Gross Hacker Marketing

Mitch JoelPosted by

Do you want customers or email addys? They’re not the same thing.

Customers, right? Then start acting like it. Most brands seem to be on this strange run for information acquisition over customer acquisition. My buddy, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and bestselling business book author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) often regales audiences with the idea that a customer is only a true customer if they have bought from you more than once (a principal that a leading chief marketer had shared with him). You would think that the more modern brands would not only understand this, but embrace it. 

You would be wrong. 

Last week, I read a Business Insider article about a new app that was using artificial intelligence to better understand its users, and optimize the tool as the user engaged with it. I’m not going to name the brand, so please don’t ask. I quickly hopped over to their site to download it, but was confronted with a closed beta roll-out landing page that was requesting my email address, so that I could be notified when the app becomes available on a more broader basis. I’ve been gated outside of a digital velvet rope. 

Don’t ask me for something, while giving me nothing in return. 

I’ve become skeptical and cynical. It’s clear that people did have access to this app. Maybe it wasn’t fully-baked and ready for prime time, but still. Besides a minor tease, why would I trust your brand with my email? What’s the true promise? An email reminder is hardly an equitable value exchange for the pending reality that there will be a non-stop deluge of email marketing aggression towards my inbox. So little payoff. Plus, if that skepticism is amplified, every good marketer knows that the email addys may be given (sold) to third parties, and who knows what happens to that data should this business model not work out, and my email address (along with everyone else’s) suddenly becomes the only valuable asset of this now bankrupt company? This has become par for the course with user’s data and information. 

This is not growth hacker marketing. 

I caved. Gave my email. Kind of. The truth is, that I sign up for a lot of stuff, so I secured a second Gmail account for just such moments. My own little spam inbox, if you will. Growth Hacker Marketing is about using technology and analytics to outsmart more traditional advertising tactics, to get you better customers for a cheaper acquisition cost. This is not that. 

What happened next… this is where they lost me. 

After that activity, a new landing page arrived. It wanted me to get ten friends to give up their email addy, in return for jumping the queue (or getting beyond their mythical velvet rope). This is not a brand name app. This is not a tool that people have been clamouring for. It’s much more of a me-too product in an already saturated space. There is no burning platform here or scars of people buzzing about it. Still, they are attempting to create a false state of scarcity and exclusivity, where this is none. Now, it’s not just about my email address, but ten more from people who know, like and trust me. But, here’s the thing: I do not know, like or trust this app or brand (yet). Again, what have they done for me lately (or… now)? So, what they may internally think is a smart marketing tactic to grow interest and customers, is actually nothing shy of becoming a spammer…. and making me, the potential customer, the main spammer in question. I’m not going to sell out anyone for your brand. Especially a brand that has proven nothing, but a desire to capture as many email addresses as possible.

Don’t confuse growth hacker marketing with gross hacker marketing, my dear friends.