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“Growth Hacking” is BS…It’s All Just Marketing

I found myself having to explain to someone on Hacker News earlier today the difference between the trendy job title “growth hacker” and plain ol’ Marketer. My contention was that a Growth Hacker is simply a Marketer.

You might be thinking, who cares? Well, I guess I do. And everyone who uses the title Growth Hacker instead of Marketer does, as well.

The internet startup world is typically drowning in buzz words at any given time. As of 2012, some the big ones are Lean Startup, Cloud Deployment, Growth Hacker, and a few others. Typically, they’re fancy phrases attached to not so fancy ideas (In order: talking to your customers early and often, hosting as a service, and marketing with data) and honestly, they’re just plain tiring and unnecessary 99% of the time.

So, why is the title “Growth Hacker” a bunch of BS?

Because it’s just a way for marketing averse startups to hire marketers without having to publicly say they’re hiring marketers.

The Hacker News startup world notoriously scoffs at anything to do with Marketing (just feels dirty), SEO (SPAMMERS!), or user tracking and conversion optimization (omgmyprivacy). So when these companies all of a sudden start realizing they need to actually, ya know, make some money, they also realize they need to bring in some people who specialize in growing customer bases: Marketers.

But since marketing is taboo, startuppers just came up with a new name, “Growth Hacker” and ran with that rather than just facing the fact that a Growth Hacker IS a Marketer.

Let’s grab a definition of “Growth Hacker” from Andrew Chen:

Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. On top of this, they layer the discipline of direct marketing, with its emphasis on quantitative measurement, scenario modeling via spreadsheets, and a lot of database queries. If a startup is pre-product/market fit, growth hackers can make sure virality is embedded at the core of a product. After product/market fit, they can help run up the score on what’s already working.

I’ll give you a second to digest the buzzwords and fluffiness of this definition before we continue.

Good? Alright, let’s go.

The internet is a fantastic landscape for marketers. Why? Because you can track your efforts extremely quickly and extremely accurately. Gone are the days of timing a Radio ad correctly and crossing your fingers. We can now look at our usage data for our products, refine our offering and marketing message to cater well to our customer base, and then split test various ideas programmatically and let the data speak for itself. This isn’t hacking, this isn’t magic…it’s just plain ol’ Marketing at a much more advanced and accurate level.

NOT ALL MARKETERS LOOK LIKE THIS DUDE

I have to assume that most people’s idea of what a Marketer is is cribbed from some hybrid of Mad Men and Vince the Shamwow guy. Slimey and fluffy and not really worth the money or effort. And from this assumption emerges a need for a new title that wipes away all of the cruft and ickiness of “Marketing” and instead makes it cool and hip and developer friendly by calling it “Growth Hacking”.

The example tossed at me for why a Growth Hacker is not a Marketer was this (I have no interest in starting a flame war so I won’t mention names):

“This is not inbound marketing but building product that, at its core, is focused on growth. LinkedIn, Zynga, Quora, Twitter, and Facebook all have growth teams.

Do you know Dropbox’s brilliant referral strategy? That was the brainchild of Sean Ellis (growth hacker), Ivan Kirigin (growth hacker), and Dropbox leadership.”

To which I replied:

“The goal of a marketer is to grow a customer base. That’s what these growth hackers are doing, they’re just doing it in a more technically advanced way via data confirmation and split testing.

Referral strategies have been around for decades, the Dropbox guys didn’t hack anything they just applied an old principle to a new technology.

Growth hacker and marketer are synonymous titles.”

The two guys mentioned as “growth hackers” in the comment above just so happened to be coders who implemented a very effective referral system for Dropbox.

Am I saying what they did wasn’t amazing?

Absolutely not.

Was it a brilliant example of growth hacking?

Absolutely not.

It was just a referral incentive system implemented in a very smooth and simple way, something used in marketing since its inception because it’s highly effective. And we can tell if it’s highly effective instantly nowadays with the technology that now exists for tracking and testing.

Marketing has traditionally been a discipline that constantly requires one to think outside the box and come up with new ways to introduce new products to existing markets or to build new markets for existing products. It’s not black magic nor is it hacking at all. Just because you use cohorts and automated funnel analysis and multivariate testing and referral schemes doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Marketer and all of a sudden a Growth Hacker…you’re just a really good Marketer.

So please, Startup world, drop the fluffy BS “Growth Hacker” title and focus on growing your companies rather than coming up with cool new job titles.

EDIT (08/28/2012)

I have to admit, I had two motivations for writing this post:

  1. I wanted to point out how ridiculous the pretentious title of Growth Hacker is
  2. I wanted to see how successful (in terms of traffic) an incendiary post would be

Well, I think I did a decent job of #1, and #2 as well, seeing as how this post got about 4500 unique visitors in about 3 hours yesterday.

Really what I’m trying to say here is that “Growth Hacker” is a smug, pretentious title to use. You should feel embarrassed introducing yourself as a Growth Hacker, because after you explain what the hell a Growth Hacker is to the person you’re speaking with, they will respond with “oh, so you’re really good at marketing?”

It’s the same as all the BS ninja and pirate titles for coders. Would you ever introduce yourself to someone as a “Ruby on Rails Rockstar”? Good god no. And if you did for some reason, after explaining what a rockstar coder is, the person will just respond with “oh, so you’re really good at programming?”

The startup world is constantly trying to separate itself from the traditional business world with new job titles and business techniques. It’s all just a waste of time, there’s no need for the separation.

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93 Responses to “Growth Hacking” is BS…It’s All Just Marketing

  1. Jeremie Pelletier says:

    But then, isn’t marketing about creating new buzzwords, like, say “Growth Hacker”? :)

    Jokes apart, I completely agree with you. The worst part is that there’s now two words required to describe the same concept effectively described using only one word before.

    Our brains are wired to easily handle single-words concepts. Every added word just blurs the ideas, slowly numbing customers to sleep so they happily shop, buy and consume.

    • admin says:

      yeah, I definitely agree. I’m very much against buzz words that serve no purpose other than to refresh an old term so it’s new and cool.

  2. Peter Knight says:

    It’s one of those words I hope goes away quickly. Internet marketers get a bad rap (admittedly for good reasons a lot of the time) but the best marketing job ever has to be all these startup founders and venture capital investors mocking up millions of dollars for tech products that are unproven, have little practical value and more often than not won’t be around for more than 2 years.

  3. Jamie says:

    What’s a Growth Hacker? A marketing automation specialist who lives in California (see Data Scientist – a Data Analyst who lives in California).

  4. F says:

    I agree with you. Now linking this with a popular theme of 2012: should people learn to code?
    YES. And this is an excellent example why…

  5. Tom says:

    I think the key thing, as you excerpted, was this sentence: “Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder”

    If the marketer has the idea and can’t execute on it (an example in the article being the craigslist feature of airbnb) then that person is indeed a marketer. If they can both conceive of the idea and fully execute it, because they can code, then they fit his definition of a growth hacker.

    Does that make sense? Is it controversial?

    • Johan says:

      Well, if a marketer can hire someone to do the coding, or any other technical aspect needed, if they don’t know how to do it themselves.

      Don’t forget, though, the tech experience doesn’t make a difference if you can’t properly understand your market, customers, and metrics.

      You may be able to code circles around the best of ‘em, but if you can’t utilize that in a marketing strategy, interpret trends and metrics, well, you’ll just continue to code circles.

      • Tom says:

        Yup, correct. So if you *can* properly understand your market, customers, and metrics *and* you can code, then you are the type of person that Andrew Chen is referring to.

        He thinks those people are rare enough that he started listing them by name.

        I think it’s fair to criticize the fact that these things need not be done by the same person. But, I think he did a fine job of communicating why someone with those skills would have a different title.

        • Johan says:

          If those people are rare, then that’s pretty sad! I’m not up-to-my-chin into the startup world, only knee-deep, so I’ve never come across the lack of a coder + marketer, all in one person.

          I know of a bunch of those people (myself included) but none of them refer to themselves as “growth hackers”.

          I do know of marketing agencies that have coders/developers and marketers, all working together, so what a “growth hacker” does is not really anything new or revolutionary.

          Go way back and into direct response, and you’ll find plenty of so-called “growth hackers”. Back then, it was all about the technical aspect of printing ads, etc. with just the right typeface, spacing, layout, and so on.

          I don’t know, maybe they do need a different title, but they’re not doing anything new that (good) marketers haven’t already been doing for a long time.

          I think it’s more of a reaction against the often nebulous brand/image type of marketing that has been given most attention for a while. You know, where you’ll have the pretty pictures but no idea if it’s selling/growing anything.

          There’s a whole world of direct response marketing that generates quite a lot of growth for people and companies throughout the years. In that neck of the woods, metrics are everything.

          • admin says:

            Great discussion guys! I think you’re both making awesome, solid points

          • Tom says:

            I agree with almost all of what you’re saying, which suggests this discussion has run it’s course. If you’ve never come across someone who’s not both a coder + marketer, than you’ve never seen what Andrew is calling a “marketer”.

            When he says “Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing” (the title of the article) he’s saying the VP of Marketing, and his/her reports, can no longer not be technical. If you agree with that, you agree with his fundamental premise.

            I suspect he wouldn’t get too upset if you disagreed on the name for it. He could have said “now all Marketers have to be technical” but instead he added some terminology to separate those that are from those that aren’t.

  6. Jack Mardack says:

    It’s true what you say that Growth Hacking is just marketing, but the term has proven useful in helping people to understand that marketing inside a technology startup is remarkably different from marketing almost anywhere else. “Growth Hacker” draws a circle around a short list of key skills that are not often found in one person. I don’t say there aren’t a lot of pretenders. There are. But one thing that’s different in Growth Hacking versus Marketing is there is no possibility to conceal your inefficacy in Growth Hacking.

    • Johan says:

      I’m not sure if I agree or disagree. You may have a point, but marketing really isn’t remarkably different for any one company.

      At the end of the day, you want users, customers, sales, whatever — whether you’re a tech startup or not.

      The goal is growth.

      I’ve used complicated metrics and technologies to help a construction company, real estate agents, lawyers, etc. get more clients. I’ve used many of the same tools any “growth hacker” uses.

      So, there may be slight variation in methodologies, but the outcome is always the same – growth.

      To achieve that, you do marketing.

  7. WordBiLLY says:

    Awesome article calling it straight!
    Now we just need to figure how to growth hack our AirBnB’s Obama O’s style bootstrap: WordBiLLY.com.

    We also make custom and Twitter handle BiLLYs.
    …aah! What’s a BiLLY? Check them out at WordBiLLY.com

  8. Nick Selbtar says:

    Growth hacking is ripe for disruption.

  9. David says:

    People invent new job titles because they can’t measure up to a more traditional job title. I’m a senior engineer at my company; I write a lot of code, fix bugs, and worry about scaling. What does a “growth hacker” do, and what differentiates a good one from a bad one?

    I don’t mind being measured with a traditional yardstick.

    • neuromancer says:

      David so your a Chartered Engineer then (PE in the USA) ?

    • admin says:

      Exactly, and that’s actually why I added a small edit to the end of my post…I’d never list my job title on my resume as “Growth Hacker” because that’s pretentious and grounds for most companies to just ignore me for an interview in my opinion.

  10. Pingback: Growth Hackers or Distribution Hackers? Marketers! « BforB

  11. Johan says:

    Dude, on target. Completely agree.

    I “come from” the direct response marketing world where metrics (of all shapes and sizes) are like the Bible (for a good reason).

    Hearing about “growth hackers” is like meeting someone who just figured out what you can use Google Analytics for. “ZOMG I can has segmentation??”

    It’s like “Inbound Marketing”, another made-up word — coined, I believe, by Hubspot in order to differentiate themselves from all other marketing (at least attempt to). Turns out it’s just good ol’ regular marketing under a different name.

    Anyway, good stuff!

  12. Kaaa says:

    Marketers are normally completely incapable of coding, therefore there is a huge difference to growth hackers by definition … and your whole argument falls apart

  13. dzh says:

    Hacking has traditionally been a discipline that constantly requires one to think outside the box and come up with new ways to introduce new software to existing computers or to build new computers for existing software.
    Here, I fixed it for you.

  14. Lukas Fittl says:

    Since you mention Hacker News in the intro, definitely check out the HN thread about your post:
    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4441943

  15. Great post, thanks for correcting course before this title gets out of control.

    Long ago I used to think that Marketing = “Making Ads.” Then I became a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, working on the team that launched Febreze and Swiffer. I learned that the job is really about figuring out what people need and crafting killer products that meet these needs. Marketing strategy is all about introducing your new product to people when and where they are most receptive. It’s about focusing in a handful of areas where you can get the biggest bang for the buck, and continually monitoring and adjusting what you do.

    Then I started working with startups and smaller products and found that the overall approach works the same, but the output and activities are a lot different. To move from a big brand job to a startup does force some huge changes–you’ve got to be comfortable digging into the details and doing things yourself versus relying on a cast of internal support and external agencies.

    I don’t like the title “Growth Hacking” but I do like the spirit and forced re-think of what Marketing is really about. In both big and small companies marketing IS about hacking…it’s hacking into people’s minds and habits (whether for good or bad).

    As a marketer I never thought my job was to just make TV commercials or master Google Adwords. Rather, it’s been to lead the development of a killer product that truly improves people’s lives, find ways to introduce them to it, and encourage customers to share it with others.

    Don’t be afraid to call yourselves “Marketers”–it actually can be a very noble profession.

    Now, for your next post, I’d love a take-down of the “Chief Revenue Officer” title – a.k.a. “The guy in charge of figuring out how to slap ads on this site and get some big company marketers to pay us so that we can sell out.”

    • admin says:

      oh man don’t even get me started on having a position for someone whose job is to figure out how to actually make money! haha I could go on for days.

      I absolutely agree with your post, I think there’s this taboo about calling yourself a marketer when it is really an awesome trade and I think it’s extremely enlightening to study and imperative to learn if you want to build products and sell them.

      You make a great point as well about the fact that there is no problem with the actual act of “growth hacking”…what these people is extremely impressive. This post came about because I just hate pretense and I wish people called things what they truly should be called rather than making up hip new titles for them.

      Thanks for commenting!

  16. Trevor Lynn says:

    This article is funny to me for one reason: it revolves around being mad at people for not giving themselves a generic / traditional title. Is that a bad thing? It’s interesting that so many people are worried about somebody else’s title. It’s a pretty harmless way to let an employee feel ownership of a position and take pride in their job. If my marketer always wanted to be a clown growing up, I’d give h/er the title Chief Executive Clown if that’s all it took to get h/er to be a rockstar marketer.

    I think the this line sums up my feelings, “[in terms of being an effective growth hacker] you’re just a really good marketer”. Well if I was a really good marketer, I’d want people to know; and if calling myself a growth hacker let people know I was a rockstar marketer, I would take that title any day.

    • admin says:

      and if calling myself a growth hacker let people know I was a rockstar marketer

      Iseewhatyoudidthere :)

      I just strongly believe in proving yourself with your track record rather than a hip job title. I’d much rather have “Marketing Director At Dropbox.com” on my resume than “Growth Hacker”. An employee in tune with the industry should be able to pick up on your talent based on your previous accomplishments, not just the job title.

      Thanks for commenting and continuing the discussion!

  17. Aginn says:

    I think the confusion lies in that growth hackers are a blend of marketers and product guys but not all marketers are growth hackers. I think this part of your article highlights the key difference:

    “Marketing has traditionally been a discipline that constantly requires one to think outside the box and come up with new ways to introduce new products to existing markets or to build new markets for existing products.”

    Growth hackers build product and focus on product, not just outbound messaging. Growth hackers are product obsessed (whole mentality of baking in growth).

    Having worked in internet marketing for several years and advise several startups on growth, “marketers grow consumer bases” is universally believed but not practiced or implemented. Marketers typically are not the best at doing this UNLESS it is within a traditional channel (SEO, Affiliate). Growth hackers often don’t go after traditional channels.

    Marketing is often concerned with branding, social media presence, email marketing, etc. It is all about focus. A growth hacker does not care if it is not directly (data) tied back to acquisition or engagement.

    Do you think a “good marketer” would come up with growth strategies of Airbnb, Skillpages, Dropbox, Facebook, Linkedin? Come on!

    Marketing has a need and a place within a startup. Growth teams are always separate from Marketing as the methodology and goals are different. There is a reason why VP of Marketing is almost never a growth hacker (VP of Growth).

    I actually think that growth hackers are more of a product manager. Most growth hackers I know work in product, not marketing (Andy Johns at Quora).

    As a side note, the term was invited by Sean Ellis, Hiten Shah, Dan Martell, and Patrick V. Three of them are growth hackers.

    • Johan says:

      Interesting stuff, but I have to disagree that marketers are only best within traditional channels, and that, somehow, growth hackers are best at “un-traditional” channels.

      Marketing has always been about finding new channels, and using existing ones in new ways. Plenty of examples from history supports this (looking at guys like Claude Hopkins, Eugene Schwartz, Gary Halbert, and so on – these guys often opened up completely new markets, etc.)

      How you use a marketing channel often comes down to market saturation and such.

      Seems to me “growth hackers” are just marketers chewing metrics steroids and snorting code – and many marketers do, without calling themselves “growth hackers”.

      Growth strategy is just another word for marketing strategy (unless you’re talking about brand/image marketing, which is rarely focused on metrics, if at all), as marketing IS concerned about growth (either user adoption, sales, leads, what have you).

      • Ken says:

        My brother (and Co-Founder / CEO) called me a growth hacker the other day. He informed me that it “was a thing now”. That landed me on Andrew’s article and this one. Thanks for posting the other end of the view points.

        I work in a services agency for iPhone and iPad apps and recently changed over from Creative Director to Marketing for an App we did ourselves. We’re hired guns that make products for other people, but when we got to do our own, we didn’t want to screw up by not marketing (what we’ve seen most of our clients do).

        ‘Seems to me “growth hackers” are just marketers chewing metrics steroids and snorting code – and many marketers do, without calling themselves “growth hackers”.’

        I actually think that growth hacker has a decent place as a title (although I’m with you, I think it is corny to put it in an email sig or something). I quoted the above because I think that is what I take issue with most. I think all of us normal marketing and even niche marketing use the hell out of metrics and even code (who HASN’T created a landing page or some sort of twitter JS bullshit as a marketer and then peeled apart the results from really deep analytics every hour while the campaign was running).

        I think the line that divides (and I deal with this with a couple traditional marketing hires) is that the deep integration as a means of marketing/growth isn’t understood in a comprehensive way. And even then, if it is, it is lack luster because theres no real understanding of how that integration can work or even if it is feasible.

        The ideas generated by my traditional PR and Marketing agencies we hire out to are almost never in the realm of “well… if you can integrate directly with facebook maps in this way, and tie that in over here to craigslist…” Their ideas are always creative as hell, but in a outward Mad Men sort of way.

        We desperately need the traditional, proper marketing efforts. But I think most companies focusing on a product are losing out by not “growth hacking” or what have you.

        The important parts of “growth hacking” aren’t that you can hire a guy to code you some twitter JS plugin because you know you need that as a marketer. It is that you see opportunities from API documents and integration hooks and understand them from a marketing perspective, from a manipulation and growth perspective.

        Am I crazy to think that this ISN’T a normal marketing skill set or understanding?

        • admin says:

          The important parts of “growth hacking” aren’t that you can hire a guy to code you some twitter JS plugin because you know you need that as a marketer. It is that you see opportunities from API documents and integration hooks and understand them from a marketing perspective, from a manipulation and growth perspective.

          this this this this a million times this

          Am I crazy to think that this ISN’T a normal marketing skill set or understanding?

          absolutely not, I’ll have your back on that point always :)

          Thanks for commenting, great stuff!

        • Johan says:

          Solid points, definitely agree about it being able to see those opportunities and integration.

    • admin says:

      First, thanks for the great comment!

      I think you might be generalizing marketers as those in charge of branding and brand awareness, which is a branch of marketing, but it’s just one branch. Someone who’s focus is on using Google Adwords in order to send traffic to an optimized landing page to land new customers is also a Marketer but has nothing to do with Branding at all.

      You make great points though, thanks for reading and commenting!

  18. Melinda Byerley (@melindabyerley) says:

    Philip Kotler (the guru of marketing) has a framework for marketing called “The 4 P’s”. They are:

    PRODUCT
    Price
    Promotion
    Placement (aka distribution)

    What’s happened over the last few years is that marketers have ceded the “product” part of their job to engineers. But product (aka what to build and how to build it) has always been part of the role of marketing. Whether engineers want to admit it or not. Yes, some great companies have been built with an engineering/product bent; but the most effective of these, Apple, was led by one of the world’s greatest marketers, Steve Jobs. He was NOT an engineer though he was quite technical.

    As more marketers become comfortable with code and technical products this will change, and product will return to the role of marketing. (our profession is undergoing massive transformation just like so many others!)

    Advertising is NOT marketing, that is specifically Promotion in the 4 P’s.

    CEOs of startups often handle all of the 4 Ps at first, but over time it’s normal to hire a specialist, just like a CTO will hire an architect, front end, security, and back end specialists.

    Thanks for an incredible post that tells it like is.

  19. Ken says:

    What’s happened over the last few years is that marketers have ceded the “product” part of their job to engineers.

    …and product will return to the role of marketing

    Nice. Was debating about this at lunch. I’m not a marketing guy first, I’m a tech with a transition into marketing, so I hadn’t heard the pillar of wisdom about the 4 P’s.

    Really then, the only thing new about Growth Hacking is the code understanding part catching back up in the product side of marketing.

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  22. David Cohen says:

    The description of a growth hacker being, “…a hybrid of marketer and coder” is at best bizarre. I’ve been a marketing director for years and have worked with every kind of coder imaginable, but never once has a coder described themselves as a marketer or ever showed any desire to be known as a marketer.

    All this focus on ‘growth’ just makes it easier to ignore the two other objectives which are much harder to achieve – revenue and profit.

    In my current role, at our company, titles don’t matter. Delivering results and keeping your promises do.

    • Johan says:

      Well, sure it’s bizarre (and lets call it ridiculous, while we’re at it), but I’m a bit puzzled…

      Coder as marketer? ….Uh, right, a coder won’t describe themselves as a marketer…..unless they are one, too?

      I’m not surprised you haven’t met a coder who says they’re also a marketer — if you just code, you just code, clearly. But if you do both, you do both – and you can probably call yourself whatever the hell you want (which might also be a problem). Not even people who use “growth hacker” imply that any coder henceforth will also describe themselves as marketer.

      Growth? Well, wouldn’t you want to experience growth in revenue and profit? I don’t know who’s holding the word “growth” hostage, but I don’t think it has ever ONLY referred to growth in terms of user adoption (or whatever) — probably not even by our growth hacking friends.

      Is that the only way you’ve heard the word used? Perhaps the problem lies in definition and people throwing words around…

      • Ken says:

        The description of a growth hacker being, “…a hybrid of marketer and coder” is at best bizarre. I’ve been a marketing director for years and have worked with every kind of coder imaginable, but never once has a coder described themselves as a marketer or ever showed any desire to be known as a marketer.

        Well, sure it’s bizarre (and lets call it ridiculous, while we’re at it)

        Why is it bizarre / ridiculous? I’ve worked with and met other “coders” (developers / programmers are probably the right term) that also design, I’ve met Animators that also rig and “code”, on and on. Hell, I’m a front-end engineer that went designer and now I’m working through marketing. And I’m not just sitting on a social network, I’m actually auditing classes and reading pounds of books to learn the craft. If I’m putting all this work in, why would I not want to be known as a Marketer?

        Maybe I’m getting lost in the weeds of your statement, but I’d love to understand why it seems so out there that we may want to merge the two fields…

        • Johan says:

          I think you’re misunderstanding (speaking for myself, anyway).

          I’m all for merging those two fields. I do so myself, on a daily basis. I’m on the direct response side of things, when it comes to marketing (as opposed to pure branding/image), so metrics, data, testing, optimizing, and results-driven marketing is what I do.

          I don’t call myself anything in particular, and similar to yourself, I started with front-end design, via SEO, and now ended up in marketing (which I love with a passion of a thousand burning suns).

          It’s the word-choice of “growth hacker” that I find bizarre and ridiculous (and in case it’s not obvious, that’s a personal preference).

          I’m pretty sure we agree, Ken, on most things, anyway.

          • Ken says:

            Gotcha, you’re right I did misunderstand. I’ve been seeing a really positive response to client’s idea of marketing their startups now though while using the term, so I’m not 100% against it.

            From what I’ve been reading though, it sounds like long time marketers think it’s silly and unprofessional. For now I’m actually digging the term though :P It’s pretty catchy and people get the idea of it really fast, which is nice in a job title.

            Good discussion over here :)

            • Johan says:

              Yeah, I’m sure there are people who latch on to that idea quickly and like it. It does have a way of simplifying and explaining what you do, pretty quickly.

              I’m not losing sleep over it, I just don’t like it.

              It’s making up a difference between marketing and getting results (any kind of growth), as if they’re opposed to each other.

              “Growth hacker” is like a shiny new name for Direct response marketer.

              It’s like the latest fad, “native advertising” — just another name for “advertorial” and other such names for the same thing, which is blending your marketing and ads with the environment in which it appears so they seem to be a part of the normal landscape.

              Been around since the beginning of time, but now it’s given a new name.

              Pretty pointless, in my opinion, but marketers love to market – that includes themselves! ;)

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  28. Jack Brand says:

    First hit when googling for “What the hell is a growth hacker”.

    Great post.

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  30. daniel behnk says:

    HurrrrDurrrrr.

    “The startup world is constantly trying to separate itself from the traditional business world with new job titles and business techniques. It’s all just a waste of time, there’s no need for the separation.”

    http://technikals.com/the-growth-hacker-cutting-into-markets-for-nearly-nothing/930

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  48. I’ll be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I didn’t read all the comments, so this may have been discussed already…I slightly disagree with your assessment of the term ‘Growth Hacker’.

    I feel like there is more than ample room for the term, and the career field. Every tech start-up taking shape has a very specific marketing (growth) needs. These companies work in extremely lean environments, and the typical tactics of Internet Marketing fall grossly short of facilitating the rapid growth required within the limited budgets.

    In my mind a hacker is one who has been given (or has) the goal of infiltrating a place (system or network). Typically, the hacker will evaluate all possible entry points, and launch several very targeted campaigns (attacks) on the target. Once one or more viable vulnerabilities have been identified – it becomes clear where the appropriate entry point(s) should be.

    The growth hackers, that you imply are run-of-the-mill, albeit egotistical, internet marketers are doing the same thing.

    Their target is user acquisition. The responsibility of a Growth Hacker then becomes to launch multiple small-scale campaigns at possible entry points. This is not at all the same process or procedure for any form of typical internet marketing.

    Am I crazy? Are we really lumping that job description right on in with every other internet marketer?

    I would love to discuss…

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  58. Max says:

    You’re a pretty good “Absurdity Awareness Facilitator”

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