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ABC of Scale: #GrowthHackers — the new chiefs of marketing

by Charlie Mathews (@CharlesLeeZA) Large, lumbering Advertising agencies are in trouble. For decades, technology threatened to disrupt marketing’s ‘Mad Men’, but the dinosaurs held fast to their business models while digital transformation changed the world around them. Now the asteroids are making landfall.

“The world’s advertising giants are struggling to adapt to a landscape suddenly dominated by the duopoly of Google and Facebook,” Economist reports. “Some of their biggest clients, such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever, are also being disrupted, in their case by smaller online brands and by Amazon.

[CARTOON] The Marketing Mice escape the advertising apocalypseDinosaurs days are numbered

In the FT, Matthew Garrahan writes: “These are dark days for WPP and its rivals in the advertising industry. With professional services firms such as Deloitte and Accenture encroaching on to traditional advertising turf and Google and Facebook offering brands the ability to connect directly with vast numbers of people, the threats are numerous and everywhere.”

This comes as P&G brand chief, Marc Pritchard, said that P&G, “the consumer goods group and world’s biggest advertiser” would “take back control” of its marketing, cut US$2bn in ad spending as a starter, and take a big chunk of work inhouse. At the beginning of March 2018, Pritchard declared it was “time to disrupt this archaic ‘Mad Men’ model”.

As a new dawn breaks — one in which the dinosaurs of advertising are under attack — a new type of marketer has emerged: the #GrowthHacker or #GrowthMarketer. Former Uber growth-executive-turned-investor for Andreessen Horowitz, Andrew Chen, has said for the last few years that we’re going to see a lot more of these people in leadership roles.

New marketers obsessed with growth

“The term growth hacker is an interesting one,” he says. “It was originally coined by Sean Ellis who was talking about the new discipline of how you get products to grow potentially without traditional marketing like TV and radio — all the things that sustained products prior to the internet and the mobile age.” Chen explains that, for new products to grow, it becomes critical to understand how to engage platforms that have created mobile and digital user bases that reach into the millions, if not billions, in order to grow much faster.

“When you start thinking that way, you start figuring out how your product must grow based on API integrations, based on the landing pages that you are going to set up, based on these funnels and the actual functionality of the product, and how it integrates with these platforms.”

Chen says that this moves the skillset from a marketing-based background, which worked for consumer packaged goods, into a whole new set of very product-centric skills that use software and technology.

The shift in advertising comes into sharp focus when you think about the gripe of department-store magnate, John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” In a digital world where everything is measurable, marketing’s new digital dream kids come armed with passion, energy, curiosity, technological prowess and the ability to test and scale marketing campaigns across digital channels old-school advertisers aren’t even aware of. The days of guessing whether marketing works, and wasting money reaching markets, are long gone.

All about sales

#GrowthHackers are the new marketers who drive lead generation, engagement and influence, and who are helping startups enter and conquer shifting markets. But, because of their successes, #GrowthMarketers are now helping big brands engage and connect with customers, or innovate new business models and channels in a way that grows market share.

Advertising’s apocalypse is forcing agencies to change their business models. Gone are the days when the Mad Men got fat doing expensive campaigns with big media and creative budgets to ‘build brands’. In a world where big brands are regularly being disrupted, #growthhackers — born of nimble budgets that force innovation — are reengineering marketing.

Obsessed with growth, the new marketers unite sales, product development, marketing and business leadership in a process that is iterative, and transformative.

Read more

  • Andrew Chen: Growth Hacker Is The New VP Of Marketing
  • Neil Patel: Growth Hacking Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • Sean Ellis, GrowthHackers CEO & founder: How Enterprises Can Avoid Startup Growth Disruption
  • MarkLives: The book for startups every brand owner must read

Charlie MathewsA serial entrepreneur who founded — and sold — two marketing companies, Charlie Mathews (@CharlesLeeZA) is a #growthhacker at and Currently finalising her first novel, when not writing or thinking about growth-hacking, Charlie draws and creates The Marketing Mice exclusively for MarkLives and pens a regular column called ABC Of Scale. If there’s anything you’d like covered, or if you’d like to chat over a cup of coffee, email charlie [at]

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ABC of Scale: #GrowthHackers — the new chiefs of marketing


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