In the early years of Brand ManageCamp, one of our speakers was Barry Schwartz who wrote “The Paradox of Choice.” It is a great read with the main gist being – the more choices for customers to make, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied with those choices. Key examples Barry used in the consumer world were the Toothpaste aisle and the Cold/Flu aisle in the supermarket.

Which brings me to Marketing Technology (MarTech) solutions. There are now over 5,000 MarTech solutions on the market – with more popping up daily. MarTech has become the marketer’s Toothpaste aisle. With software for SEO, mobile marketing, content marketing, events, social media, e-commerce, marketing automation, asset and resource management, big data, email marketing and more, it can be difficult to figure out the right MarTech stack for your organization. And, with what we know from Barry Schwartz, no matter what you choose you are likely to be left wondering if you could have chosen better.

So what is a brand marketer to do? How can we wade through the forest of MarTech possibilities and find the ones right for us? The first step is to take a step back and examine the different segments of MarTech so that we can narrow the choices and find the ones that can make the biggest impact for our brands and our organizations.

From a strategic level, there are a few technology solutions that we, as brand marketers, should pay particular attention to. Often, people refer to these interchangeably.However, each is built for a different purpose with a different user in mind, and therefore has a completely different set of features. The main segments to understand are the Marketing Automation System, The Digital Asset Management (DAM) System and the Marketing Resource Management (MRM) System.

Let’s take a look at some of the differences.

Marketing Automation Systems

Marketing automation software has really become a must-have for companies to maintain their digital presence. The marketing automation giants (HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot) include all the functionality that a savvy marketer needs to execute, analyze, and test their campaigns. It can include the management of email, landing pages, blogs, social media, websites and more.  They’re also often able to integrate with other software systems to make one powerful automation system.

The primary user of a marketing automation system is a marketer who is running campaigns for a single-location organization or managing the overall corporate brand presence of a distributed marketing network, such as a franchise or a sales network.

The Distributed Marketing Network, though, has much different needs and goals than the corporate marketers, and therefore, needs a technology solution that will provide them with the marketing they need, over and above the Marketing Automation System. Distributed Marketing refers to the process of creating templated marketing materials that can be customized at the local level to create specialized messages that can be automatically delivered to customers.

Distributed Marketing Networks can typically benefit from products over and above basic Marketing Automation Systems. This is where DAM (Digital Asset Management) and MRM (Marketing Resource Management) systems come into play.

Often, the end users of a DAM or MRM system are not actually marketers. However, by utilizing these systems, they are able to access the marketing materials they need. In addition to managing the marketing automation system, the corporate marketing team manages DAM and MRM systems to ensure that the right materials are being distributed.

Digital Asset Management

A DAM system is a valuable tool for organizing, storing, retrieving and managing digital assets such as photos, music, videos, podcasts, or other multimedia content. A couple systems that come to mind are Widen, WebDAM and Workfront. After a corporate marketing team uploads, updates or removes content, as needed, a franchise, sales agent, or distributor (let’s call them “end users”) can then easily login and access video, graphics, photos, brand assets and more. It is a tool for making sure the most current sales and marketing assets are available to your team.

Because it is purely digital in nature, however, it can be somewhat limiting for companies who have integrated multi-channel campaigns. What happens if you need to print that collateral, execute a direct mail campaign or customize and personalize brand compliant marketing for the local store or market?  This is where a MRM system is useful.

Marketing Resource Management

Like a DAM, a MRM system provides a central repository of marketing-related resources.  However, this solution takes DAM one step further by providing additional outputs and a more robust feature set to support those outputs.

For example, in a DAM, an end user can download a pre-designed static piece of collateral to either use digitally or take to their local print stop. With an MRM, that end user could access the same download or have the ability to edit a template of it. With an editable template, the user can customize it with their contact information, photos, content, order a mailing list and place an order that triggers an automatic workflow delivering the final product direct to the end user or consumer with no additional vendor management or coordination.

With an MRM system, end users are able to access and create what they need, when they need it, all while adhering to locked down corporate brand standards and maximizing their local marketing efforts. The ability for users to customize templates within the brand standards eliminates the back and forth between the corporate marketing teams and the distributed marketing network with regard to design requests, proofing and approvals. These repetitive efforts take valuable time away from corporate marketing’s ability to focus on more pressing marketing initiatives.

Of course, providing end users free reign to customize collateral could be detrimental to your brand, so there are additional measures in place to ensure compliance such as locked elements and forced formatting in the templates and approval requirements once a piece has been submitted and before it can be released to print, download or mail.

While DAM and MRM have slightly different purposes, they work extremely well together when integrated. Customization of a template with images and metadata from a DAM system allows assets to be shared across the platforms and used in both digital and offline marketing efforts. Some MRM systems have a limited built-in DAM while others provide integration capabilities allowing an organization to choose the DAM that best suits their needs.

Customized templates and DAMs are just one aspect of MRMs, however. Additional components may include budget/co-op management, brand definition management, social media, and data management or storage.

As mentioned before, all three of the systems mentioned here are managed by a corporate marketing team, but the purpose of each is quite different, depending on the distributed marketing network and the marketing objectives. In cases where you need to distribute marketing materials to other team members or affiliates, you may need to add to your marketing technology stack.

Do I need a DAM or MRM?

To see if your organization could benefit from a DAM or MRM, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you distribute marketing materials across several departments, locations, or networks?
  • Do you have trouble consistently representing your brand among all your locations, networks, and channels?

If you said “yes,” to either of these, your organization may be a good candidate for a marketing resource management system or digital asset management system. Additionally, if you answer, “yes,” to any of the next three questions, it may signal a need for MRM over a DAM.

  • Do you need more graphic designers or marketers to support custom requests from end users?
  • Do you (or your end users) need to customize marketing materials to make them more relevant to the consumer?
  • Do you have a need to print collateral, point of sale (wide format) graphics or direct mail?

When it comes to purchasing an MRM system, there aren’t a handful of systems that dominate the market (unlike marketing automation software and DAM systems). Rather, there are many options, and they vary widely based on usability, features, and price, so it’s important to do your research. Know what you need in a system and how the vendor and system delivers the functionality necessary to address those needs.

There you have it. If you’re a corporate marketer, you are likely working within a marketing automation system already to manage your overall digital presence. However, if your job entails sharing assets or collateral with a distributed marketing network, then you’ll also need to look at a DAM or MRM system or integrating both of these systems with your existing MarTech. Which you choose will be up to your organization’s goals, the end users and the type of campaigns that you’re looking to execute. But understanding the capabilities of the different systems and your needs upfront will go a long way towards helping you navigate through this Toothpaste aisle.