Is Growth Hacking Another Buzzword?

Growth hacking buzzword

The latest article by Dan Kaplan on engines of growth, has reignited the debate about growth hacking. The same questions and arguments crop up again and again, each time we start discussing sense of growth hacking, or rather it’s name. Is it any different than online marketing? Is it something new that wasn’t done before? And my personal favorite: isn’t growth hacking just another buzzword?

 YES, it is!

Screenshot 2014-04-10 16.28.04

Google it, SEO, content marketing were all “just” buzzwords not that long ago. The arguments were familiar. “Why should I say “google it” instead of “browse for this quote”? “What is SEO? that’s nothing new!”, “Content marketing? but we always created content, why should we start calling it by a new name?” But those buzzwords stayed with us and looks like growth hacking is also here to stay. Despite some marketers claiming it shouldn’t be called in any new way if it’s just online marketing and programming and analytics etc. We can call it by it’s “ingredients” but why wouldn’t we use convenient, popular name that rolls up all these marketing activities? After all, we’re all about simplifying.

“Marketing seems to have become diluted with a lot of activities that are much harder to tie to a direct impact on growth.” – Sean Ellis

Critics argue that, as well as being a meaningless buzzword, ‘growth hacking’ is actually misleading. What does it have to do with hacking?  Not that much, and I agree that it’s perhaps unfortunate to use it as a name for the mindset, but if we consider using it in case of life hacks, it becomes apparent that the name growth hacking is not accidental. It’s just being clever about solving problems, increasing productivity in not so obvious ways and it fits perfect for what growth hacking is all about.

“Life hacker was a big part of the inspiration for the name. Essentially scrappy problem solver with singular focus on growth.” – Sean Ellis

Another thing that annoys everyone interested in growth hacking is overuse of the term. Lately, every marketing tactic is called growth hacking and almost everyone involved in marketing is calling themselves growth hackers, even if they have nothing to do with analytics, they don’t care about funnels and they aren’t focused on growth. On the other hand on what terms can we decide who is allowed to call themselves a growth hacker and who isn’t?

It’s exasperating, but there’s no way to enforce only genuine growth hackers being allowed to use the term. Anyway, popularity isn’t a bad sign, and there’s bound to be a bandwagon effect when something becomes popular.


What is growth hacking? How is it different than marketing, product management and all tactics for modern online marketing?

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” – Sean Ellis

Simple as that.

Growth hacking is different than anything it’s compared to because it’s all of that combined. It’s focused on growth above everything else and it doesn’t really matter if you achieve it by typical marketing strategy, adjusting the product itself or something completly different that was never done before. As long as your main goal is growth, it’s really not that important what practices, tools or methods you choose to use. It’s also not that important what name you choose to describe your actions.


So is growth hacking a buzzword? Yes.

Is that a bad thing? No.

It brings real value, it is what creating and promoting products should look like, it is a term that describes GOOD practices like taking customers needs into consideration, making decisions based on data rather than wild guesses. Is there really anything wrong with that?

Do you have to use this term? Nope

Marketing engineer, growth engineer, development ninja – whatever you like, works but isn’t it funny how people who should be most interested in novelties are so afraid of it?

Cover image credits

  • Ana Maria Dârstaru

    Really nice article! I like your point of view on this subject.