DAM vs CMS: How to know which to pick

Amy Burchill
minute read
Written By
Amy Burchill
August 11, 2022

Digital asset management or a content management system?

Oof, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? But it’s something that we’re sure you’ve been wondering about. After all, if you own a small business or do the marketing for it, there comes a point when you’ll need at least one one to deploy content and grow your brand.

I’ve worked with both systems and can assure you that they're equally as valuable. Each serves different purposes, yet can work in perfect harmony with each other. 🧘‍♀️

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s dive in and discover the difference between CMS and DAM, before taking a look at how they can work together.

DAM vs CMS: What are the differences?

Quite simply, DAM and CMS tools have different purposes. DAM is used for storing, organising and deploying your visual content and CMS is used to deliver that content to your website.
To really understand the differences, let’s take a look at the definitions of each. 👇

What’s digital asset management?

Digital asset management (short for DAM) is a software tool that you can use to organise, manage and share all of your visual content. Think: product images, podcast audio files, different variations of your logo, video clips for YouTube - the list goes on.

A good DAM tool (like ours, 😇) helps you claw back the time you probably spend searching for all those visuals on Dropbox, Google Drive, or your own network drives. It provides one, centralised location for all of your important content that helps build your marketing campaigns. This means you’ll save time on searching and you can get back to your awesome content creation.

If you want to delve into all the different things you can do with a DAM, check out my blog post: what is digital asset management?

What’s a CMS?

CMS means content management system. Where things get confusing is that both DAM and CMS are used to deliver ‘content’ to your channels. But CMS specifically helps people build websites without the need for complicated coding.

See, CMS and DAM are quite different after all.

Think about your website now. Have you brought in an agency to help you build your website from scratch? Perhaps you’re having a nightmare trying to update anything because you’re not a developer. Fear not. That’s exactly what a CMS is here to solve.

Some CMS tools you’ll probably be familiar with include:

WordPress - one of the most popular CMS tools, it powers around 43% of websites. You can set one up for free and use a tonne of different templates, plugins and more. Many brands also connect up with WooCommerce for the ultimate ecommerce CMS experience.

HubSpot - not only can you build a website, but you can connect with your customers, collaborate with your sales team and take advantage of a range of analytics tools. It’s great for growing brands and even has an academy where you can learn to make the best use of your CMS.

Drupal - similar to WordPress, you can set up a Drupal CMS for free. You also have the ability to set up different levels of permissions and access controls.

Shopify - for brands that sell stuff online, Shopify is a user-friendly and simple commerce platform that enables you to push your products out into the world. You can publish blogs, analyse sales and connect up with lots of different apps.

Here at Dash, we use the HubSpot CMS to manage and update the content on our website. It’s where we go to build landing pages, create new blog posts (like this) and monitor website traffic. Of course, we use other tools as well to monitor and deliver our campaigns, but this is the CMS we use to manage our website.

HubSpot CMS

Here's a screenshot of this post in the HubSpot blog editor ✨

And, it’s important to note that we do use a web agency to help us with any custom coding, but it’s certainly a great starting point for any brand that needs to push content out into the wild wild web.

DAM vs CMS: which one’s better for image and video content?

This one is easy — digital asset management.

That’s because a DAM has been purposefully built to store your images and videos. Everything from the advanced search functionality to the way your visuals are presented has been designed to make your content super-easy to find.

For example, a good DAM (like Dash) won’t just show your images as generic thumbnails which requires you to open each one before you find the one you’re looking for. Instead, everything is presented in a way that puts your visuals front and centre. What’s more, you can search for a keyword like ‘cactus’ and you’ll see all results containing that word.

Search for images using keywords in Dash

In a CMS tool like Hubspot, on the other hand, you get a list of tiny thumbnails which don’t really do your images justice.

HubSpot isn't ideal for managing image and video files

You’ll have to know the exact name of the file you're looking for or spend time scrolling through until you spot the one you’re after.

DAM vs CMS: which one’s best for my teams?

In all honesty, a CMS and a DAM will be used by most, if not all, of your teams. Both are equally important. Take these examples below:

Marketing teams

Marketing teams will likely get the most use out of a DAM and CMS. They’re the ones that’ll need to upload new marketing material to the website (CMS) and oversee the distribution of content. They’ll also use DAM to upload, share and deploy a wide range of digital content like images, videos and graphics to the CMS and other marketing campaigns.

Brand managers

Brand managers can use a digital asset management system to store brand guidelines, logo variations and font files. Dash even integrates with Corebook, an interactive brand book that can be updated on the fly. (Say bye to PDFs!) They’ll then use the CMS to update logos and brand copy, or manage the ‘Culture’ section of the company site.


Design teams work with all types of creative files. From PNGs and JPGs to SVGs and AI, having everything in a DAM means people can access the correct file types for the job. What’s more, if your designer updates a graphic, anyone who downloaded the original asset will get notified that a new one is available. DAM tools, like Dash, can also help with creative workflows - like uploading fresh design assets ready for approval. Then, just like the brand team, they can upload any new graphics to the website.

Sales teams

Sales teams often need access to product images. Take one of our customers, Brook Taverner. Having all the latest product images in Dash means their account managers can quickly create different looks (like a lookbook) to send to customers. Not only does this mean the team spends less time searching for the right images, but it provides a great customer experience too. No more email attachments or clunky file servers (like Dropbox 😇) for them to trawl through. ✨

When it comes to a CMS, a tool like Hubspot can also be used to track new deals and customer communications.

How can DAM and CMS work together?

You came to this post wondering which was the better tool for your team. In short, the answer is: both! If you think of a CMS as a tool to build your website, then a DAM serves your visual content to that website.

So, how can you make CMS and DAM work together?

Agree that CMS is not a DAM

First off, it’s important to know that these two are not the same things. As we've mentioned, both tools serve very different functions. A content management system is not equipped to store your visual content in a way that’s effective to your team. Take our HubSpot example. We can upload our brand images and logos into the system, but there’s no easy way to search, sort or share those images. We upload files purely to host them on our website, landing pages and within our blog posts.

Integrate both together

A typical way to make a DAM work with a CMS is to integrate the two. When you purchase a digital asset management solution, you’ll see there will be options to integrate it with your content management system. This means you’ll be able to select your brand’s images and videos directly from the DAM and pop them into your blog post.

In Dash, for example, you can integrate with WordPress via the Zapier plug-in. No need to faff around downloading and uploading images, saving them onto your desktop, renaming them, optimising them for the web… I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

A DAM will cut out all of those bottlenecks. 🙌

Embed images

Even if your CMS doesn’t currently offer a DAM integration, you can still embed images into your blogs and web pages.

If you take Dash as an example, you can take any image from the DAM and generate an embeddable link. (Check out our nifty gif below 👇)

Generate embeddable links in Dash

You can then pop that into your blog post using the ‘insert’ button. 👌

Should I get a DAM or CMS first? 

If you’re still wondering whether you should purchase a DAM or a CMS first, then really… you need both! If you need a tool to manage your website, a CMS should be your first port of call. But you’ll soon need a DAM if you’re using creating of visual content for your site, social media and other channels.

However, if you’ve been wondering whether to ditch your CMS for a DAM, then I hope you’ve now discovered how the two tools can work together. To try a DAM for free 🤩 you can take out a 14-day trial with Dash (that’s us!) with absolutely no strings attached. Just head to the form below. 👇

Amy Burchill

Amy Burchill is the SEO and Content Manager for Dash. She works with ecommerce experts to create articles for DTC brands wanting to improve their campaigns.

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Amy Burchill

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