Growth Hacker Marketing. A PENGUIN SPECIAL

Growth Hacker Marketing. A PENGUIN SPECIAL

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Ryan Holiday

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Growth Hacker Marketing

A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising

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

—David Ogilvy


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Product details
 267 p
 File Size
 1,097 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 978-0-698-13824-7 (ePub) 
 2013 by Ryan Holiday 

About The Author
Ryan Holiday is a media strategist for notorious
clients such as Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After
dropping out of college at nineteen to apprentice under
Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went
on to advise many bestselling authors, businesses, and
multiplatinum musicians. He is currently the director of
marketing at American Apparel, where his work is
internationally known. His campaigns have been used as
case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and
written about in Ad Age, The New York Times, Gawker,
and Fast Company. He currently lives in New
Orleans. Visit RyanHoliday.net.

An Introduction
to Growth Hacking
Nearly a year and a half ago, on what seemed like a
normal day, I got in my car to leave my house, assuming
it would be no different from any other workday. I had read
the morning news, dealt with a few important employee
issues over the phone, and confirmed lunch and drinks
meetings for later in the day. I headed to the athletic club
—a swanky, century-old private gym favored by
downtown executives —and swam and ran and then sat in
the steam room to think.

As I entered the office around ten, I nodded to my
assistant and sat down at my big desk and reviewed some
papers that required my signature. There were ad
designs to approve, invoices to process, proposals to
review. A new product was launching and I had a press
release to write. A stack of magazines had arrived—I
handed them to an employee to catalog and organize for the press library.
My job: director of marketing at American
Apparel. I had a half dozen employees working under me
in my office. Right across the hall from us thousands of
sewing machines were humming away, manned by
the world’s most efficient garment workers. A few
doors down was a photo studio where the very ads I
would be placing were made. Excepting the help of a
few pieces of technology, like my computer and
smartphone, my day had begun and would proceed
exactly as it had for every other marketing executive for
the last seventy-five years. Buy advertisements, plan
events, pitch reporters, design “creatives,” approve
promotions, and throw around terms like “brand,”
“CPM,” “awareness,” “earned media,” “top of
mind,” “added value,” and “share of voice.” That was
the job; that’s always been the job.

I’m not saying I’m Don Draper or Edward Bernays or
anything, but the three of us could probably have swapped
offices and routines with only a few adjustments. And
I, along with everyone else in the business, found that to be
pretty damn cool. But that seemingly
ordinary day was disrupted by an article. The headline
stood out clearly amid the online noise, as though it had
been lobbed directly at me: “Growth Hacker Is the New VP [of] Marketing.”
What? I was a VP of marketing. I quite liked my job. I was
good at it, too. Self-taught, self-made, I was, at twentyfive,
helping to lead the efforts of a publicly traded company with 250 stores in
twenty countries and over $600 million in revenue.
But the writer, Andrew Chen, an influential technologist and
entrepreneur, didn’t care about any of that. According
to him, my colleagues and I would soon be out of a job—someone was waiting in the
wings to replace us. The new job title of “Growth Hacker” is integrating itself into
Silicon Valley’s culture, emphasizing that coding and technical chops are
now an essential part of being a great marketer. Growth hackers are a
hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of
“How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing
pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph. . . .. . . The entire marketing
team is being disrupted. Rather than a VP of Marketing with a bunch of
non-technical marketers reporting to them, instead growth hackers are
engineers leading teams of engineers.

1 What the hell is a growth hacker? 
I thought. How could an engineer ever do my job?
But then I added up the combined valuation of the
few companies Chen mentioned as case studies—
companies that barely existed a few years ago.
• Dropbox
• Zynga
• Groupon
• Instagram
• Pinterest
Now worth billions and billions of dollars. As Micah Baldwin,
founder of Graphicly and a start-up mentor at TechStars
and 500 Startups, explains “In the absence of big
budgets, start-ups learned how to hack the system to build their companies.”
2 Their hacking—which occurred right on my watch—had rethought marketing
from the ground up, with none of the baggage or old
assumptions. And now, their shortcuts, innovations, and
backdoor solutions fly in the face of everything we’ve
been taught. We all want to do more with less. For marketers and
entrepreneurs, that paradox is practically our job description. Well, in this
book, we’re going to look at how growth hackers have helped companies like
Dropbox, Mailbox, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Instagram, Mint, AppSumo,
and StumbleUpon do and did so much with essentially nothing.

What stunned me most about those companies was
that none of them were built with any of the skills that
traditional marketers like myself had always
considered special and most were built without the
resources I’d long considered essential. I couldn’t name the
“marketer”—and definitely not the agency—responsible
for their success because there wasn’t one. Growth
hacking had made “marketing” irrelevant or at
least completely rewritten its best practices.

Whether you’re currently a marketing executive or a
college grad about to enter the field—the first growth
hackers have pioneered a new way. Some of their strategies
are incredibly technical and complex—which is why I won’t weigh you down in this
short book with concepts like “cohort analysis” and “viral coefficients.” Instead, we
will focus on the mind-set. I start and end with my own experiences in this book
not because I am anyone special but because I think they illustrate a microcosm
of the industry itself. The old way—where product development and marketing
were two distinct and separate processes—has been replaced. We all find
ourselves in the same position: needing to do more with less and finding,
increasingly, that the old strategies no longer generate results.

So in this book, I am going to take you through a
new cycle, a much more fluid and iterative process. A
growth hacker doesn’t see marketing as something one
does, but rather as something one builds into the product
itself. The product is then kick-started, shared, and
optimized (with these steps repeated multiple times) on
its way to massive and rapid growth. The chapters of this
book follow that structure. But first, let’s make a
clean break between the old and the new.

2 E-mail to author, April 18, 2013.
3 Dialogue from Viral Loop by
Adam L. Penenberg (New York: Hyperion, 2009), page 96.
4 http://hbr.org/2005/06/dontblame-the-metrics/ar/1.
5 E-mail to author, March 18, 2013.
10 Interview with author, May 24, 2013.
11 http://andrewchen.co/2012/04/27/be-a-growth-hacker-anairbnbcraigslist-case-study.
12 http://www.startupmarketing.com/awarenessbuilding-is-a-waste-ofstartup-resources/.
13 Jonah Berger, Contagious (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013), page 24.
14 http://venturebeat.com/2010/10/houston-adwords/
15 E-mail to author, March 28, 2013.
16 E-mail to author, March 28, 2013.
17 http://readwrite.com/2013/06/05/0-to-1-million-users-in-sixweeks-how-mailbox-plannedforscale#awesm=~oa92pdwfjg5ExS.
18 http://www.rocketwatcher.com/blog/5-customer-retentionmarketingtactics.html.
19 Interview with author, April 24, 2013.