Digital evangelists, digital deniers and digital decathletes.

Digital evangelist - transparent angel statue against a backdrop of computer code

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Snapshot : As digital has taken an even greater hold on our lives this year, this week we reflect on the three types of “digital” people you’ll meet in any business. Digital evangelists, digital deniers and digital decathletes. We’ll cover why the first two create so many problems. And, how you can recognise the value of the digital decathlete. 

Digital technology has mattered this year

So, this year more than any other in recent memory, we’ve all relied on digital technology to get through our day to day lives. Video calls. Online messaging. A surge in e-Commerce sales

And for marketers, if marketing technology wasn’t already on their radar, then this year, it’s been front and centre of all our thinking. 

But pandemic or no pandemic, the underlying job of marketing remains the same. 

Reach consumers. Engage consumers. Sell to consumers. 

And with those consumers stuck at home, forbidden to go to busy enclosed spaces and mingle with others, digital and online is the way to deliver these marketing objectives. 

So, those marketers and businesses who’d already started building knowledge and capability about digital marketing and e-Commerce they already had a head start right? We should be seeing stellar examples of marketing and selling through digital from these guys in this most challenging of years, right?

Consumers spending more time online and on their social media feeds. Shoppers spending more online. All those lovely rivers of digital data to try and work out what your target audience searches for, reads, views and buys. 

Stellar examples of marketing and selling through digital?

And yet, here’s the thing.

If you look at what most businesses do online at the moment, really deeply analyse it like we often do, there’s a tremendous amount of bad digital marketing and e-Commerce out there. Poorly thought out and targeted. Cringe-worthy execution. And little to no chance of selling anything. 

We’ve looked at it this year with products in grocery and in experiences in travel for example. But to be honest, we could probably fill this column every week with bad examples of digital marketing.

Most businesses give it a go (good) but digital integration into their overall marketing plan is generally awful. And in our experience, that’s because there’s three types of digital people in most businesses There’s the digital evangelists, the digital deniers and the digital decathletes.

And only one of those actually knows what they are doing when it comes to the use of digital marketing to grow their business. 

Digital evangelists

So, first up, the digital evangelists. You know them, right?

They’re the ones who can’t shut up about digital. They’ve spent all their time working in digital. The world outside digital seems quaint and old-fashioned to them. 

Blah, blah, blah. If it’s got an e- or an i- in front of it, they are in. 

The loudest ones are mainly the “front end” people who are all about pasting new content. Here a cool image. There a witty piece of copy. They love to set up and work on social platforms and create content for websites.

And the quiet ones are the back-end people who like the data, the coding and do all the work on the marketing technology

But while you do need these skills to do digital, the lack of connection to the world outside digital creates a barrier to their effectiveness. And in particular, their dismissal of ideas that aren’t digital makes them come across as arrogant and superior.

And that matters. Because the world outside digital is important. That world outside digital is where real people live. And, real people see digital as a means to an end, not the end itself. 

Remember there’s a world outside digital

And this is where digital evangelists often shoot themselves in the foot. They forget that there’s still huge value in key marketing processes like market research and brand strategy. These processes work in the real world. And they’d work in the digital world, for those open minded enough to use them.

Without these processes, understanding what people want and having a clear idea on how your brand will deliver it, there’s a big risk of digital work for the sake of digital work. 

And that’s what makes up about 80% of the junk that clogs up your social feeds and your inbox. 

It’s important to take the time to understand consumers and what they need through market research. In digital, if you don’t, you risk your digital marketing activity not actually being for anyone. We’ve worked with many digital evangelists who’ve pushed big digital projects though, even though they’ve no actual defined target audience or research to back up the benefit.  

Added to that, the nuts and bolts marketing processes like segmentation, targeting and positioning and brand identity are often dismissed or seen as old hat by these digital evangelists. But, these processes have been proven to work. So, don’t throw them out because they don’t fit in with your narrow view of the world.

Learn about them and apply them into your digital marketing. Remember, you still need to understand consumers and what they need. 

There’s a great quote we saw recently, that technology changes, people don’t. And it’s people who buy things, not technology. People buy into brands and what they stand for. Your brand drives your business growth.

Digital is based on technology, but technology is only a tool. People still have emotions and psychological drivers.

Digital evangelists often get too caught up on the tool, and forget the people that it impacts. 

man with hand flat out in front of face

Digital deniers

At the opposite end of the digital spectrum are the digital deniers

And maybe deniers is too strong a term, but there are a lot of people in senior positions in business who would rather digital didn’t exist. Because, they didn’t grow up with it, don’t really understand it, and feel defensive when it tramples over their ingrained view of the world. 

This group are not exclusively age-based. There are loads of silver surfers out there for example. But, there is a certain type of person who reaches a certain age and finds that their view of the world has become quite fixed. They become close-minded. 

The things that got them to where they are in life didn’t include digital. So, they don’t see any benefit to learning new ways of doing things through digital. 

Digital is not for us

They’d rather bury their heads in the sand, shrug and say it’s not for them. 

You know some of them too, right? 

We’ve met many people in senior positions in companies who fit this description. You’d be surprised. These leadership seat warmers are trying to see out the end of their careers to retirement. They don’t have the inclination or energy to learn something new at this time of their life. At a push, they might go on LinkedIn because they can see the value of it for their profile, career and networking. 

But invest in search or social when they can spend money on TV ads?


And who say there’s no value in spending on data capture about customers, when they spend millions on traditional marketing activities that have no guarantee of success. There’s so much money spent to re-launch packaging, run sales promotions and launch new products. But try to invest in a CRM system to capture customer details? That’s a hard argument. 

It’s not just marketing

These are quite marketing-specific examples. But, you’ll find them in all sorts of functions in the business.

We remember having to explain to one CEO what Snapchat was. Another time, we had to show a CFO how to find the app store on his phone, because he’d never used it. And one CMO, we remember having to explain why it would take time, money and effort to get his brand at the top of the search rankings in his category.

We even had one senior R&D leader tell us she doesn’t bother having the internet at home, because she doesn’t feel like she needs it. 

To be honest, this might sound a little shocking. And though we haven’t named names, some readers who know us might be able to work out who some of these people are.

But, we know we can safely talk about this stuff here. Because, we put the word digital in the title of the article. And we know that means those digital deniers will never read this.  

Sprinter on their markets ready to go

Digital decathletes

So, if digital evangelists harm the cause because they are too devoted, and digital deniers harm the cause because they ignore it, who do you actually need to make sure digital does what it needs to for your business? 

In our experience, there’s a new and rare type of business person out there. One who’s learned enough skills across the many different types of skills you need to succeed in digital marketing. Someone who’s a general all-rounder. 

A digital decathlete if you like. 

Someone, who understands core marketing skills like market research and brand identity. But who is then able to write marketing plans that build the customer experience and cover key steps in the journey like digital media, websites and e-Commerce.

But, not only can these digital decathletes write the plan, they can work with agencies, IT people and do some of this digital work on their own to deliver all these activities. 

They understand and can use graphic design tools and marketing technology. They know how to write content for SEO and how to set up and run an e-Commerce store. 

And with all this, they also understand business and how it works. They can turn all these skills into activities that drive sales growth. They’re sometimes referred to as T-shaped profiles, who have wide knowledge across many areas, and deep knowledge of one specific area. 

But to us, they are digital decathletes. Because the combination of all their skills is what drives them and makes them valuable. They’re the ones you want to find and nurture if you want to grow your business through digital marketing

If you’d like to understand how to find and develop digital decathletes for your business, as always, contact us and set up an introductory consulting and coaching session. 

Photo credits

Angel : Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

Code : Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Sprint : Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Hand / Stop : Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

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