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The Fundamentals of Growth Marketing

  • By Christian Gladwell, CEO at M&C Saatchi Performance

    What do Airbnb, Monzo, Netflix, and Instagram have in common? As well as dominating each of their individual markets, they have all adapted traditional growth marketing models.

    Taking advantage of the digital revolution, these companies have led the way when it comes to using tangible measurements and tactics to transform one dimensional marketing campaigns into data driven strategies that more effectively reach their target audiences in a crowded and noisy marketplace.

    Looking at these companies, it’s difficult to think of a time when they weren’t the big players in the game. But that time did exist, which goes to show that Northern Irish companies competing on a smaller scale can still learn a lot from these now global giants.

    Firstly, before running a marketing campaign, businesses should be considering the importance of brand in partnership with growth marketing. From the consumers’ perspective, the two are intrinsically linked, so to achieve a successful growth strategy it needs to be paired with an effective brand strategy.

    For example, Instagram let consumers use it for free ahead of its launch, creating ready‐made brand advocates who built a strong foundation of ‘followers’ willing to spread the word. Within the first hour of its launch, Instagram had 10,000 users, and with more than 1 billion users in 2019, their growth clearly didn’t stop there.

    Secondly, measurement in advertising is essential to understanding success. Attribution is the beating heart of effective marketing. The clearer you can see the effect of your campaign, the quicker you can reinforce success and turn off failure. This is achieved by setting clear objectives and understanding data sits at the heart of any growth marketing strategy. It’s important for marketers to collect, manipulate, and combine all data, be it first, second, or third‐party, to get the clearest picture possible.

    Everyone is often trying to sell you ‘better data’ but in reality, such things rarely exist. Ask yourself this, “If a dataset is really capable of delivering such a distinct competitive advantage, why is it being sold to everyone?” – it’s more important to build your own custom modelling based on your own first party data and then build that out to achieve scale and efficiency via structured, but agile, look-a-like models and a learning approach.

    Finally, throughout this process, businesses must be asking themselves how they can achieve these custom models and data collection in a moral/ethical way in a GDPR world. Earlier this year, Google was fined €1.5bn (£1.3bn) for abusing its monopoly in online advertising by the European Commission. An expensive exercise in retribution to ensure that the industry knows that GDPR is to be taken extremely seriously.

    Perhaps a more useful way of discussing data is user level (first party) and placement level (aggregate learnings). Not only does that clarify how data can be combined to best effect but also negates the argument around using purchased user level data and protecting consumers and companies alike.

    It’s an issue that’s not going away, which is why businesses need to tackle it head‐on. By investing time and resources in compliance and diligence, while also getting smart about how they retrieve data, marketers will be able to find creative solutions that continue play a fundamental role in driving growth and ultimately delivering a value exchange between brands and people.


    Christian Gladwell will be speaking at the Growth Marketing Live event on September 18 and 19. For more information go to


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