\ \ Back

Growth Hacker Marketing [Speed Summary]

It’s a case of mistaken identity.

You may think you are a marketer, but actually you’re now a ‘growth hacker’. At least that’s the case if you want to keep your job.

That marketers – whether in innovation or communication – have become or need to become ‘growth hackers’ is the central thesis of the growth hacker formerly known as Director of Marketing at American Apparel, Ryan Holiday in Growth Hacker Marketing – A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing and Advertising.

What is a Growth Hacker?

So what is a ‘growth hacker’? A growth hacker is a results-focused marketer with an obsessive fixation for growth. More concerned with achieving their growth objective than following prescribed processes, growth hackers ‘hack’ (experiment, adapt, modify) products and campaigns in pursuit of growth. And like hackers, they learn by testing; a hack is only a good hack when it works – in the real world. Popular with online consumer brands (Uber, Amazon, Dropbox, Evernote, Instagram), Holiday argues that ‘growth hacking’ is set to become the central concern for all marketers.

Growth Hacking argues that only with a hacker-style test-and-learn approach to delivering growth can marketing reclaim its sanity, utility and purpose. For too long, we’ve been buried under a mountain of brand claptrap – brand fit, brand awareness, brand recall, brand lift… Marketers need to speak the language of business, not brands. We need to forget ‘vanity metrics’, set growth as our true north and use the power of proof as our guiding light.

How to Become a Growth Hacker

So how do marketers upgrade themselves to ‘growth hackers’? Simple, says Holiday.

  1. Get your PMF Right. Product-Market-Fit is where growth hacking begins. This means shaping your product so it fits with market needs, and the only way to do that is to test what works. But to get to something that’s likely to work, don’t start with the product, start by writing the Press Release. This ensures you have a market focus, rather than a company or product focus. Then write the FAQ. Then build a prototype to test, test, optimise and test again. For example AirBnB went though many rounds of hack-and-test iterations before it hit on a winning solution (people wanted just the bed, not the breakfast).
  2. Find your Growth Hack. Growth hacking uses a test-and-learn approach to identify a product that is worth marketing. But once you find a product with a good PMF, you need to market it. And to do this, you use the same test-and-learn approach – prototype and pilot your marketing, then do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. For example, Uber found that what worked was to offer free car rides at conferences, free deliveries (e.g. BBQs), and free ride gift cards. So rather than expensive ad campaigns, Uber has grown by creatively ‘hacking’ the idea of sampling.
  3. Go Viral. It’s every marketers dream, but there is a simple science to viral products. Happy customers talking. If you want your product to go viral (rather than your marketing or ad agency), then deliver expectation-beating experiences to drive word of mouth. But growth hackers can hack this natural process, and accelerate it. Seed your product with influencers, make it visible (every Apple Mac is shipped with Apple stickers), and offer a referral program. For example, when Dropbox introduced its customer-get-customer referral program signups jumped by 60%
  4. Retain and Optimise. Growth hacking is not a one-shot effort. In order to grow a brand, you not only need new customers, you need customers who keep coming back for more – and bringing their friends. So from a growth-hacker perspective, customer retention can be your best customer acquisition strategy. This is why a five percent increase in retention can typically deliver a 30% growth in profitability (Bain). This is why high-growth brands such as Uber focus on constant innovation that optimises the experience for customers and ROI for the company

The Brand Genetics Take

For traditional marketers and innovation teams working with big FMCG/CPG brands, Growth Hacking may seem like more unwelcome techno-jargon imported from the digital economy. Mass market products are different from software and online services – it is far harder to adopt a test-and-learn hacker approach to growth when you have products that roll off a mass market production line and campaigns that flow from big ad agencies. Nevertheless, even for traditional marketers, Growth Hacking offers some sound advice. First, the idea that marketing and product development teams should be merged makes sense for any market-focused brand.  Second the idea of ‘hacking’ the mass marketing approach by co-creating, launching and optimising products with influencers fits with the classic diffusion of innovations model  And at a more executional level, we liked the Amazon ‘hack’ of starting innovation projects by writing the press release, and then writing the FAQ, and only then moving on to product or concept development.


To hear more about what we are up to and the work we are doing, why not join our mailing list?

To hear more about what we are up to and the work we are doing, why not join our mailing list?