Are you friends with the cookie OR will growth hacking replace marketing?

Growth Hacking is a term first coined in 2010. It was a new 2014 buzzword. It became mainstream in 2015: I see Growth Hacking presentations everywhere. This new trend is bringing new challenges to the marketing industry.

First of all, I believe that transitional marketing industry is still fairly confused about the true meaning of Growth Hacking. This leads to a lot of controversy surrounding it.

For those uninformed, here is a great definition of Growth Hacking:

Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure

There is an on-going debate going on in the blogosphere. Several parties are participating in the debate:

1. Seasoned Marketers (both traditional and online). A number of marketers outright reject the term “growth hacker”. They believe that successful marketing techniques go back to the early days of Ogilvy. Technology comes and goes, but storytelling and the art of capturing users’ attention are timeless.

Marketer’s Anthem summarizes this point of view best. It also makes me proud to be a marketer.

2. Online Marketers (SEO, SEM, Social Media Managers). Some are starting to call themselves Growth Hackers. Which in turn, frustrates seasoned marketers even more. SEM and SEO are still fairly new compared to Ogilvy days. Therefore, by definition, the creative, innovating approach may be largely associated with Growth Hacking approach. However, it is a stretch.

Here is Danny Sullivan’s point via a widely popularized tweet highlighted in the latest article from Marketingland.

3. Original Growth Hackers: True Growth Hackers despise the fact that growth hacking is becoming mainstream and that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Growth Hacker Manifesto summarizes this perfectly.

I find all of these conversations slightly amusing.

I can identify with Seasoned Marketers. I joined digital advertising industry back in 2000 when online advertising was in its infancy. I had the honor of working with the top marketing agencies and brands around the world. I can certainly understand the frustration they may be feeling.

True marketers focus on strong messaging, brand identity and consumer connection. It is all about making consumers become friends with the cookie (if you watched the Marketing Anthem video, you will understand the cookie reference).

I can also identify with Growth Hackers. As a product and metrics gal, I can also see the Growth Hacker Point of View.

The only way for the startups to make it big is by building growth “hooks” into the product design, using analytics and data to identify what works; constantly experimenting with new channels and free promotional techniques.

Growth Hackers are the new breed of marketers with expertise in fast growth, focus on experimentation and in-depth data analytics. With them getting all of the attention, some of the traditional marketers may start to feel insecure.

Instead of having an either/or conversation, can we agree that there is plenty of need for all three types of marketers? In fact, most of the successful startups that made it big had all three teams in place:

We need the brand and messaging experts to create the next generation of brands we all love and cherish.

We need SEO, SEM, and Social Media specialists. The industry is shifting so fast; it is hard for small and medium businesses to keep up with the changes.

We also need true growth hackers to constantly come up with the new untested techniques to market. I doubt that a traditional marketer would have come up with an idea of selling books on bitcoin?!?

Can one person be all three? Absolutely! That said, we need to focus on deep expertise in each area.

I think of myself as a growth focused marketer and would love to hear your thoughts! Are you a marketer? Growth hacker? SEO/SEM Specialist? All of the above?

Originally published at tredigital.com on February 25, 2015.

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