Silicon Valley Deja Vu All Over Again…But Something to Learn Just the Same

Now I know how my grandparents must have felt. “Everything old is new again.”

There are a lot of “new” sales, marketing and product management techniques coming out of the tech world today and being touted as groundbreaking, when they are actually fundamental marketing principles at work, enabled and turbo-powered by advances in technology. Bear in mind that I’m all for packaging your thought leadership and unique approaches into methodologies and promoting them. This is a major tenet of the Apollo Method for Market Dominance™. But I address this mostly to students of marketing when I urge you, however, to proceed with caution before jumping on some of these bandwagons.

The ultimate example is “Growth Hacking,” which is floating around the tech scene these days. Synonyms include hacking marketing, growth hacker marketing, etc. If you haven’t heard of this, you’ll find this definition on Wikipedia: “Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.” Anyone who has been in the marketing world for more than a day can tell you there is nothing new about using creativity, analytical thinking and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure. Fortunately that first sentence of the article is followed by the very accurate statement that: “It can be seen as part of the online marketing ecosystem, as in many cases Growth Hackers are simply good at using techniques such as search engine optimization, website analytics, content marketing and A/B testing which are already mainstream” (italics are mine). Elsewhere, I found the following comment that tries to make Growth Hacking sound revolutionary, which genuinely made me laugh out loud: “A growth hacker doesn’t see marketing as something one does, but rather something one builds into the product itself.”  This is just silly. Any marketer worth a grain of salt sees marketing that way.

I really love this post by Muhammad Saleem on Marketing Land, “Growth Hacking is Bull.” He does a beautiful job of articulating what is not new about Growth Hacking. More importantly, he provides a nice marketing lesson and a good introduction to terminology that non-marketers might enjoy learning about.

On the other hand, you’ve got to love the brash, enthusiastic, I-just-invented-water! attitude of some of the folks touting these supposedly groundbreaking techniques, which are essentially new words for old methods. And you definitely have to admire their talent for self-promotion as gurus and stirring a movement. Many of these people are instinctively good marketers who figured things out on their own and therefore think they have invented these techniques. Forget the thought leadership content of these gurus and just study them. Notice how appealing it is to the market place when a person or company packages their approaches into a methodology, even if the approaches aren’t new. These methodologies give the audience something to latch onto, which is especially helpful when you’re dealing in esoteric concepts, business strategies and intangible tactical activities. Notice how the gurus promote their thought leadership. Notice how they seem to ignite the market place and lead a movement. Notice how they rally people around themselves and ideas. Therein lie the great lessons!

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