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The rise of Growth Hacker Marketing

25 March, 2015

Growth Hacking

A trend is emerging among larger (often retail) brands of increasingly sophisticated technology becoming an integral part of the product offer and promotional techniques. This ‘seamless marketing’ movement, often referred to as Growth Hacker Marketing, sees marketing not seen as a separate island of communication, but rather as a built seamlessly into the product. Examples might be a mobile ordering app to skip the line at a restaurant, or location-based “beaconing” for bricks and mortar retailers who share offers through push notification and email as a consumer approaches their store.

What is Growth Hacker Marketing?

Pioneered by technology start-ups, this marketing technique focuses on low cost and innovative alternatives to traditional marketing, with technology playing a central part. Clever technological platforms and approaches (often including established techniques such as website analytics, SEO, A/B testing and content marketing) are used to quickly build market awareness through channels like social media and viral marketing, in place of the more traditional radio, television, newspaper media.

This comes about by taking away the traditional marketing and technology silos that many development companies are structured around, and by getting everyone to work on the product during design stage to create an inbuilt seamless user experience.

Who is doing Growth Hacker Marketing well?

AirBnB is a good example of this. The company has seen huge growth since founder designers Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia began work on the space rental platform back in 2007. Read the full AirBnB story here.


There area other examples across fashion, retail, technology sectors, eg Starbucks and Apple. Instore Apple salespeople at Apple have full access to everything they need to solve instore customer problems through their ipads, allowing commerce to happen right away.

How is the Growth Hacker Marketing trend playing out currently?

I recently took part in a roundtable discussion about this topic on Digital Marketing Radio with presenter David Bain (@DavidBain). Also participating in the discussion alongside me were: Laurence O’Toole, CEO of Analytics SEO; Pete Whitmarsh, Head of Paid Media at Search Laboratory; and Ryan Buchanan, Founder CEO of eROI in Portland, Oregan.

Watch the full video below or click here to view on YouTube.

Ryan spoke about the trend from what he has seen in the United States, citing a US taco company mobile ordering app as a particularly successful example.

In the past, he said, it would have been all about getting “eyeballs to the app” once it was ready to go. With growth hacker marketing, instead of having outdoor TV advertising to promote its launch, you would instead have both your marketing and technology teams working on it during the development stage, looking at all the barriers to purchase within the app and all the drop out points. You would then build in communication points to the app, eg push notifications, customised emails, direct messages and social.

The app would be built round the customer, so it offers the right product at the right time. An example might be the drunk college student who is hungry – and your app using beacon marketing at that moment to tell them that your restaurant is 200m away and they can order fresh food now for pick up on arrival.

What is the future for this product development model?

Will seamless marketing necessitate a return to the full agency model, where every kind of specialism is offered within single agencies? I’m already seeing, for example, PR agencies offering websites and SEO agencies offering online PR and blogger outreach.

However, as Ryan points out in our discussion below, this kind of advanced technology actually requires more specialisation and niche expertise, not more generalists. So this will either require specialist agencies to work better together (this is already being facilitated by the growth in collaborative multi-agency co-working spaces, like Duke Studios in Leeds) or we will see more in-house specialism at large brands and FTSE 100 companies.


Collaboration will be the key to success, but ultimately the spread of growth hacker marketing and a large scale culture change will rely on the willingness of marketers and business leaders to see its potential and structure their organisations and product development strategy accordingly. Customer experience and feedback mechanisms will also be a vital part of the fine-tuning.

What do you think about this? Do share your thoughts below.

Are you surprised by anything here? Has your company successfully used this approach to product development? What impact do you think growth hacker marketing will have on your industry?

To find out how digital marketing could be better integrated into your product development process, contact me.

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