I work as a Marketing/SEO/Analyst person and notice that 9/10 of the things are the sorts of things i’ve been doing (or thinking about) for years as a digital marketing manager… I’m curious as to the perceived between ‘Growth Hacking’ and what we called digital marketing

Im not trying to brag, I’m just curious as to where people see the divide between Digital Marketing (for any SME) and Growth Hacking. Is it just that one is for web/tech/online/SaaS only businesses, and the other is not?

Please leave a comment with your opinion.

9 thoughts on “What is the difference between ‘Growth Hacking’ and what we called digital marketing?

    1. suwm

      Excellent response, thanks. Would you consider anything done outside the work flow not to be growth hacking? Would off page/site work be inbound marketing/digital marketing?

      I was inspired by this post to consider what you said, but then it seems a lot of stuff labeled growth hacking is done outside of product:




      Growth Tip #1: Contact anyone on LinkedIn
      Growth Tip #2: Find anyone’s email address
      Growth Tip #3: Instant content
      Growth Tip #4: A competitor is shutting down? Launch a campaign
      Growth Tip #5: Increase Twitter click rates

      Im not saying these things dont work, but they mostly ‘offsite’ digital marketing.

      1. Hashim Warren

        You’re right. A lot of stuff people call growth having doesn’t march the original intent of the word.

        Growth hacking is the merger of marketing and product design.

        Facebook’s growth hackers had authority and ability to change the product itself to encourage growth. That’s different than a marketer who gets to the product at the end and has to find a market for it

  1. suwm

    I see the argument now. Growth hacking is the merger of marketing+product design. I’d probably add data science too.

    Personally, I don’t understand how/why any business would exclude marketing from product decisions. Perhaps I’ve always been fortunate to work with forward thinking companies as the digital marketing guy as its never been an issue for me.

  2. Tim McDougall

    All helpful stuff. But … I think what has happened is that the original intent of marketing has warped, and created a gap.

    Marketing, as it was created, was supposed to discover consumer insights, use that to help develop the product, and then — and only then — focus on promoting it and getting the word out. When I started as a marketer 25 years ago, this was how it was taught by the best.

    Over the last 20 years, though, marketing has devolved. It’s become entirely primarily focused on promotion. It’s gotten a bad reputation, some of it deserved, for “trying to sell people things they don’t need.” It’s a bastardization of the original purpose of marketing. It turns marketing into PR and hucksterism.

    If marketing had stayed true to the reason it came into existence as a discipline, I don’t think growth hacking would have ever developed as a separate thing. But marketing warped, and growth hacking moved into it’s place.

    As an insight and product focused marketer, I’ve been watching the warping of marketing with dismay for a while. While many of my peers scoff at growth marketing as “just another cool kid term for marketing,” I’d make the argument that marketing has lost its meaning. It’s “given up the brand by not exercising it,” so to speak.

    The utility marketing movement (as best explained by Jay Baer and others) and the growth hacking movement are two of the most exciting things going on, in my opinion, in “the field formerly known as marketing.”

    1. suwm

      Great comment Tim; insightful and informed!

      After reading your comment, I thought back to my marketing lecturer and about the 7 P’s of the “marketing mix” (old fashioned i know!) and how much digital marketing community, particularly SEO/SEM/SM, has become obsessed with the promotion “P” almost to the exclusion of others. Or perhaps more accurately, how the “P’s” have become subsumed under the promotion “P”.

      It may seem that Growth Hacking has been a reaction to the above, as well as the newer technology making some of the product and insight stuff more accessible to more people.

      I do wish a better name had been chosen, because Growth Hacking just gets peoples on the defensive, and it kinda implies there is a silver bullet, and it sounds kinda snoby to me – The name should convey that its holistic and complementary, not something that can divide.

      I agree that its a more more exciting time in marketing now that the lost arts are coming back and being innovated within.


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