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TrendSpotting Episode 10: Growth Hacking vs. Brand Marketing

Episode Overview

Join us as we kick off our first ‘Channel Battle’ episode, where we’re going to discuss how marketers should think about the balance of seemingly conflicting marketing channels and their approaches. This week we tackle Growth Hacking versus building brand awareness with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics Inc.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome to Marketing Channel Battle Month on the TrendSpotting Podcast by Searchmetrics. In this podcast, we dive deep into the ways innovative marketers use experience and data to identify the macro trends that influence where you should be investing your marketing budget.

This podcast is brought to you by Searchmetrics. At our core, the Searchmetrics team is a collection of SEOs, content marketers, and data scientists who help sophisticated organizations leverage search data to improve their organic traffic volume, maximize the visibility of their content, and gain insights into their business competition and industry’s performance.

This week we’re going to kick off our investigation into what we’re calling Channel Battles, where we’re going to discuss how marketers should think about the balance of seemingly conflicting marketing channels and their approaches.

Joining us today is Doug Bell, who is the CMO at Searchmetrics Inc. And today we’re going to discuss the trade-off between traditional marketing and growth-hacking approaches. Here is our interview with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics Inc.

Doug, welcome back to the TrendSpotting Podcast.

Doug:               Hi, Ben.

Ben:                 It’s great to have you here, you know, the sponsor and co-producer of the show, and I’m excited to talk about two approaches to marketing that are seemingly conflicting, and also, they kind of highlight the differences in some of our approaches to marketing. So let’s start off by defining what we think is the definition of traditional marketing, or at least what we’re calling traditional marketing and what we’re calling growth-hacking. Why don’t you take a stab at telling us how you define a traditional marketing approach?

Doug:               Well, Ben, I have to say shame on you for waiting so long to include me as a guest, because our most popular episode was in fact the one we recorded together. But way to bring back the heavy hitter.

Ben:                 Hang on a second. You have full approval rights of our editorial process.

Doug:               I don’t simply want to just present the real star power simply to cover for other areas.

Ben:                 Fine. Set us up today Doug – what are we expecting from channel battles.

Doug:               I think that all of us have these nuanced definitions of traditional and growth-hacking.

For me, growth-hacking I think tends towards that more dogmatic definition. What that means is that you are looking to combine the power of your product, your marketing approach, and then your sales approach collectively to drive relentlessly for growth. In other words, if your product configuration is not leading to, let’s call it breakout growth, you change it. And this is happening really quickly. If your marketing tactics aren’t helping drive growth, and that’s typically well aligned with say new features or new approaches, the way the product’s delivered in the marketplace, you change and you change fast.

So it’s very much about the data, and it’s about reacting rapidly to feedback from prospects, customers, and the market itself. That to me is growth-hacking.

I think traditional brand marketing, maybe it’s a bit broad. I’ll just narrow it down to say that when I hear that word I think, “How am I building brand awareness?” To me, that represents some of the more classic things that marketers, whether they’re B2B or B2C marketers think about, which is, “Am I using advertising?” As an example. Or, “Am I using big spend on social media or paid platforms?” And my core goal, my core objective is to create increasing levels of awareness. Really, the benefit there is that the higher the awareness that folks have, the more likely they are to choose my solutions. Or, for me, it’s a cost factor. If there’s high awareness, it’s less expensive for me to be able to pull pipeline out of the marketplace if people are more aware of my products and services.

Ben:                 Yeah. I think we agree on a lot of points related to the difference between growth and brand marketing, or, sorry, growth and traditional marketing. The reason why I said “brand marketing” is when I think of what traditional marketing efforts are … I’m going to use Mad Men as an example. I’m painting with a very broad brush, but advertising and marketing and the development of a market started with brand awareness. Can I make my target customer aware of what my customer is, how it’s differentiated in the market and where they can go to find it? You’re doing that with high impression volumes, and probably in channels that are not very trackable or actionable.

So when I just think of traditional marketing, the history of it goes to me of billboards, and then radio, and then television, and they are all very much like if-you-build-it-they-will-come-style marketing, where you put an advertisement out into the world, and you wait, and you hope your phone rings. You’re not doing a lot of tracking or attribution, and those methodologies don’t necessarily happen and grow in real time.

As opposed to a growth hacking strategy, which is the opposite. I am going to start with a small property, or I’m going to push my marketing out to a very targeted group of people, and I’m going to analyze every step across the funnel, and I’m going to try to optimize how a customer gets to my brand. I’m going to optimize what their experience is once they’re engaged with the brand, I’m going to retarget them and push them all the way through the funnel. And I’m doing things like website optimization, conversion rate optimization. I’m doing performance marketing and I’m being a very data-driven marketer.

To me, the thought of creative, and design, and your messaging stack, that is the first things I think about when I think about traditional marketing. I am thinking about the use of data and the understanding and application of technology and engineering and how that fits into marketing as how I’m thinking about growth-hacking.

Doug:               I agree with most of that. I think the one thing I would amend is this idea that building brand awareness and this idea of traditional marketing is formed through media that’s hard to track and create attribution for. I think what that does in my mind’s eye is that creates the situation where one is good and the other is bad. In this case, as small company marketers, you and I, Ben, we depend on that data. We have to have it. Because we don’t have the $20 million, $50 million, $100 million advertising budgets. So we need that data, because every dollar counts.

But I would say with brand awareness and traditional media it is not always something where you’re just kind of throwing money into the wind. I think these things are very trackable. My definition is a bit broader in that I would consider paid advertising, for the sake of generating awareness, to be a brand awareness building, but that’s very trackable. There’s no lack of data in terms of attribution. And the same thing for, let’s say content marketing and SEO. That in and of itself, using, let’s call it top-of-funnel content to drive awareness, that’s brand building. Right? I have oodles of data that could tell me whether it’s working or not.

So what I would say is that what I’d like to avoid is this idea that there’s traditional brand building, and that’s the world of media that’s un-trackable, and then there’s growth hacking and that’s all things good for marketing, which is, “I have data to back everything.”

I feel like what we’re looking at really is brand awareness and brand building is about specifically using channels and spend to drive awareness, as opposed to having a goal for purely growth that happens with growth-hacking.

Ben:                 Yeah, I totally agree with you. There is no double yellow line in between a traditional marketing approach and a growth-hacking approach. You can use performance marketing channels to build your brand, and the way that marketing has evolved. To me, there’s really an investigation into what you’re trying to accomplish with each of these channels.

You brought up an interesting point about how early-stage companies or smaller companies are prioritizing one versus the other. I think that there is an important distinction that we should talk about with understanding what is the right area of focus. Should you be more growth-driven or more brand or traditional marketing-driven at an early stage, at a growth stage, at, let’s call it an enterprise stage, or when you’re a market leader with a large marketing budget?

Talk to me about your thoughts about how the balance should be for early-stage, growth-stage, mature-stage companies.

Doug:               I like that framework, Ben. I think from an early-stage standpoint, if you’re not using growth-hacking tactics, you’re going to lose. Maybe this is a very Silicon Valley and very startup-centric perspective on the world, and I have to admit my heritage is that next stage, that kind of growth stage, once you’ve proven that there’s a product-market fit. So I speak from secondary experience with friends who were in the true startup world.

But if you’re not in that growth-hacking phase where you’re hyper-focused on how each new feature … by the way, these are feature rollouts that are occurring weekly. Right? This is very rapid. And how the marketing channels you’re using to support that new feature rollout, if you’re not in that space as a startup you’re going to be out-competed by everybody else. So it feels like there is no other real good methodology for that.

Ben:                 That’s interesting. I think that I generally lean towards a leaner growth style strategy for marketing early, mid, late-stage companies. You just have to have an understanding of what’s driving your conversion funnel. But I actually disagree with you a little bit here in the sense that if you are not investing in at least setting the foundation and planting the seeds for a brand that can be cultivated to scale from the beginning, you are going to face an uphill climb. There has to be some sort of synergy between the messaging that you’re creating, the mission of your company, and the target customers that you’re reaching out. And without that underlying focus … it might not be marketing dollars, it might be hours and resources that you’re investing in coming up with an articulate, differentiated brand strategy. If you don’t get that right from the beginning, all of the performance marketing-driven activities that you’re going to do are not going to perform the way you want them to. If you’re just an add-on, me-too product that people don’t understand or don’t think is different or valuable, it doesn’t matter how great your funnel is.

So, yes, there’s always going to be a balance between the two, but to me, nailing your marketing foundation, your brand development from day one is actually the first thing early-stage companies should be focused on. Then, once you have a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach out to and what the value prop, and you’ve really got your messaging stack honed in, then you can use what little budget, if you have any, or you’re using your guerrilla marketing tactics to start driving your initial users into your funnel, and then start your growth strategy.

So I think, initially, it’s traditional first. Figure out what you want to say, who you want to say it to, and then once you have that nailed you’re using your limited marketing budget to validate that that actually works.

Doug:               I think what we’re getting into here is this idea that these are mutually exclusive exercises, right? Because I would agree with you, Ben. I think that if you’re the first marketer through the door, and by the way, the first employee through the door is the first marketer through the door, whether that’s in your title or not, and you’re not thinking about how you’re building a reputation for the company, let’s not even use the word “brand”, but you’re building a reputation for the company, and each action you take that is public-facing has a cascading effect, a butterfly effect, potentially. You’re starting off on the wrong foot, and it’s going to be clear [inaudible].

So I would agree emphatically. You’re starting with your messaging stack. You’re starting with the things that, frankly, most people would think of as traditional marketing, as you’re beginning to think about how you [inaudible] growth. They’re almost governors, if you will, Ben. I think your point is a really valid one. You’re governing your brand reputation, your future brand reputation, by some of the more extreme tactics you might take for growth. Those are the two things you’re using to determine which tactics you apply and when.

But I would also say that we’re confusing goals with tactics and approaches. So the goal is always to be building a great brand, no matter the product, or the market, or the size of the company. As marketers, really, at the end of the day, that’s the thing we have to govern for the most. We have lots of pressures on us. But at the end of the day, we have to be the people that are looking at protecting and growing the brand. And that starts early.

But I also would say, at the same time, if you’re using traditional media, and I think this is self-obvious for a startup, unless you’ve got a billion-dollar checkbook, and it’s fairly rare that startups have that much in the way of resources. Then, it’s about arguing about which tactics make sense. And I think that growth-hacking tactics at the beginning are now the defacto standard for startups.

I would also say that it doesn’t end there though, Ben. I think as we’re looking to grow, and constantly kind of pushing the envelope, whether it’s new services, or new products, or new markets, and I would say at Searchmetrics we’ve done all of those during my tenure, you’re beginning to use growth-hacking tactics once again, because that’s how you tend to break into those markets.

So my sense is, overall, they’re not mutually exclusive, and you’ve got to keep both in mind as you’re approaching. I think what’s also interesting, Ben, is when does brand awareness come into play? Because I feel like for us in the Valley it’s like, “Hey, yeah, growth-hacking, it’s the way.” But then it’s like, “When do we start stepping on the gas and doing traditional media?” And I think that’s an interesting debate that I have with my marketing peers, is, “When do I start pressing the gas?” And that’s where I think in the Valley we tend to struggle more than the growth-hacking piece.

Ben:                 So let’s turn the page and talk about growth-stage companies, people that have found a product-market fit. That was a great introduction into this. When is the time where you’re bridging beyond just focusing on growth strategy and purely just direct response ROI, and you’re starting to think about investing in long-term awareness, channels that are broader, that take more time to come to maturity?

I’ll start off by saying I think that when you’re in a growth stage and you are cultivating a marketing mix that is meant to not just prove that you have product/market fit, and you’re just proving that you can get people through your funnel, and you’re starting to think about how do you get people at scale, you’re moving beyond just your core demographic and trying to expand into a broader audience. To me, that is where you have to plant the seed and wait for it to mature, and that’s where you get into these more brand-driven channels. So that’s where I think that growth-stage companies need to start setting aside a portion of their budget, let’s call it 10%, 15%, 20% of their budget, to plant seeds and allow for them to mature, while still focusing on driving direct ROI.

You can’t take every cent you have and put it into direct-response ads and expect those channels to continually perform. At some point you hit the point of diminishing returns. If you don’t continually, not only test new channels, but if you’re not investing in channels that take longer to mature but are more scalable and more stable, like building a solid brand, you’re running a real risk of always being dependent on performance marketing. To me, that’s kind of the balance of growth-stage companies, of you need to always be investing and building your brand. Eventually, that shifts to you’re primarily focused on building your brand and protecting it, and focused less on performance marketing.

Doug, what do you think is the balance for the growth-stage companies when thinking about traditional versus growth-hacking?

Doug:               I think that’s right, Ben. I think that one of the reasons that you and I chose this topic is because it is … these are two strategies that are interwoven throughout the life of a company. We talked about how at that startup stage, the early stage where it’s about proving product/market fit, you still have to consider that blend. But from a tactical standpoint, you’re very much growth-marketing or growth-hacking centric. Right? I think when you get to that next stage, let’s call that the growth stage, you’ve gotten out and you’ve proven the product is useful, you’re getting the next series of funding or whatever that next kind of tranche represents to you. That’s the point where you’re starting to begin thinking about the diversity of your channels and the diversity of your marketing tactics, and you are starting to think about more of the brand-building exercises.

But I think what’s happening at that stage is you’re using longer-play, lower-cost channels to drive that brand awareness. So a great, classic example is content marketing. You’re starting to really think about content marketing in that growth-phase, even though it’s a longer-term investment. It takes time to really build that content benefit, if you will. Then, I think as you’re getting to that, let’s call that the big-scale phase and say it’s $25 million in revenue, again, we’re in the software world, again, or we’re in the tech world, startup world. But at $25 million to $100 million stage, I think you’re beginning to see more dominance of traditional media.

One of the things that I have looked for, Ben, is we’re a data-driven company, we’re full of data-driven people, so of course I’m a data-driven guy. And what I’m looking for is, I’m really closely monitoring my customer lifetime value to CAC ration. As I’m beginning to get to a point in a market or with a product where I’m seeing a very favorable ratio, in other words where, let’s say it’s 1.1 or 1.2 to 1, in other words, my costs are returning a much higher benefit. I’m no longer spending $1 and getting $1. I’m spending $1 and getting $1.50 back. That’s when I’m starting to think about how to maximize my growth-hacking channels. And I’m now looking at more kind of content marketing or more advertising, if you will. And that’s just my tip at this point and the trend I look for, is when are your numbers telling you to think differently about how you’re growing?

Ben:                 Yeah. I think one thing that you said that stuck out to me is, you know, when you get to that sort of growth stage, then now is the time to start investing in content, as an example.

I think of content as a channel that, you know, you produce one blog post, it’s going to have very little value, in most likelihood. If you consistently produce a high volume of content that’s all related to itself and you have a good strategy for SEO and content distribution and you do that over a long period of time, it becomes incredibly valuable. And the assets that you’re building get more and more valuable over time.

That’s also a channel that you can use data to analyze. That’s one of the purposes of Searchmetrics, is to understand what content you should be creating and how it’s likely to perform. There is sort of an in-between ground here that you can use channels that take a long time to get to maturity, but use data to analyze them and understand their growth.

Honestly, early-stage, mid-stage, late-stage, the sooner that you start investing in those assets, the more likely they’re going to come to maturity. It’s a little bit chicken or the egg. Do you focus on … do you eat sugar or do you eat vitamins? Do you need energy right now, or are you building for the future?

That profile changes for each business during its maturity curve. I understand what you’re saying with thinking about channels like content, thinking about … maybe your event strategy, your brand awareness, not just focusing on direct response. That to me is where, when you’re in growth stage, you’re starting to invest in those things. So as your company continues to grow because you’ve really nailed your growth-hacking, performance marketing type stuff, you’re not dependent on it at the point when you get to diminishing returns.

Doug:               Ben, I have a comment here to make. If we’ve got some big brand marketers out there, my job right now is to scare you a little bit. But what I would say is I would not want to face off against somebody like you or I, or our brethren in small company marketing, and sisters, because we never dropped the lesson of the growth hack. We never dropped the lesson of “data proves everything”. There’s certainly intuition and there’s certainly creativity that go into deciding which content to put to market. But we are constantly measuring the impact of that content. So we rarely put content out there that we don’t think has a high likelihood of succeeding, and we’re pretty quick to pull back content that doesn’t.

This is part of the reason that content marketing exploded onto the scene as a channel, because the ROI was so huge. Initially, you could put mediocre content out there. And “mediocre content” is defined by not a lot of people reading it, a lot of people bouncing off the page. Clearly, people aren’t necessarily completing the content. But, “You know what? I remembered your brand.” And then the market got flooded with other marketers out there trying to copy the formula. And the marketers that have traditionally won in those situations are marketers that recognize that great, quality content can be measured.

So as we think about, “When am I using traditional marketing or more awareness-driven channels?” I think we are used to battle, we small company marketers. We measure the heck out of everything. So we’re not putting content marketing strategies out there that are likely to fail. We’re constantly changing and measuring.

I think what I would say, going all the way back to the beginning of our conversation, is that your point I think was a very valid one. When you’re beginning this journey, you’ve got to consider both. If you’re not building in that measurement, that data muscle, if you will, early on, and if you’re not building that brand muscle in early on, you’re going to struggle.

So I think that is, as I look at all the different, wonderful organizations I’ve ever worked for, you’re always in that balancing act between the hack and the awareness play. If you can combine both, and typically you can combine both, then you’re really in a spot to succeed.

Again, if you’re Coca-Cola, full disclosure, I used to work at Coca-Cola, be scared. Be very scared. Because we’re coming for you.

Was that too scary, Ben?

Ben:                 I’m terrified. I don’t think Coke necessarily is, because at some point when you … as we transition the conversation to talk about the large enterprise brands, you have the ability to buy your way in and out of a lot of situations.

So I think the approach for enterprise companies, and I worked for eBay, let’s call that an enterprise company. I mean, I think when I worked there it had 13,000 people. That’s a pretty sizable-

Doug:               Yep, pretty enterprisey.

Ben:                 Yeah. And I don’t even know if enterprise is really the right term, but the large, mature company is really what we’re talking about.

My experience at eBay was very much data-driven, but also with a high emphasis on building and protecting and distributing the brand. It was the core asset that eBay had at the time; was it was known as the leader in eCommerce. This was 10 years ago, pre the meteoric rise of Amazon.

So that’s where my enterprise-level experience is coming from. There was definitely an emphasis on brand building. But there was still a large Internet-marketing team that was incredibly tactical and was … When you’re at that scale, you really have to nail both. You can’t be a large company and … I guess you can be a large company working at a brand deficit. But you’re just opening up a lot of opportunity for the growth-stage companies to come in and eat some market share from you.

So you have to protect your brand, you have to protect your turf. You always have to be investing and staying in front of your customers. But to make a company of that size scale … And there’s so much expectation. You really have to also be focused on your funnel, and be very granular with how you’re getting your customers in and through.

Doug:               Well, can we use a current example, Ben, that I think represents how … I’m not a fan of smoking, but how one particular company, a company called JUUL here, based in San Francisco, did an extraordinary job of balancing growth-hacking with brand marketing.

For those of you who are a little behind on your feet or haven’t looked at the news lately, Altria Group recently acquired, or is intending to acquire JUUL. I’m not a smoker, but I would say that vaping has exploded, at least in the Bay Area. I know it’s a trend globally. JUUL is a company that used typical growth-hacking tactics to get their product to market. Then, because they were a first mover in vape, they’re dominating that marketplace. In many ways, if you look at the press release that Altria Group put out there about acquiring JUUL, in many ways they were talking about how it opens up channels for them and how they’re really acquiring distribution, and they’re acquiring at some level brand. But I also have to tell you, the folks there in the boardroom there at Altria were probably terrified. Because, I have to tell you, JUUL went from zero to dominating their niche in the marketplace. But I think in short order it was very likely they were going to overwhelm organizations like Altria.

I would say to your point at the beginning, Ben, it’s that idea that they kept in mind, the first person through the door, JUUL, was the first marketer, and they were thinking, “What is my brand? How do I grow? How do I marry the two?” Frankly, what a great example, a great success story there?

By the way, if any of my buddies that work at JUUL heard this, thank you so much. And, yes, I would like that Porsche at Christmas.

Ben:                 I think that there’s another example that comes to mind when you get to enterprise scale, when you’re a mature company, how the mix changes. The thing that sticks out to me is Uber.

Obviously, there were some PR-related things that happened to Uber with the transition away from their founder. But that was a company that was really almost 100% built on a growth-hacking strategy. Focused very much on virality, very much on optimizing their funnel.

There wasn’t really a marketing team. It was an engineering team that was focused on marketing and just optimizing the crap out of the user experience. And, hey, it grew, and it grew, and it grew, and at some point they got to the level of scale where they didn’t pay enough attention to their brand, and they also didn’t pay enough attention to how some of their operational practices were reflected in the marketplace. And they have had an incredibly difficult 2018. I think in terms of the business growth, like, the operations are probably still scaling and the business is doing just fine, but the overwhelming sentiment of the brand has been incredibly negative.

That’s one of those things where they did not focus on protecting their image, protecting their brand, talking about the positive things that they were focusing on, because they were only focused on being a growth-driven company.

Now, you’re seeing this sea change where there’s a change in leadership. What was the first thing that Dara did when he became the CEO or one of the first things that he did publicly? Was he put himself front and center, talking about how the leadership had changed the mentality of the company, and now their brand messaging, they’re doing a lot of TV, something that is very difficult to track in terms of direct response, and their message is very much about the positive ways that easing the use of transportation provides value for people. Like, “Hey, all of these old guys that can’t drive anymore can still get together for their afternoon early bird special lunch and drinks. That’s why Uber is so great.” Now, they’re focusing more on a brand message.

I’m sure they’re still investing in performance marketing and all of the growth-hacking strategies and virality. That stuff all exists. But they are slamming down on the gas to use a transportation metaphor to try to catch up with some of the brand deficit that they’ve built.

Doug:               I wonder if that’s … I mean, it’ll be a fascinating conversation. Let’s say that we have the same conversation a year from now, Ben, whether or not they’d been able to fill that gap. Because I think that’s a wonderful example of how you can lose sight of your brand reputation through the growth process. I would tell you, I’m an early adopter of Uber and have faithfully used Uber, and would also tell you that their reputation, deservedly so, has really declined. And it has given me great pause about using Uber. I at some level feel guilty, because I feel like their labor practices were poor. So can they pour the money in and make up for that?

And in many ways, the funny thing is they were the first movers. They’re going to be dominant in the marketplace for a long time, and perhaps they can fill that gap. But because they were the ground-breakers, they also … with disruption come sometimes very negative stuff. They changed the labor market, the gig market in many ways.

You know, if you talk to an Uber driver and ask them what they’re making per hour, it’s not great. So how do they manage their way through that? Is that traditional marketing? Yeah. At that point, now they’re having to recover a lot of the things they did on day one that they didn’t really think about in terms of reputation. I think that’s a good example, Ben.

Ben:                 Yeah, I appreciate it.

Doug:               I think, unfortunately, we’re agreeing way too much, Ben. I’m troubled by this very deeply.

Ben:                 Well, you know, I think at the end of the day as we look back on the different stages and how growth and traditional marketing mindsets play with each other, the answer to me is you have to develop both muscles from the beginning, and you have to consistently work on them.

Where your emphasis is is going to change over time based on necessity. Where initially you’re focused on leveraging what resources and showing that you have product/market fit, you’re going to be more growth-focused. And as your company matures, you’re going to go through this sea change where you start to focus on building and protecting your brand, because you’re moving away from performance marketing channels that have diminishing returns at some point. And building a brand and a reputation doesn’t really have an endpoint in terms of scale. That’s why you see the Coca-Cola, Apples, the Googles of the world focusing on brand marketing efforts. At some point, those campaigns don’t hit the point of diminishing returns. They don’t have the scale problems that growth-hacking, performance-marketing channels can have.

Both of them are necessities. I think one of the underlying things that we didn’t talk about is there’s the notion of being scrappy, of using data to run small tests and optimize. That’s kind of considered maybe a growth-marketing practice. But you can do that to develop your brand. You can launch small campaigns and see how they perform and use that data to then scale your brand efforts as well.

To me, building in a mechanism and the muscle within your organization, even when you’re at scale, of doing small tests, continually investing in new things, thinking about innovation, that’s what really drives enterprise-scale companies to continue to be successful, be able to fight off the challengers that are trying to take market share away with performance growth and even some branding exercises.

Doug:               Yeah, I agree, Ben. I think anybody who’s kind of thinking about this is thinking about, “Hey, I’m at that method stage. I’m in the product/market fit stage.” The ratio I would use is to say you’re 90% growth, and you’re 10% brand identity, if you will, or brand reputation, rather. Then, as you scale kind of up the revenue curve, that ratio begins to shift.

I have not worked for a software company that was at that full enterprise scale. I’ve always gravitated towards the mid-sized companies, Ben. But I would tell you from talking to friends that are out there, that mix is dramatically altered. They’re more in that 70/30 range. In other words, they’re very much about that kind of traditional media mix. When they are using growth hacking, it is in fact exactly what you’re talking about. It’s about a new product in the market, et cetera. But I think that ratio just simply shifts over time. But you have to keep, again, those two things in mind with everything you do.

Ben:                 Agreed. Agreed, agreed, agreed. I feel like we’re agreeing way too much.

Doug:               Yeah, unfortunately, way too much. This is not … Ben, we’ve got to pick something to be arguing over. There’s, like, two dozen things. But that’s not it.

Ben:                 All I’ll say is, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” And, “What are your last takeaways from talking about brand and growth marketing?”

Doug:               So here it is: I think that marketers are typically really comfortable with a channel or two, that’s normal. We either grow up with a channel, or we just have great success with a particular channel. I’m an SEO marketer. End of the day, I’m a huge believer in it. I think the thing I would say is look for those trends like growth-hacking. Right now, yes, it’s very much about the value, it’s very much about software startups. But it’s also about consumer companies.

JUUL is the case study I would use. They growth-hacked and brand-reputed … I think I just made up a new phrase … their way into a huge acquisition price with Altria Group. I think that’s the formula I would follow.

Harvard Business Review case studies are going to come flying out of this acquisition, guys. Look for that on a magazine shelf or online near you fast.

Ben:                 I think my biggest take away is that you could think about a growth mindset, you could think about a traditional marketing mindset, and you’re always going to have to prioritize one or the other. With very rare exceptions are you really going to be a 50/50 split between the two. But you have to start with a solid foundation of identity, really develop your brand from day one, or your growth-marketing efforts are not going to be successful.

As you scale, you cannot just purely rely on your brand to carry the day. You still need to focus on some of the operational and innovative tactics, or you’re going to fall behind and the challenger brands are going to start taking your market share. So these channel battles, the truth is, the winner is going to be somebody that understands both how to build their brand and protect it, while understanding what are the data-driven practices that get people through your funnel.

Doug:               I agree with you, Ben, but I think you just said everything completely wrong. That’s the best I can do.

Ben:                 Okay. Okay. Well, on that note, that wraps up this episode of the TrendSpotting Podcast. Thanks to Doug Bell for joining us. If you’d like to learn more about Doug, you can click on the link in our show notes to his bio, or you can send him a tweet @MarketAdvocate. If you’re interested in talking about general marketing topics, or if you’d like to talk to me about being a guest on the show, you can find the link to my bio in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap.

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