and deliver omnichannel marketing campaigns to drive engagement and lead generation. 

Using a CMS, marketers execute their campaigns step by step:

  • Create a piece of content for delivery on social media, email, and the web
  • Get approvals for planned activities like publication and ad spend
  • Schedule content publication and editorial calendars
  • Deliver content and campaigns to their marketing channels
  • Measure performance metrics for each content piece
  • Get engagement information like demographics, location, and platform 
  • Create forms and landing pages for lead generation
  • Publish to content aggregation sites and external channels

Some examples of content management platforms are Contently, Hubspot CMS, SEMRush, and Buffer

CMS vs. CMP: What’s the difference? 

A content management system and content marketing platform both allow non-technical and non-creative users to access, modify, and deliver content. 

  • A CMS has a user-friendly interface, which helps non-technical users create websites with available content and digital assets. It incorporates a repository of content and a framework that displays content accurately for website viewers.
  • A CMP helps marketers distribute content across multiple external platforms and channels, measure the success of their marketing efforts, and draw audience attention for lead generation.

Where a CMS is used for creating websites specifically, while a CMP is for the distribution of marketing content. It’s important to note that, as DAM and the Marketing Resource Management (MRM) providers gain momentum, the landscape is evolving away from CMP as a standalone solution category. When considering the future of your content management approach, CMS will be the likely winner in this matchup.

DAM vs. CMS: What’s the difference?

While a CMS and a DAM both handle digital assets, the use case for these two systems is very different.

A CMS is meant to empower end-users building websites who do not have coding experience:

  • A CMS manages content and experience on a website. It helps non-technical website creators deliver a high-quality web experience to visitors. 
  • The content management in a CMS is limited to the assets used to build the website.  

A DAM, by contrast, benefits both technical and creative users as well as internal and external stakeholders: 

  • A DAM centralizes all assets for every internal and external application. 
  • DAM platforms facilitate the creation, approval, distribution, and governance of every type of digital asset.
  • Modern DAM platforms also create parameters for user access, acceptable use, and external distribution to stakeholders (for instance, outside agencies, resellers, etc.).

Both CMS and CMP share some elements of a DAM system. DAM and CMS are often used together to optimize operations. However, digital asset management is a far more comprehensive tool meant for creatives and digital marketers to control and manage the end-to-end content creation and distribution process. 

Why CMS-agnostic DAM makes sense for content management

Organizations need to streamline and modernize their asset management processes across all channels. A DAM goes beyond website management to deliver governance and access for every asset in your organization’s portfolio. 

To recap, here are the ways a DAM assists your organization:

  • Aids content creators and marketers in optimizing the content creation process
  • Helps teams deliver immersive digital experiences and messaging for customers
  • Ensures marketers take advantage of the entire asset portfolio to create better campaigns faster 
  • Allows fast-paced organizations to scale their content operations easily

The benefits of CMS-agnostic DAM

Content management depends on fast and seamless cooperation between best-in-class systems. Using a composable content operations approach allows you to take these top-tier microservices and put them to work in your tech stack to drive results. 

With a powerful DAM as the core of a composable content operations structure, teams deliver customer experiences more effectively while using the best tools available.

If your organization requires end-to-end management for valuable digital assets, consider the Aprimo DAM system. For more information on scaling and streamlining content development, check out The Ultimate Guide to Scaling Content Operations.

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