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The Myth of Growth Hacking

It’s not new, no matter what you think

Melinda Byerley
Sep 15, 2013 · 4 min read

Steve Jobs was arguably the best Marketer of all time. He was certainly the best technology Marketer of all time. Although he was not a hacker or programmer, and was primarily a “tweaker” he is revered by nearly everyone in our community, hacker and marketer alike.

And yet, Silicon Valley thinks that marketing sucks. Is unnecessary. Unimportant. Filled with charlatans and people who use red blink tags. Populated primarily by stupid women. Expensive. Untrackable.

Growth Hacking is then presented as the salvation. The opposite. The New. But it’s never presented as what it really is.

Growth Hacking is Direct Marketing.

A Quick History Lesson: Because We Apparently Need It

Since the rise of the Mad Men era agency, marketing has always had two sides, like Janus in Greek mythology. Everyone knows about the brand side of marketing, because it’s beautiful, memorable, and sexy. But there has always been the direct marketing side too. You just don’t know about it, because it was always a second class citizen. In some cases, you aren’t old enough to remember it.

So here’s the definition of direct marketing, via Wikipedia:

Direct marketing is a channel-agnostic form of advertising that allows businesses and nonprofits organizations to communicate straight to the customer…

Direct Marketing Has Always Been About Data

The brand marketers who controlled the majority of spend in the late 1990s looked down their noses at “direct marketing” and subsequently missed the boat.

The true definition of growth hacking

The godfather of modern marketing, Philip Kotler, created the framework for marketing called the 4P’s. So I started with that definition and built a chart to explain exactly where Growth Hacking should fit in the mindset of a Marketer.

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Growth Hacking is part of internet advertising, which is itself part of direct marketing. There is an intersection with product development.

To Be Clear: Hire Growth Hackers!

Marketing (with a Capital M): Strategic, Not Tactical

From Steve Blank to Dave McClure, the message is clear. In a startup you better be building the product, or Marketing it. You may not need to hire a “marketer” right away, but someone in your organization better be thinking like a Marketer.

P.P.S. Even Venerable Old McKinsey got it, nearly two years ago, when they wrote: “We’re all marketers now.

I. M. H. O.

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