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I recently saw an AirBnB commercial advertising their service before a movie & on television. It made me think about the GrowthHackers' growth study on the rapid growth the early team had, and how since then they've continued to sustainably scale by using innovative measures. Maybe I'm wrong, but the commercial seems to be a departure from their initial and continued growth hacking strategies and more of a resort towards traditional broad marketing tactics.

Am I missing something, or is there a secret way to growth hack old-school, traditional advertising like television, radio, or print advertisements?

Link to the growth study
Link to the new AirBnB commercial

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    almost 5 years ago #

    Hey Logan,

    I think there are a few things going on here worth considering.

    1) what works early isn't what works late. Early traction involves a lot of scrappy hacks and stuff that doesn't scale to get traction. Later on, however you're looking for opportunities to move the needle.

    Once you get to a certain size the options for really making a dent in growth come from channels with scale. Those channels are things like TV, etc. When you get big you need bigger channels.

    You also run into issues of harvesting existing intent/demand vs. creating demand from people who didn't know they had a need. For example, Alex DePledge, founder of Hassle, a HomeJoy like service in London told us that they used traditional media to drive acquisition because there was no search volume for keywords around their service. People didn't know that they needed/wanted Hassle.

    2) as companies and investment have poured into growth and both startups and traditional companies up their investments in online advertising it gets harder to get scale from online channels at a reasonable price. So the offline channels can have better economics than their online counterparts, especially at volume.

    I remember running TV ads and getting new users at $3 CPA when our Twitter CPA was $5 with much smaller reach.

    3) In the travel vertical specifically paid online ads are dominated by Priceline, Travelocity, etc. when big corporate dollars are buying up all the inventory you need to look for other outlets.

    4) Companies have gotten better at direct response TV and radio making them more measurable and effective.

    5) Finally, over the last few years Airbnb has really evolved into a company obsessed with brand. I'm sure the addition of Chip Conley from Joie de Vivre has a lot to do with it, but they seem more willing to invest heavily in brand now than they were early on. This makes sense. Brand ultimately becomes the key to winning a long term positioning battle which creates loyalty, differentiation, word of mouth, etc.

    All of that being said, yes I believe you can absolutely hack traditional channels for growth. Some would argue that the original direct response marketers are the predecessors to today's growth hackers.

    Please note I typed this from my phone on the go so pardon any errors or incomplete thoughts.

    • JB

      Joseph Bentzel

      almost 5 years ago #

      "I remember running TV ads and getting new users at $3 CPA when our Twitter CPA was $5 with much smaller reach."

      Exactly. And then there's the 'local' market approach typified by radio advertising. Reaching SMBs and individuals via radio for online products, e.g. early LifeLock or Carbonite launches.

      If you are about 'growth' with a Capital G almost everything is on the table.

  • ZW

    Zac Wireman

    almost 5 years ago #

    I think this is exactly the premise of growth hacking. As Morgan says below, some things work and some things don't. They also work early in the growth phase and not later or vice verse.
    The ability and freedom to experiment at low or no cost in the beginning is what helps get an organization to a point where they can use a multi-channel approach. This is why I'm such a fan of growth hacking. All marketers understand that a integrated full spectrum approach is the most effective way to market. That's what I think AirBnB is doing...as an extension to their original growth hacks.