Marketing, as a business objective, has historically been underserved by engineering. "Marketing engineering" occupied approximately the same status level as internal IT. "Growth hacking", as I understand the term, involves increasing the status and priority of marketing-focused engineering to be lateral with product development.
Danny Sullivan's tweet last week (quoted in OP's link) is almost word for word my thesis in my blog post.
In fact, if you search for "Growth hacking is bull" in google, my post is right above this one now.
I don't really have a point to make here, other than there's quite a bit of overlap between this post and mine.
A code hacker is doing things creatively and differently and coming up with a unique way to accomplish something that is difficult to accomplish following standard protocols like 'coder' would. A growth hacker is the same thing -- but for marketing and/or sales. By definition, once someone else shows the way, it's no longer hacking to do it; but the first one to do it, was a hacker.
I would argue that airBnb's cross-posting was hacking. The first person to some up with "give away the razor and charge for the blades" was a growth hacker even though that term didn't exist for another 100 years. Plain and simple, new and innovative ways to build brand awareness or increase sales is growth hacking.
Call it marketing hacking if it makes you feel better.
Edit: to add to my point: why use the term hacker at all if growth hacker is BS term for a certain kind of marketer, isn't 'hacker' a BS term for a certain kind of technologist? /rant
By definition, growth hacking is not established techniques, it's coming up with new clever ways to get people to spread the word about your product, which are often going to depend on your specific product or product category, and not be generally applicable. As soon as a technique is widely known/defined/used, it ceases to be growth hacking and is then just part of regular marketing.
Or "internal marketing" when it's directed at what's left of your poor working culture... Great way to boost cynicism and turn over in your smartest employees!
I've never seen growth hacking as anything other than marketing but with a focus on trying the unusual or the usual in a different way and measuring the results immediately. No big mystery but interesting in that novel approaches or surprising results come to light more often than traditional marketing.
Hacking is getting something done creatively. As in, hacking away at a problem.
I won’t rehash why all this debate is actually a good thing. Read my comment here http://www.growthhackers.com/dhh-growth-hacking-a-cool-sound... for my thoughts on that…
Since my original post in 2010, I’ve been happy with certain evolutions of the term. One is that I think large companies should have a group that is exclusively focused on managing the activities that are directly attributable to growth. Companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have had these groups for a long time. Bigger companies have the luxury of specialization so they can have research departments, PR departments and I think “growth” should be a focused discipline within larger organizations. Part of this group’s objective should be to create a culture of growth across the entire organization and help each department evaluate and measure activities that have a direct impact on growth.
“Growth hacking” may or may not be the right word, but it’s the one I used and it stuck.
Much as SEO is a categorization of marketing activities that improve a websites search ranking, you can think of growth hacking as a broader categorization of marketing activities that directly and measurably impact growth. In my original post, I suggested that the role should be easier to hire than a VP Marketing, since the scope of focus is actually smaller. I also suggested that some of the best growth people I’ve met have engineering backgrounds. It wasn’t until Andrew Chen’s post “Growth Hacker is the New VP Marketing” that people really began to focus in on engineering skills as a prerequisite for being an effective growth hacker. He also falsely positioned it as a replacement for VP Marketing. I both disagree that it is the new VP Marketing and I disagree that engineering is a prerequisite. A VP Marketing needs to have a broader understanding of all of the disciplines within the marketing function. Some growth hackers will be good for this and some won’t.
Lastly, you could easily argue that SEO as a concept doesn’t need to exist because marketing already exists. But SEO is a subset of marketing activities. Growth hacking (to me anyway) is a subset of marketing activities too. The most powerful online marketing tactics often involve exploiting the unique advantages of the internet, which generally require some engineering skills. It’s easier to run these experiments if you don’t need to beg an engineering department for help. So engineering skills are definitely an advantage, but results trump skills.
Apologize to all that the conversation will likely to shift to a “defense of growth hacking” for a while. But eventually we’ll be back to the sharing of effective ways to grow the user bases for products that customers love.
Part of the reason I wince when someone says, "growth hacker" is that too often I've seen someone with that title parachute in, turn all the knobs up to 11 and then run off to be airlifted into another team's domain. I think a lot of folks treat growth hacking as magic pixie dust that they can sprinkled around to make numbers go up. I'm sorry to say that my introduction to the term was well after it became bastardized.
Personally, I think we a new phrase for all this.
I've always thought that it was the other way around, i.e. marketing is one of the things you can do in growth hacking, but not everything. To me growth hacking means doing/focusing on things that help grow the business, and marketing is just one of the things you can do. Other things that you can do to help growth include actually improving the product and reduce friction, which are not marketing. Maybe I've misunderstood the term "growth hacking" then.
It's not SEO, and it's not SEM. It's making your product interesting and accessible to social networks, and allowing for organic growth.
BuzzFeed growth hacks (that's basically their entire business model), and while it may fall under the broader term known as marketing, it's not traditional marketing, and it absolutely deserves it's own name.
I think the bigger problem is that people who misuse growth hacking for their marketing department.
Sounds like someone is pissed they got out branded by a bunch of hacks. This is the marketing equivalent of every hacker post that Facebook and Twitter are just big CRUD databases.
Traditional online marketers are paralyzed by their lack of technical and design skills. The best they can do is brainstorm ideas and spend money on ads.
The reason I don't call myself that is because calling yourself a "growth hacker" is akin to calling yourself a "social media guru" or a "rockstar programmer." It's a buzz-word that's been taken over by people who have no idea what they're talking about. And if you have to beat your chest and call yourself a growth hacker, chances are you're not.
Are there some incredible marketers out there who beat and create systems to cause growth? Absolutely. But I don't think many of them call themselves "growth hackers" either. Interestingly enough I find a few brilliant minds when I'm roaming amongst the blackhatters of the world. The seedy underbelly of the Internet has some really sharp people in it determined to continually out-engineer Google, beat other systems, or just brute force something. And sometimes what they do is pretty ingenious. You can actually learn a lot from them if you look at the principles they use, legitimize them, and use them for good instead of evil. There are a lot of script kiddies to be sure, but that caliber of brilliant marketer, whether it be a spammer who uses it for evil or some of the marketers causing explosive growth at young companies rarely beat their chests and assign themselves buzz-wordy titles. They don't have to.
Just like social media experts don't call themselves "gurus." No one of any high level of legitimacy has ever assigned themselves the term "Thought leader." In the same way, 99% of the people who call themselves "growth hackers" are at a marketing intern equivalent level.
It's just turned into another phrase people who don't know what they're doing throw around because it sounds cool.
Summary: This is simply an opinion piece that I wrote to try to get the point across that growth is everywhere, and constraining it to a definition is simply counterintuitive.
In short, if it grows your business, then by all means do that, whatever it is, and to keep learning, experimenting and testing new strategies.
If you haven't read them you may enjoy Deschooling Society by Illich or The Spectacle of Society by Debord, though Debord gets a little postmodernist/heglian at points.
One of them is a type of person/personality and the other is a job description.
anyway I always felt Growth hacking is very generic term whose definition will always be different depending on the context.
The same year Calacanis decided to found Mahalo, designed specifically to profit from abusing SEO 'growth hacking.'
People reapply the same concepts and ideas, but with new terminology all the time. It's good marketing :)
Now, I must get back to word sculpting...
They weren't developed to make minivans more masculine, they were meant to sit between the minivan and the truck, providing the best qualities of each.