What is the Third Wave of DAM?

September 29, 2023
What is the Third Wave of DAM?

We’re entering the Third Wave of DAM, but the odds are you don’t have a Third Wave DAM yet. Though digital asset management is still growing and evolving, digital asset management systems from the first two waves are still out there and far more common than systems that can be considered Third Wave.

This post will help you identify which wave of DAM your system is on, as well as describe what makes the Third Wave of DAM so different and exciting.

First Wave of DAM: Simple asset repository

When did the wave start?  

Who uses this type of DAM?  Photographers, media creators, archivists
What is it designed for?  Centralized library of images and other media 

Creates silos, difficult to connect to outside systems, cannot always produce detailed connections between assets

In the beginning, a digital asset management system was a simple way of cataloging your photos. While other media and brand assets might make their way into the system, this photo repository use case was the primary reason for purchasing a DAM. 

At first, the software had a very limited skill set that made it most useful to photographers, media creators, and archivists. As DAM developed, these types of systems added some features for brand management, to appeal to marketers as well. However, these First Wave systems couldn’t offer the power and organization needed by larger companies. 

While there are still First Wave DAMs around, they’re best for smaller personal or professional use cases.

Second Wave of DAM: Content Hub

When did the wave start?  

Who uses this type of DAM? 
Primarily marketing teams, though a number of other types of departments use it as well
What is it designed for? 
Collect content and assets and distribute them
Limited ability to transform assets, limited collaboration, may have difficulty connecting to outside systems, slow to make changes to the interface 

Digital marketing took off in the early part of the 2010s, and digital asset management had to evolve to keep up. 

Analytics, digital rights management, and more advanced integrations were added to make a DAM that was more of a content hub than an asset parking garage. Users expected assets to go into the DAM, yes, but they also had to come out again where and when needed. 

Second Wave DAMs could be used by smaller organizations, but they were also opening the way for enterprises that wanted more feature-rich solutions. Today, most of the current digital asset management systems can be categorized as Second Wave DAMs.

The difficulty comes in when organizations attempt to use the digital asset management software as a hub for more than content. Most Second Wave DAMs aren’t built for rapid change or with the API-first architecture that accommodates external distribution or a wide range of integrations. That’s where Third Wave DAMs come in.

Third Wave of DAM: The Content Engine

When did the wave start?  

Who uses this type of DAM? 
Enterprise-wide usage
What is it designed for? 
Act as a center for omnichannel marketing and customer experience
Relatively few DAMs have these capabilities yet

The newest wave of digital asset management goes beyond being a hub for content and has become a hub for workflows and targeted customer experience. Third Wave DAMs can handle omnichannel marketing, including asset transformation and targeted distribution. 

These systems go beyond the simple collaboration of Second Wave DAMs. They connect planning, processes, and assets within the same system, helping marketing resource management (MRM) and project management work together with asset management.

For example, the Los Angeles Philharmonic uses their Orange DAM system both as a project management system and as a media asset management system (MAM). Their digital asset management system allows the organization to connect musicians to their schedules and past performances, while giving video, marketing, and other teams access to the materials they need to promote and put on events for multiple venues throughout the year. All the departments fit together under one system, with a free flow of information throughout the organization-wide DAM.

In short, the Third Wave DAM offers a system that’s more interconnected, with a better flow of information. It’s also easier to use, with strong automation to cut back on repetitive tasks, and an intuitive interface that’s configurable without any coding.

Want to learn more?

Check out our white paper to learn more about the characteristics of a Third Wave DAM and get step-by-step actions you can take to evolve your asset management system into the next generation.