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For years, growth hacking has been all the buzz in the marketing world. But lately, it feels like people are talking about it less and less.

According to this Google Analytics graph, interest in the search term “growth hacking” reached its peak popularity in 2017. Since then, it has been slowly on the decline.

growth hacking

This makes me wonder if growth hacking's time is up. Before I can answer that, let’s first clarify what growth hacking is.

In short, growth hacking is a marketing strategy that involves unconventional customer acquisition strategies. Businesses engage in growth hacking when they capitalize on tactics that create disruptive marketing and yield high returns.

Startup companies commonly use growth hacking strategies in an effort to publicize their brands at a rapid rate without spending all of their money on advertising and marketing. But all businesses can benefit from this marketing strategy. Simply put, growth hacking is intended to be the most efficient strategy for business growth.

Related Article: Growth Hacking Helps You Experiment Your Way to Better CX

The Roots of Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is a relatively new term. It was popularized by Sean Ellis, the founder of Growth Hackers, who in 2010 wrote a blog post in which he defined and essentially coined the term as we know it today.

With that said, growth hacking has been around forever.

McDonald’s may have been one of the first companies to succeed with a growth hacking strategy. Back in the 1950s, the fledgling fast food chain realized how popular interstate highways were going to be, so it started building restaurants right next to the thoroughfares.

However, by today’s definition, growth hacking is usually associated with inexpensive ways to build a business. That’s why it’s so popular among startups that can’t afford something extravagant like a Super Bowl commercial.

Growth Hacking in 2019

Over a stretch of at least a few years, growth hacking was arguably the most popular trend in the world of marketing for startup companies, but growth hacking might not be as popular today as it once was.

Like any other fad, it’s starting to peter out. Companies still embrace the principles of growth hacking, but people aren’t calling it growth hacking. Now they are starting to use terms like “disruptive marketing” to describe strategies for building businesses.

Related Article: How to Use 'First Principles' to Create Disruption With Your Marketing

Trends Fade and Get Renamed

This happens to fads and trends all of the time. Here are some relevant analogies and examples:

  • Bruce Clay came up with a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy called “siloing” for website architecture. His method gained some traction, but it didn’t necessarily become a major trend and eventually waned.
  • More recently, Matthew Howells-Barby of HubSpot popularized the term “topic clusters” in the SEO world. Clusters and silos are basically the same things. People are just calling siloing something else today.
  • A similar thing happened with the “lean startup methodology,” which was originally proposed by Eric Ries in 2008. He eventually published a book on the topic in 2011. But it wasn’t a completely new concept. Steven Blank was the first one to develop this theory, except he called it the “customer development methodology.” Ries just borrowed Blank’s idea, changed the name and made it more popular.

That’s what’s happening to growth hacking today.

Related Article: Use Failure to Drive Product Growth

Good Business Practices Never Go Out of Style

Growth hacking is not dying. Growth hacking will never die. Sure, the term may not be as popular as it once was, but businesses will always be looking to stimulate growth with unconventional and cost-effective methods of acquiring new customers. It’s just good business practice. If you’re a smart marketer, you’ll always be doing this.

The ways in which companies use growth hacking strategies will change as new technologies and new media channels emerge. In 20 years, marketers will still embrace the principles that we associate with growth hacking. What will people be calling it then? It doesn’t matter.

No matter what growth hacking might be called, it’s still alive and thriving.