three shovels digging soil

Growth hacking? We do it but we don’t call it that — here’s why

The Means Co-Founder and CEO, Mic Wright, takes a look at one of the most annoying buzz phrases in marketing and explains why you should be using all the tools available to you without talking like a tool at the same time…

three shovels digging soil

Growth hacking. Ninja. CEO mindset. Startup grind. The hustle — that thing you can’t knock, because Jay-Z said so. There’s a huge issue in startup culture — we don’t use the s-word to describe ourselves by the way — with terms invented to make basic things that every business should do sound cool.

The one I want to hack apart today is ‘growth hacking’. It’s become a really popular term over the past 10 years or so but it’s really just a clumsy re-badging of some evergreen concepts, painted over with a patina of guff about how ‘the internet has changed everything, my dudes.’ Well, it has but basic human desires remain pretty constant — food, drink, sex, companionship, status, money.

Here’s what extremely reliable internet encyclopaedia and home of irrational pedants, Wikipedia, has to say about ‘growth hacking’:

“Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels, product development, sales segments, and other areas of the business to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.[1] Growth hackers often focus on low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. using social media, viral marketing or targeted advertising…”

Okay, look, I know you want to seem special and cool but every smart person trying to increase leads, sales or attention for a business uses these techniques now. Harnessing them doesn’t make you a ninja or a growth hacker, it puts you right in the centre of how business works.

ninja clip art

That sword looks like it could hack growth for days

Huge advertising businesses like WPP use all those tools. Just because you — like us — are working out of a small office or from a few desks in a shared space doesn’t make these techniques super-punk somehow.

We work with clients every day to harness limited resources and use them to increase sales, reach and leads. That’s fundamental to what we do. But is it ‘growth hacking’? No. Because we care about words and the way people use them. Hacking is a term that has a rich entomology.

Being a hacker involves something more than using tools to a high level or exploiting the underlying structures of systems. Applying the techniques of viral marketing is not ‘hacking’. It is just working within the limits of the system. Growth hacking is not hacking in any meaningful sense and most people who purport to do it will charge you a lot for doing very little.

hooded figure

If this is you thinking about marketing, then you’re probably doing it wrong

We call ourselves a creative agency rather than growth hackers or a marketing agency or any number of other labels for a specific reason.

I came up with the kernel of the idea for The Means because I believe our team is fundamentally creative and that’s how we solve problems for our clients — with creativity. It is not about unlocking some Konami Code for marketing, product development or producing words, pictures and video. No. It’s about being creative. And, honestly, you cannot hack that.

Do you have a problem that seems intractable? A business challenge that is breaking your brain? Contact us today and find out how we can help: @readthemeans on Twitter | hello@themeans.rocks