DAM vs. CMS: Complementary or Competitors?

As a marketer, you’re probably familiar with Scott Brinker’s insanely overwhelming Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. With thousands of new martech solutions coming to the market each year, choosing between seemingly similar products can quickly get confusing.

Two types of solutions that may be hard to differentiate between are content management systems (CMS) and digital asset management (DAM) solutions. Although they both help your organization manage content, their use cases differ. Both solutions play different roles and perform different functions—but all for a common goal.

The question is, are these two systems complementary or competitors? Learning the difference between DAM vs. CMS is crucial to using both to optimize your content ops strategy. Here’s what you need to know about these separate software solutions and how they can work together to streamline your workflows.

Defining DAM and CMS

Digital asset management systems and content management systems are both invaluable software tools designed to help teams stay organized, improve brand consistency, and streamline workflows. Although similar, DAM and CMS are not interchangeable. One platform optimizes website content, while the other keeps all types of digital assets secure and organized.

Before exploring the differences between these two systems, let’s break down their individual benefits and features.

What Is Digital Asset Management?

Digital asset management is the act of storing and organizing digital media. That might include files, marketing content, blogs, videos, photos, and more. In short, if it belongs to your company, it needs to be securely managed.

Companies have been managing digital assets since the start of the digital era. Before the advent of DAM systems, that process involved multiple storage locations and collaboration tools, leading to miscommunications, data leaks, and inefficient workflows.

A digital asset management system makes the entire DAM process easier. DAM solutions allow many different users to store all their digital files and media assets in a single location. This reduces errors and security risks while making collaboration simpler. Some key features of the best DAM systems include:

  • A digital asset library that stores media assets in all forms
  • User-friendly search and retrieval tools
  • Version control and history tracking to limit copies
  • Security features, including internal and external access permissions
  • Integrations with other software tools

The benefits of digital asset management aren’t limited to a single department. With an entire library of assets that can be used to create web, mobile, social, and print experiences all in one location, teams across your company can easily create, manage, and deliver the content they need to power their omnichannel brand experiences.

What Is Content Management?

In this context, content management refers to website content. That includes customer-facing content like text and photos and backend content like web code. Content management systems facilitate website creation and management without the need for an experienced coder.

A CMS allows users to easily create, edit, and publish content for web experiences. With a CMS, you don’t need to have intensive technical expertise. Most offer intuitive, user-friendly interfaces so users can easily customize their sites’ design and format, even with limited web design knowledge. WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix are all examples of popular CMS tools used by businesses of all sizes and industries.

Some key features of the best CMS solutions include:

  • Intuitive controls for writing, editing, and uploading content
  • Indexing and organizational tools
  • Access control for remote collaboration
  • Templates and formatting tools to maintain brand consistency
  • Extensive customization features

Content management systems have varying features and pricing options. While some offer limited features and are perfect for a small or single-person business, others are used by large-scale enterprises to manage multiple websites and blogs.

DAM vs. CMS: How Are They Different?

Content management is not the same thing as digital asset management. Although these two systems have some overlap—i.e., they both help teams organize and collaborate on digital content—they serve different purposes within a business.

As stated in the definition of digital asset management above, DAM systems offer a central repository, or digital asset library, to store all kinds of assets. DAM is ideal for any team struggling to track their digital files and needing a better platform to collaborate, search for files, and improve content operations.

CMS, on the other hand, is a tool for managing and posting website content. A CMS will benefit any team seeking to manage its own website and post content without serious coding know-how.

Here are a few more key differences that set DAM and CMS apart:

Departmental Use

Marketing, commerce, and creative teams will get the most use out of a CMS, but a DAM solution is leveraged broadly across internal and external teams. Partners and stakeholders can also access files stored in a DAM library through public links.

File Volume

DAM systems are designed for large-scale, company-wide asset storage. The best DAM platforms offer unlimited scaling so you can continue adding users and content as your business grows. Conversely, CMS systems are restricted to web content management. They often have limited storage and are best used for managing a few dozen files at a time.

Intended Results

The primary purpose of a CMS is to publish and maintain an on-brand website. CMS tools can also support other public-facing media operations, such as social media accounts and blog posts. Implementing a DAM system, on the other hand, can help expedite workflows and optimize assets across teams.

DAM & CMS: Complementary Systems

You may be wondering, “Is it better to invest in a DAM system or a CMS?” The correct answer might be “both.” DAM and CMS are complementary solutions. They may seem interchangeable on the surface, but your team will deliver better results when these two systems work together.

Although both DAM and CMS share a common goal of orchestrating and delivering rich brand experiences, a CMS alone can’t always guarantee those results. CMS solutions are limited and primarily focused on downstream deliverables.

To ensure you’re creating optimal web experiences for your customers, you need to automate and connect upstream activities like content planning, creation, management, and overall content return on investment (ROI). CMS and DAM together can do exactly that.

In other words, you don’t have to choose. These two invaluable tools are designed to integrate and work together for the best results.

Integrating DAM and CMS

If you already have a CMS and want to improve your digital asset management strategy, it’s time to integrate a DAM system. Look for DAM platforms that connect with the tools you already use.

For example, if your team uses Salesforce to manage your website and online sales, find a DAM system that integrates with Salesforce. That way, you can easily connect the two platforms, transfer content from the DAM library to your CMS, record website data in your DAM system, and more.

Integrating DAM and CMS is easy as long as the two platforms are compatible. It also won’t compromise your assets’ security. The best DAM platforms offer advanced controls to limit access from the CMS. So, if an external agent uses the CMS to manage website content, they can only access approved files within the DAM system.

Benefits of DAM and CMS Integration

Integrating a best-in-class DAM solution with your CMS offers countless benefits. A DAM’s primary purpose is to reduce errors and make workflows more efficient—when connected with a great CMS, those goals are even more achievable.

Some notable benefits of DAM and CMS integration include:

  • Enhanced brand consistency: Never worry about creating inconsistent brand experiences by ensuring you can’t use out-of-date, off-brand, or non-compliant content on your sites.
  • Increased productivity: Users can easily search, find, and leverage DAM assets directly within the CMS instead of wasting time searching multiple locations.
  • Optimized collaboration: Updates made to assets in the DAM are automatically reflected in the CMS so that you and the teams you work with always access the most recent, on-brand versions of assets.
  • Improved accessibility: When working with external contractors or agencies, you can easily grant access to approved files within your DAM library. This ensures the correct versions are always used and helps the contractor finish their job faster.
  • Expanded storage: File storage within a CMS is limited. When you integrate a DAM system, you get expansive storage for all file types, eliminating the need for hardware storage and the hassle of constantly uploading and deleting files in the CMS.
  • Improved compliance: If your digital content must meet strict compliance standards, such as banking or healthcare content, integrating DAM and CMS can help improve compliance so that only approved content is uploaded to your website or social media.
  • Content reuse: DAM makes it easy to reuse content within your CMS. Reposting content across multiple platforms or editing and reusing older content in your DAM library is a great way to boost your ROI.

The benefits of DAM and CMS integration aren’t exclusive to creative teams. Other teams within your organization will also enjoy a smoother workflow with fewer miscommunications—when teams can easily collaborate, the entire business benefits.

Case Studies of Successful DAM and CMS Integration

DAM solutions are scalable, meaning they’re great for businesses of all sizes and can meet any team’s unique content needs. Here are two case studies of notable organizations that benefitted from DAM and CMS integration.

National Park Foundation

The National Park Foundation (NPF) relied on a consistent media presence to secure donations. But without a centralized storage solution, NPF’s creative content was stored in emails and various folders and hard drives, leading to version control issues and collaboration roadblocks.

After integrating their CMS with an Aprimo DAM solution, the NPF team could easily pull content and metadata from their shared DAM library. This helped to streamline the content creation process and facilitate faster, smoother website and social media management.

SOS Children’s Village

SOS Children’s Village, an Austrian non-governmental organization (NGO), stored its digital content across various apps and databases. Creative team members relied on manual processes to edit, retrieve, and post content for the organization’s fundraising efforts.

By implementing a custom DAM solution, the team can automate their workflows without sacrificing the apps they’re familiar with. Their DAM solution is integrated with most of the tools they already use, including an app team members can use to upload content to the shared library from their personal devices.

DAM and CMS Are Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

DAM systems and CMS solutions aren’t competitors. Alone, neither can fully accomplish their shared goals of boosting productivity and orchestrating rich brand experiences. But together, they can help you unleash the power of your content so you can deliver the personalized content experiences your customers expect.

If you’re looking for the best DAM solution to integrate with your CMS or another tool your team uses every day, get started with Aprimo today.


What is a digital asset management system?

DAM (digital asset management) is the process of storing and organizing digital media. DAM systems provide a centralized library for secure asset storage and additional features to streamline workflows, including automation tools and brand personalization.

Is a CMS or DAM system better for content management?

Both CMS and DAM solutions help teams manage their digital content. However, CMS tools deal primarily with web content and offer limited storage, while DAM systems support all kinds of digital files and are designed for long-term scalability. Neither platform is necessarily better for content management—ideally, teams should use both tools to optimize content operations.

Which CMS best integrates with DAM?

The best digital asset management software offers a wide range of integrations. WordPress, Salesforce, Contentful, and Vimeo are all examples of CMS and digital experience tools that integrate with Aprimo DAM solutions.

Do you need a DAM system and CMS?

Integrating DAM and CMS is one of the best ways to optimize your content ops. However, every business has different needs. Some small and single-person companies can get away with using a CMS alone. Enterprise DAM software can also replace a CMS for some organizations with a limited media presence.

However, most businesses will benefit from integrating CMS and DAM software. Talk to a representative of your DAM platform to find the best solution for your team.

Aprimo DAM and CMS Integrations

Explore the Aprimo Marketplace to learn about all of our CMS integration options.

Adobe Experience Manager | Optimizely (Episerver) | Sitecore Connectors

And no worries if you’re not an Adobe, Optimizely, or Sitecore customer. With Aprimo Connect, Aprimo can integrate into many other solutions so you can start delivering exceptional customer experiences right away.

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