Tucker Max: “The Effectiveness Of Mass Media Has Utterly Collapsed”

In part one of a six-part series, Tucker Max explains how crowdfunding will change everything.

(I don’t think Tucker Max needs an introduction. But what you might not know is that, beyond being a legitimate, multi-time best-selling author, he also advises and invests in startups. So with his permission, we’re re-posting a series he did on crowdfunding and how he feels its going to change everything. You can catch the series at its original home on TuckerMax.me.)


In May of 2012, Ryan Holiday and I had this exchange:

Ryan “Hey, I might write a book about Growth Hacking, what do you think?”

Tucker “What the fuck is Growth Hacking?”

Little did I know, this phrase and concept would come to fundamentally change the entire way I looked at the way business is done, how I invest, and my perception of America’s future.

[And yes, Ryan wrote the book, in fact, it’s out and already #1 on Amazon. Yes, it’s really good, I’d advise buying it–but only after you read this piece]

So what is it? Growth Hacking is not a new way to market, but an entirely new way to think about marketing. The basic concept of Growth Hacking is to begin with a product or service that fills a need or solves a problem, and then design it in such a way to make it easy and rewarding for people to use and share. By beginning with the proposition that the product or service itself must be valuable to people, you “bake the marketing” into the product. From there, getting people to find and use it is relatively easy, because it’s in their interest, and thus they want to tell their friends that it could help too. And since it helps them in some way, so you aren’t having to sell them, the product or service sells itself because it so obviously improves their life by helping them solve a problem.

Paul Graham sums up growth hacking very well: “Make stuff people want.”

You may be sitting there thinking this is obvious. And it kind of is, especially if you grew up in the digital age. But the fact is, this runs completely against an entire century of business, marketing, advertising and PR wisdom. The flow of business has, and still is most places, like this: Identify an existing market (like toothpaste), think up a product or service that is slightly differentiated from that market (mint toothpaste), make it, then spend a ton of money on marketing/adversting/PR to convince people that they should use it (mint is the best toothpaste!). Or even more increasingly in the risk-averse large corporation world, they don’t even make a new product, they just market it differently, relying on psychological tricks to get you to buy it (this toothpaste will make you sexier!).

Here is how Ryan describes this transition on his blog:

“[Growth Hacking] is the future. Run down the list of some of the biggest brands in the world, brands that are quickly becoming staples of our generation: Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Dropbox, Airbnb, Evernote. Who built them? How did they become so big, so fast?


The answer is growth hacking. It was responsible for building billions of dollars in value for essentially next to nothing–faster than its ever happened before.


What was not used? Traditional marketing. In fact, Facebook’s only stab at it–an ad with Weiden & Kennedy–was a total and embarrassing flop. Forget Don Draper and David Ogilvy. Start thinking about Andrew Chen, Sean Ellis, Jesse Farmer, Aaron Ginn, Noah Kagan and a new freshman class of marketing geniuses.”

This is a pretty good description, but if you think it still reads like sales copy, I agree with you. I like to talk about Growth Hacking in a different way. My favorite way to describe this is to reference the Tyler Durden quote from “Fight Club”:

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”

That was the entire philosophy of 20th century business, and Growth Hacking is the opposite.

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