Growth Hacker Marketing

October 01, 2014


Growth hacking can be used to sniff out and unearth information as valuable as truffles. But, as Ryan Holiday tells us, it requires a new mindset.

Ryan Holiday opens Growth Hacker Marketing with a quote from the great David Ogilvy, author of the classics Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising:

I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.
We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.

—David Ogilvy

From someone who opened his first book, Trust Me, I'm Lying, with the admission that he is a media manipulator, "paid to decieve," that seems like an incongruous quote. But like Ogilvy, Holiday made his own confessions in that book and pulled the curtain back to give us all the knowledge that he had used to manipulate the media. His second book, put out earlier this year, was a decidedly less disturbing and dark affair. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph champions stoicism in the face of struggle, and is a book that draws on his own extensive reading to provide a positive and productive philosophy of life and work. We covered that book in our Thinker in Residence series in May.

This new book is a bit of both, providing a new mindset and teaching us how to use it practically in marketing, PR, and advertising. It was first published as an ebook, and has been revised and expanded into a paperback original out today from our friends at Portfolio.

Before he dives into the knowledge, he exposes a part of the current ignorance.

There's no business like show business. Yet, when it comes right down to it, that's the industry every marketing team—no matter what business they're actually in—pretends to be in when they're launching something new. Deep down, I think anyone marketing or launching fantasizes that they are premiering a blockbuster movie. And this illusion shapes and warps every marketing decision we make.

It feels good, but it's so very wrong.

Holiday should know; He has worked on movie campaigns. He knows that even those are a blind gamble, and that there is a better way. That better way, he tells us, is growth hacking and it can be mined to sniff out information as valuable as truffles. And, as he tells us in the following excerpt, it requires a new mindset. THE NEW MINDSET

Deep down, traditional marketers have always considered themselves artists. That's fine—it's an image I aspired to myself. It's a sentiment responsible for spectacular and moving work. But this sentiment is also responsible for some appalling ignorance and waste. One Harvard Business Review study found that 80 percent of marketers are unhappy with their ability to measure marketing return on investment (ROI). Not because the tools aren't good enough, but because they're too good, and marketers are seeing for the first time that their strategies are "often flawed and their spending is inefficient."

Noah Kagan, a growth hacker at Facebook, the personal finance service Mint.com (which sold to Intuit for nearly $170 million), and the daily deal site AppSumo (which has more than eight hundred thousand users), ex plains it simply: "Marketing has always been about the same thing—who your customers are and where they are."

What growth hackers do is focus on the "who" and "where" more scientifically, in a more measurable way. Whereas marketing was once brandbased, with growth hacking it becomes metric and ROI driven. Suddenly, finding customers and getting attention for your product are no longer guessing games. But this is more than just marketing with better metrics; this is not just "direct marketing" with a new name.

Growth hackers trace their roots back to programmers—and that's how they see themselves. They are data scientists meets design fiends meets marketers. They welcome this information, process it and utilize it differently, and see it as desperately needed clarity in a world that has been dominated by gut instincts and artistic preference for too long. But they also add a strong acumen for strategy, for thinking big picture, and for leveraging platforms, unappreciated assets, and new ideas.

Ultimately that's why this new approach is better suited to the future. With the collapse or crumbling of some of behemoth industries and the rapid rise of startups, apps, and websites, marketing will need to get smaller—it will need to change its priorities. When you get right down to it, the real skill for marketers today isn't going to be helping some big, boring company grow 1 percent a year but creating a totally new brand from nothing using nexttono resources. Whether that's a Kickstarter project you're trying to fund or a new app, the thinking is the same: how do you get, maintain, and multiply attention in a scalable and efficient way?

Thankfully, growth hacking isn't some proprietary technical process shrouded in secrecy. In fact, it has grown and developed in the course of very public conversations. There are no trade secrets to guard. Aaron Ginn, the growth hacker tasked with rapidly updating the technology behind Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and now director of growth at StumbleUpon, put it best: growth hacking is more of a mindset than a tool kit.

The good news: it's as simple as changing your mindset. (Or if you're just starting out in marketing, it means you've been spared the baggage of the old guard.) Growth hacking is not a 123 sequence, but instead a fluid process.* Growth hacking at its core means putting aside the notion that marketing is a selfcontained act that begins toward the end of a company's or a product's development life cycle. It is, instead, a way of thinking and looking at your business.

The tools will vary from job to job—it's the mindset that will be the killer advantage ...

I want to show you the growth hacker's way and why it is the future. How it's infiltrating the next generation of companies; how it's reshaping marketing, PR, and advertising from top to bottom; how even authors are using the principles in their book launches.

And that process starts far earlier than you think. The new marketing mindset begins not a few weeks before launch but, in fact, during the development and design phase. So we will begin there, with the most important marketing decision you will likely ever make.

*For anyone who is fascinated by this, I strongly suggesting looking up John Boyd, the famous fighter pilot/strategist, and his concept of the OODA Loop.

Excerpted from the new book Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday.
The book is published by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available wherever books are sold.
Copyright &Copy; Ryan Holiday, 2014.
All rights reserved
Reprinted by arrangement with Portfolio/Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Ryan Holiday is a media strategist and prominent writer on strategy and business. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He served as director of marketing at American Apparel for many years, where his campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, The New York Times, and Fast Company.

His first book, Trust Me I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator—which the Financial Times called and astonishing, disturbing book—was a debut bestseller and is now taught in colleges around the world. He is currently as He currently an editor at large for the New York Observer and contributes to Thought Catalog from his home in Austin, Texas.

Ryanholiday.net @ryanholiday

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