The great equalizer in marketing is creativity. No matter how strong your brand already is in your industry or how high your marketing budget might be, the only way to survive in the marketing space is to be in a constant state of innovation. What makes this a powerful trump card is that creativity in marketing remains contextual. If your marketing team works in the spirit of creativity, any obstacles in your campaigns can be conquered.
One misconception about marketing is that once your brand or company has been established as an industry leader, your marketing is all set. This is not the case. In Ryan Holiday’s great book “Growth Hacker Marketing”, Holiday writes about how the strongest brands continue to be creative in their marketing, and even the smallest steps can provide big dividends. This is the core summarization of the “Growth Hacker” philosophy in marketing: by taking the small steps to make your brand stand out, you are “hacking” the conventions of marketing to work in your favor. Being a growth hacker in marketing means you focus on the great things you can do, rather than focusing on the obstacles your team might face.
Holiday provides some really strong examples of higher level brands using the principles of growth hacking in their own campaigns and new products. Apple for example, made a conscious decision to include white headphones with every iPod they sold as a way for their product to stand out immediately from the crowd. Everyone using their product immediately became an impromptu brand ambassador, since the choice white headphones are heavily associated with Apple. This huge boost in their brand’s top of mind awareness all came from the simple choice of deciding what color their headphones should be. But as Holiday teaches us in his book, the simplest choices can often have the biggest implications. It’s easy to get transfixed on the overall personality of your brand or product, but if you don’t take the time to tweak it into a unique niche of the market, your marketing efforts may fall short of expectations.
Along with subtle tweaks in design, another key facet to growth hacks in your marketing strategy comes in controlling the access to your product. The common convention when it comes to products is to release them to as many people as possible once it’s been fully tested and ironed out. However, numerous companies have gone against this conception with new products. The two that very quickly come to mind occupy similar spaces: Google and Dropbox. Both of these brands are fixtures in Holiday’s book, as he further examines how each company not only controlled their products launch with invite-only programs, but incentivized invitees to invite others and participate in the brands overall dialogue. With Dropbox, they incentivized their product by giving users free extra space when they referred new users to their product. Similar the effect that Apple had with their headphone method, this incentive made all Dropbox users ambassadors for the brand, with an incredibly strong and unique call to action. Similarly, Google has invested heavily in invite-only strategies for their products, initially with Gmail and more recently with the updated Gmail Inbox platform. These invite initiatives hack the convention of launching a product: by giving your initial users the control to invite others into the product community, you give them a proper sense of control in regards to your product and to your brand.
These two examples (among the numerous found in Ryan Holiday’s book) provide great insight on how small tweaks in design, user experience and emotional resonance can provide huge dividends to the goals you set in your marketing plans. When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to think that a larger budget may be the quickest way to achieve what you want but it’s also well worth your time to determine how your brand can zag where everyone else zigs.