Blog Are you still talking about digitalization? Please stop.

Are you still talking about digitalization? Please stop.

If I got to choose one word to be eliminated from the collective vocabulary of every marketing professional everywhere, it would be ‘digitalization’. Here’s why.

If not for yourself, do it for the Millennials

Look, I don’t mean to come off as an entitled brat, but I’m 27 years old and all I have ever known about business was change. More specifically, the positive, opportunity-multiplying change brought on by technology.

And since I have no reason to believe that businesses will soon hit a wall with technological innovation, or that the so-called ‘digitalization’ or worse yet ‘digital transformation’ will ever truly be finished, I’m simply going to go ahead and accept that businesses are, have been, and always will be in a state of flux. And if I had to refer to the aforedescribed phenomenon with a single word, I’d rather choose ‘future’, ‘progress’ or ‘Susan’ than ‘digitalization’.

What does digitalization even mean?

I’m glad you asked! While Gartner defines ‘digitalization’ as “the use of digital technologies to change a business model”, Digitalist Network’s Ville Tolvanen describes it as “the development of culture, operations and services with the help of technology”. Yup. So basically, technology and change are the only two constants in a sea of variables. And if you ask me, that definition is far too broad to offer any real value to anyone.

But here’s the thing: ‘digitalization’ is sexy, because we can interpret it the way we want to. To some, it’s social media, to others it’s online customer service and to someone else it’s e-commerce. And you know the worst part? None of these people are really wrong. But since all of the specific examples of digitalization already have names, why not build your network around the one that interests you the most? Or just join an existing network, idk.

People first, technology second

What bothers me the most, though, is how digitalization is inherently focused on technology rather than people. As designers and developers, however, we are taught to treat technology as an enabler, not a driver. And by lifting technology up on a pedestal, we tend to forget about why we’re using it in the first place.

As Nordkapp’s Monika Zych expertly phrased it: “the two magic ingredients of great design [are] context and people”. It turns out that replacing ‘digitalization’ with ‘Susan’ may not be such a terrible idea after all.


Equal parts word nerd and nerd-nerd, Pinja is a content designer and marketing graduate who gets her kick out of qualitative research, great UX and quirky web content.