Andrew Chen has the valley all atwitter with his most recent post: Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing.
The post is well worth reading, and Andrew adds a fantastic starting point that will get a lot more people involved in the discussion about how marketing teams are being reshaped. If you’re interested in how marketing teams will change over the next 3 years, read it.
While Andrew’s borrowed the most catchy term for this, the role he identifies is closely related to what Facebook has started calling the Marketing Developer or what Scott Brinker has dubbed the Marketing Technologist. The Growth Hacker is to technology startups what the Marketing Developer is to B2C brands.
Looking at what I could figure out about Facebook’s Marketing Org in 2010, I saw 3 distinct groups that split marketing duties:
Platform and Product Marketing: Acts as the partnership liaison with companies working atop the Facebook Platform and provides traditional product marketing support for the sales organization
Consumer Marketing: Runs campaigns that help showcase the cultural importance and impact of Facebook. Lots of traditional branding style projects from Facebook come from this department, and it looks to be closely aligned with Comms.
Growth and Internationalization: Most of the user acquisition marketing titles appear to be here, and it’s were you’ll find analysts, optimization experts, analytics people, and more. Facebook appears to have unified some traditional marketing functions with a team who is focused primarily on product.
Marketing organizations are being reorganized by a paradigm shift, and I think you’ll see many large companies start to adopt a model more like the model described above, the biggest change being the inclusion of technologist and product roles in user acquisition marketing via the Growth team.
As Andy Johns puts it: “There have been “user acquisition/customer acquisition” teams at companies for a long time though so this isn’t ENTIRELY new. But User Growth as a formal function within companies is…. ummmm …. growing”
The unification of marketing and product is a rising trend that seems to have been popularized by Social Media Sites (early on by efforts like Plaxo and Youtube, later ‘mainstreamed’ by Facebook). At the intersection of Product and Marketing talents is where you’ll find Growth Hackers.
However, Andrew has one thing wrong – The VP Marketing role isn’t being replaced by a Growth Hacker. Certainly there are startup company’s that would have dubbed their first hire focused on user acquisition as “VP Marketing,” but that likely would have represented more than a little bit of title inflation.
A great Growth Hacker will postpone your need to hire a VP Marketing, but you’ll still have to hire a VP as you build up your team. Growth Hackers can try to triage this while you’re small, but they will not be well versed in managing effective efforts in branding, pr/ar/comms, sales support, product marketing, etc.
In a world where some of the most important marketing decisions happen in code, we’re seeing an increased need for people who act like product managers but focus on marketing campaign timelines.
Doing both requires a bit of a balancing act, but then again, great marketing always has:
Most marketers fail because of two reasons: 1) They’d rather be an artist, or 2) They would never want to be an artist.
— Marketing Douchebag (@mktgdouchebag) April 30, 2012