How to Ditch Growth Hacking and Focus on Brand Building

by Josh Ritchie

There’s no doubt that marketers are under a ton of pressure. From content production, to team management, to benchmarks, there are a million things to think about—so it’s easy to lose focus on your future growth when you’re trying to get stuff off your to-do list today. But if you want to build a successful business, brand building is crucial.

Unfortunately, marketers everywhere are facing a core struggle: should you focus on long-term growth or short-term gains? For many, the short-term has become the priority, largely because of the pressure to produce results. 

According to the 2019 WARC report, 63% of CMOs said they believe the primary goal of marketing is revenue growth and 59% are focused on enhancing margin growth.

It’s no surprise that with so much focus on revenue, building a brand often takes a back seat. Marketers submit to pressure from sales and higher ups, choosing growth hacking tactics that bring short-term gains but often at the expense of long-term success. In recent years, this growth hacking trend has become more prevalent—and more dangerous to a brand’s health.

The Danger of Growth Hacking

Growth hacking isn’t inherently bad, per se. But its prevalence in the marketing world is an alarming trend because, in many ways, it undermines marketing’s ultimate goal: to support and build a brand.

Brand building is strategic; marketing is tactical.

When marketing tactics meant to advance the brand are replaced with growth hacking tactics that are wholly focused on financial targets (and don’t consider any of the potential implications to the brand), marketers set themselves up to fail.

Think of it this way: Growth hacking is, essentially, like being Weird Al Yankovic. You follow the latest trends, produce your own version, and get a hit now and then. But your work isn’t uniquely memorable. In essence, you’re a marketing cover artist. There’s nothing enduring, original, or permanent about your work.

Weird al brand building

To build a lasting brand, you need to be a Beyoncé. You need to stake your claim, make a powerful impact, and deliver on your value prop time and time again. Yes, brand is ever-evolving, but it grows from a strong foundation and identity—one that is supported through marketing.   

beyonce gif brand building

Unfortunately, when you focus on growth hacking only, you stray from your brand blueprint. And then what happens?  

  • Your content is misaligned.
  • Your campaigns aren’t cohesive.
  • Your brand becomes diluted.

So how do you shift your mentality—and get buy-in from everyone else? It starts by taking a step back and looking at the big picture.

How to Shift from Growth Hacking to Brand Building

You can’t build a brand alone; it requires everyone to be on board with the vision. Here are 5 ways to get your team united and on the same page.

1) Have a Well-Documented Brand Strategy

Your brand strategy is your plan for brand success. It includes your brand heart (purpose, vision, mission, values), competitors, personas, and more.

The strategy is your blueprint; marketing is the tool to build it. Yet many companies get ahead of themselves, jumping straight into marketing without taking time to establish a brand strategy (ourselves included). Thus, their marketing results are lackluster and inconsistent.

You need a documented brand strategy to keep everyone on the same page—literally. If you haven’t created a proper brand strategy or haven’t done one thoroughly, here’s our step-by-step guide to do it.

2) Align Your Content Strategy to Your Brand Strategy

Your content strategy is an important part of your brand strategy, so the two should always be aligned. You’ll know they’re aligned if you can identify how every piece of content supports your brand. As you ideate, ask yourself:

These are the types of crucial questions that will ensure you’re keeping your brand front of mind. (If you haven’t actually created a fleshed out content strategy, here’s how to get yours on paper.)

3) Have Someone Who “Owns” the Brand

Every ship needs a captain; every brand needs a steward. That means someone who can make the big decisions, question whether business decisions align to the brand, and lead with resolve. This can be challenging when sales are down and people need someone to blame. But it is important to have someone who can stand strong and lead with conviction.

Sometimes this role will be played by a founder or Chief Brand Officer. Sometimes it’s the CMO or, hell, even the VP of Sales. Larger companies may even have a designated brand team. Regardless, you need someone who will prioritize brand above all.

4) Invest In Your Brand

Investing in your brand isn’t just about using your people, money, and resources. It’s about keeping your eyes on the prize, getting everyone on board, and remembering what your ultimate goal is.

We know how hard it is to justify certain decisions when you’re facing pressure all sides. But if you’re serious about building a strong brand, these type of investments are mandatory. If you’ve been playing it safe and seeing less than stellar results, it may be time to get serious.

5) Cultivate Patience

Growth hacking is satisfying because there’s a short-term payoff, but building a brand takes time. For many, it can feel like a leap of faith, and in some ways it is. You may be in the dark for a bit, and it can take time to see the payoff. But it’s important to commit.

Remember, too, that nothing is permanent. You can always shift strategy, re-evaluate according to your latest data insights, and experiment in smaller, less risky ways.  

Put Your Brand Story First

A huge part of building a brand is sharing your brand story. Luckily, content is one of the best ways to do that, even if you’re working with a smaller team. If you’re looking for ways to up your game:

And if you need a few more ideas or a little strategy help, don’t feel overwhelmed. We’re happy to be your sounding board and talk it out.

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