Are You a Digital Alien, Digital Immigrant, or Digital Native? … Marketing to the Digital WHO

Becoming Digitally Competitive

Every executive acknowledges the digital revolution. They passively explore and search, observe and download. But what are they actively doing about planning, strategizing and implementing digital programs to remain competitive?

In fact a Digital Divide is growing between what executives say and what they ”do digitally.”  eMarketer reports that 78% of U.S. executives think that a social business strategy is important to future business success, but only 27% deem it a top priority.

How do we reach these executives (some 50% stuck in this divide)  to guide them to become digitally competitive?

The Digital Who

First question Who are the “Digital Who”?

With regard to the digital space, all executives, managers, and junior professionals have one thing in common; they are all Digital Explorers -using digital tools to navigate their world. On the other hand, they are not monolithic.   Some are challenged to adopt the new mindset and learn new skill sets, and while others struggle to develop engaging and integrated strategies. They differ in the following ways:

  • Comfort or resistance to new technologies
  • Venues to approach them
  • Relationship and interactivity with social tools

The growth of the digital revolution suggests “The Who” expanded from two segments (Digital Natives and Immigrants) to four distinctively different segments in terms of culture, digital mindsets, and  technical skill sets and usage.

  • Digital Natives
  • Digital Immigrants
  • Digital Aliens
  • Digital Integrators

By understanding each segment, we can better address their needs and how to develop a collaborative organization to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the digital world.

Digital Natives born digital, think social, need to implement strategic

Digital Natives are called by many names –Millennials and Gen Y. They are approximately ages 10- 29 years and born into the digital age. The internet is their default and comfort level in terms of playing games, doing homework, searching for events/ information/products , and sending messages. Quick response, flexibility and openness to change are their standard. They use it to communicate (texting, social networks). The Natives are the fabric of the social web; they live here, using these tools for social communication. This is their natural habitat; they use digital and think about it as a social tool.  They need to be guided to: understand how this skill set integrates into a business strategy; adapt their social use of Facebook, etc. to a strategic marketing tool; and monitor and evaluate the use of these tools. They will grow to become Digital Integrators.

Digital Immigrants think strategic, need to implement digital

Digital Immigrants are approximately ages 30-60 years and are the early and late adopters of the Web2.0 technologies. Most Immigrants were born “before the existence of digital technology and adopted it to some extent later in their life.” They were brought up with a variety of computer technologies, used them in different contexts and have varied levels of experience with social media. By necessity they have accepted the realities of the digital revolution and are scurrying to understand their role and learn the basics. For the most part these business people think in silos; they see marketing as separate tools that can be added to the marketing mix— advertising (e.g., print, TV , radio), direct mail, websites,  outdoor and now social and mobile media. They use social media as an add-on to their current market efforts. They dabble, try out the newest app, struggle and search for answers and understanding. They need to be guided to develop a digital mindset,  refine their experience in 1-2 social tools and integrate these tools into their business strategy.

Digital Aliens think strategic, need to experience digital value.

Digital Aliens are approximately ages 45-70 years and are the late adopters and laggards of the Web2.0 technologies. They are C-suite, senior executives, and owners that minimally interface with the digital world (e.g., email, texting, searching) and are unaware of the digital opportunities.  They have a basic skill set with computers and internet and are slow to change and adapt.  They stereotype social media as “kids play” or “ just social  chatter” and challenge if the digital revolution will last. Most see it as a passing fad; at best it will have a marginal impact on their bottom line.

Often, Digital Aliens block adoption of social media efforts. Some Aliens are forced to adapt their strategies in face of growing pressure and success of their competitors. They rush to “hire a digital presence” or “add Facebook” without the commitment or knowledge to make it a company-wide reality. If the campaign fails to produce the expected results, as many do, they blame the media.

Aliens depend on their team to manage their company’s presence in the digital environment.  Most often, they are resistant, fearful and overwhelmed by the digital challenges and question its long term value.  At the same time, they acknowledge the current impact of social media but do not make it a strategic priority for the organization.  They think strategically but need to: experience the value a digital strategy; think in a digital paradigm; and make a commitment to step-by-step implementation of a Digital Marketing Strategy.

Digital Integrators live digital, innovate strategic, need to integrate

Digital Integrators are approximately ages 25-60 years and are the innovators and early adopters of the Web2.0 technologies.  Some were “Digital Natives,” while other were “Digital Immigrants.” Many are consultants, designers, journalists, and marketing executives.  They live the Digital World — experimenting, testing, sharing and implementing new social technologies and evolving their digital knowledge and presence. They are strategists designing applications across silos and integrating them with current marketing efforts. They focus on customer engagement and developing sustaining relationships. They guide Natives, Immigrants, and Aliens to develop a digital mindset and implement a strategy. They understand the value of digital technology and use it to seek out opportunities to make an impact. They live digital, innovate strategically and integrate technologies.

The following matrix is designed to provide executives, trainers, with a way to assess a company’s digital position.

Digital Positioning Matrix


Does your company target and achieve the digital results noted in the lower right corner (red box)? These are the results of a digitally competitive and innovative organization. It is not enough to acknowledge the need and “get a Facebook page“ or “broadcast your messages on Twitter”.

The question for your executive team— Is your organization or business ready to travel the road to becoming digitally competitive?

If so, it requires:

1. Executive training to understand the value of digital marketing and to know the right questions to ask
2. Senior level commitment
3. Change in organizational mindset
4. Support for the integration of digital strategies into the marketing effort

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