Evolving On The Fly: Growth Hackers, Agile Marketers, Bayesian Strategists And CMTs

If you are a Darwinist, one of the questions you may have asked yourself is, on what timescale does evolution play out? Is it a long, gradual development of new and differentiated species? Or, as Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge believe, does evolution happen in short spurts, separated by long periods of stasis (their theory is called Punctuated Equilibrium)?

The next question you might ask is, what does this have to do with marketing?

I venture to say: everything. Bear with me.

If you believe, as I believe, that evolution happens in spurts, then it’s important to understand what causes those spurts. Among many contentious alternatives, one that seems to be more commonly accepted is a sudden dramatic change in what evolutionists call the adaptive landscape.  This is the real world that species must adapt to in order to survive. “Flat” landscapes create an even playing field for all species to survive, resulting in relative stasis. “Rugged” landscapes significantly favor some species over others, accelerating evolution dramatically. “Rugged” landscapes generally emerge after some big event, like a catastrophe.



I propose that marketing is currently a very rugged adaptive landscape. Some marketers are going to thrive, and others are going to disappear from the face of the earth. We’re already seeing exciting new species emerge.

Growth Hackers

If you haven’t heard about them, Growth Hackers are “the next big thing,” at least, according to Fast Company.  A post by Andrew Chen is referenced, where he explains, “Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of ‘How do I get customers for my product?’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph.” Think of hackers as tech-savvy marketing guerillas. They move fast, exploit technical opportunities, and track and test everything.

Agile Marketers

According to the Agile Marketing Manifesto, this offshoot of Agile Development enshrines customer focus, validated learning, iterative approaches, flexibility and learning from our mistakes. In the words of my friend Mike Moran, it’s learning how to “Do It Wrong Quickly.” As opposed to Growth Hackers, which is more of a job description, Agile Marketing is a corporate philosophy that encourages (demands) rapid evolution. It embraces the realities of a “rugged” adaptive landscape.

Bayesian Strategists

This was top of mind after my last column, so I added this in as my contribution. As stated last week, I envision strategic thinking to become less of a “shot in the dark” and more of a “testable hypothesis.”  I would never want to see “Big Thinking” give way to “Big Data,” but I believe the two can co-exist, and co-evolve, quite nicely.

Chief Marketing Technologist

Finally, under whose watch does all of this fall? If you believe Scott Brinker (which I invariably do -- he’s from Boston and he’s “wicked smaaht”) it falls quit nicely into the job description of the Chief Marketing Technologist. I’ll let him explain in his own words: “A chief marketing technologist (CMT) is the person responsible for leading an organization's marketing technology.”

A CMT sits astride the rapidly colliding worlds of marketing and technology and makes sure an organization does not fall prey to the all-too-common trap of having these overseen by two completely separate (and often outrightly hostile) departments.

A CMT understands the following realities:

Everything is Marketing

Everything is Changing

Everyone Must Be Agile

In the words of Peter Drucker, "Business has only two basic functions: marketing and innovation." In today’s world, those two functions are inextricably linked. As a marketer, you have two choices: adapt and survive, or stand still and die. The ones who do the first the best will emerge at the top of the marketing food chain.


3 comments about "Evolving On The Fly: Growth Hackers, Agile Marketers, Bayesian Strategists And CMTs ".
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  1. Scott Brinker from ion interactive, inc., January 10, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.

    You had me at "punctuated equilibrium."

    An exciting collection of new species in the marketing genus! Thanks for sharing these, including the chief marketing technologist role, and the very kind mention of me in the language of the Bostonian subspecies.

  2. David Carlick from Carlick, January 10, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.

    For some years now I have been seeing online startups founded by technical people. In fact, an executive with a powerpoint looking for money is in a long line behind some technical founders who have a site that is growing rapidly started with their own mental sweat. Evident often is that their experience is game-like (maybe, an evolution of their younger technical gaming days) where every night is code code code, release, and the game is to see how the world reacts, whether the 'new' gets new 'points' and 'levels,' and then do it again. And again. One founder ten years ago in the DM space said 'we are like online cockroaches. We find every crumb, we grow, we find more.'

  3. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, January 10, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.

    My pleasure Scott. If I had you at punctuated equilibrium, you'd be a complete push over for allopatric speciation

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