The Difference Between Growth Hacking and Traditional Marketing

Marketers discussing growth strategies

One of the things you’ll notice as you dive deeper into marketing is the variety of ways you can approach your target market. The rise of the World Wide Web and social media radically changed how we consume content and buy products and services. These changes forced marketers to reconsider how they reach their target markets.

Due to these changes, growth hacking became a popular marketing technique as the traditional approach doesn’t always cut it among certain segments. Since growth hacking is the new kid on the marketing block, it’s easy to think that the old way of doing things has been phased out.

That can’t be further from the truth, though. While more people are going digital, traditional advertising efforts still have a place for companies that need it.

This guide will detail the areas where growth hacking and traditional marketing converge and help you determine which strategy best suits your needs.



Both growth hacking and traditional marketing were products of their times. Looking at their origins will help you better understand each technique.

  • Traditional Marketing

Marketing as we know it today began in the late 18th century as industrialization introduced products that made life easier. This resulted in industries that made the sale and delivery of goods more manageable. Marketing is one such industry.

Marketing boomed in the 1960s as markets became saturated with brands. Companies that use traditional marketing always tap into the latest technologies to reach a broader market.

  • Growth Hacking

While growth hacking came later, its booming popularity is a testament to its ability to reach more customers.

This process was born during a time when high-pressure startups were popping up everywhere. Since these firms lack significant financial capital, they experimented with their marketing approaches to rapidly establish their place against companies that boast more than five times their marketing budgets.



The old-school-versus-new-school comparisons between traditional marketing and growth hacking become clearer when you examine how they reach out to their target markets.

  • Traditional Marketing

Companies that prefer traditional marketing aren’t afraid of spending a bit more money. They tend to focus on reaching as many people as possible without a clear picture of their campaigns’ effectiveness.

Conventional marketing calls for billboards, radio ads, TV commercials, YouTube mastheads, flyers, and other techniques implemented over a long time. Some of the biggest brands run one or two of these campaigns annually.

  • Growth Hacking

Experimentation is at the core of growth hacking. Growth marketers use short, data-driven experiments to understand which tactics bring the most conversions.

Another thing that sets growth hacking apart is the metrics they consider essential. For instance, if a video has been shared, traditional marketers consider high view counts a success. Growth hackers, however, place greater value on how many people signed up after watching the video.


Marketing Funnels

A People Looking the Paper Together

Both systems base their campaigns on a set framework. The differences between their funnels show which goals are prioritized in each campaign.

  • Traditional Marketing

We’ve established that orthodox marketers place all of their efforts into obtaining the customer, and their marketing funnel reflects this. Their marketing framework consists of two sections: generating awareness of your product or service and turning audiences into leads.

The pitfall of this strategy is that it ends with brand awareness. Traditional marketing often doesn’t allow further engagement after a customer has expressed interest in your offer.

  • Growth Hacking

If you want a more holistic approach to help your company reach greater heights with your limited budget, the growth hacking framework might be better for you.

The growth hacking framework is also known as the pirate funnel. While it has the awareness and acquisition stages, the funnel also considers the other parts of the buyer’s journey to turn any secure leads into loyal brand ambassadors.


Data collection

All successful marketing campaigns are built on solid data. Traditional marketing and growth hacking utilize different ways to collect and use data.

  • Traditional Marketing

Marketing agencies use tried-and-tested methods to collect data for their campaigns. They conduct focus-group discussions, surveys, research, and interviews to collect the data they supply to their creative teams. They create their ads and promos through these details.

However, they make up for any shortcomings in their data through guesswork. Since they don’t track real-time performance, they don’t have established parameters to assess the success of their campaigns.

  • Growth Hacking

Ask a growth hacker what the main star of their marketing efforts is, and they’ll answer data ten times out of ten. Data is at the heart of all of their activities. The experiments they implement throughout the process aim to find what works with your audience.

While creativity is still important in driving people towards your business, the growth hacking process cannot progress without comprehensively digesting the data. Even data from campaigns that fail to meet the mark can become the missing piece to a brand’s explosive growth.


Skill Sets and Structures

What are two of the most critical things in determining which marketing strategy is right for you? The skills and organizational structure they operate on.

  • Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketers are specialists in lead generation and conversion techniques. These skills they honed through years of industry experience allow them to create compelling brand identities, strategies, and sales campaigns for the world’s most popular brands.

These experts don’t usually mix their responsibilities with the other team members. Whenever they have ideas beyond their scope, they must escalate them to the account manager.

  • Growth Hacking

The hectic life cycles of growth hacking projects require collaboration among different teams. If you look at a company that specializes in such services, the very first thing you’ll notice is the diverse backgrounds of the collaborators.

Since growth hacking experts don’t fit into one mold, you’ll find these people to be quick-learning creatives. If you work with a growth hacking team, every member will know your strategy, campaign, and process.


Campaign Process

A People Looking the Paper Together

How traditional agencies and growth hacking firms operate also paints an interesting contrast.

  • Traditional Marketing

The first department you’ll face during collaboration with an agency is the strategy and account department. They’ll set a meeting to learn more about your brand and company culture before passing off the information to the creative teams.

The creatives will create drafts of their campaigns and present them to you. Once you greenlight one of their proposals, production begins. The process ends with the implementation of your campaigns to relevant channels.

  • Growth Hacking

You’ll work with your growth team or consultant from the moment you tap their growth hacking services. Growth hackers will help determine your company’s needs and launch experiments within days.

Depending on the performance of these experiments, you either stop, improve, or fully implement them. More sets of data-driven tests are performed until your campaign is fully optimized.


Marketing Channels

If you’re looking for further proof that growth hacking is budget-friendly, look beyond the usual spaces their campaigns occupy.

  • Traditional Marketing

Agencies create their campaigns to publish them in established marketing channels, both print and online. TV, radio, and billboards are common avenues for their work. Newspapers and magazines are also viable channels.

While these channels get plenty of attention, the risk factor is also high. You don’t have any data to support that the ad your creative team painstakingly worked on reached its intended audience.

  • Growth Hacking

On the other side of the marketing fence, growth hackers are more than happy to explore platforms that let them communicate with their audience.

Growth hackers typically utilize social media channels with active user bases. These platforms also have trackable and traceable data, helping growth hackers determine which trials are worth scaling up.


Let Us Help You Exponentially Grow

Traditional marketing and growth hacking are critical marketing strategies that help companies stand out from an overly saturated market. Both techniques have strengths and weaknesses, and finding out which aligns with your situation and goals will help you the most.

If your company needs effective marketing solutions, choose Synapse Research Ltd. Our data-centric growth hacking packages can help you build a loyal customer base that will drive your business forward within months.

Contact us to learn how we can help your business succeed online.