Interview: HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar on the Future of Brand Experiences

Featuring Danaher Corporation's Danielle Sauvé and HubSpot's Kipp Bodnar

HubSpot is famous for its incredible growth story via inbound and digital marketing. In this interview, we explore mildly existential questions about physical brand experiences with HubSpot’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kipp Bodnar. How does a highly successful, highly digital company feel about physical brand experiences? Do they think about physical experiences at all? Have digital experiences totally taken over? 

Danielle Sauvé: When I was responsible for marketing automation, one of the goals of my digital marketing was to encourage real conversations between people offline. I mean, no one goes online and takes a vote with their colleagues about what software they’re going to buy. They have a meeting, right? Could we say that the goal of marketing automation is to encourage conversations and physical experiences? 

Kipp Bodnar: It’s certainly a goal. For instance, if you’re a software company and you provide freemium software, the goal is to drive that conversation far later in the process: Can we use this as a catalyst to have a conversation with them? Your whole job is to engage them both online and offline, whether it’s an experience they’re having themselves or an offline experience that you’re facilitating. 

Sauvé: But now that digital marketing has penetrated and transformed much of marketing today, what do you see as the relationship between digital experiences and physical brand experiences? 

Bodnar: Today a lot of digital activity represents physical brand experiences because a lot of that stuff has moved online...they’ve been “Yelp-ified.” I can have a great experience with a product, and then I can turn that into a digital product review or image that I share with my network through social media. The digital experience can be derived from the physical product experience.

Sauvé: How have you seen this play out in HubSpot’s physical and digital brand experiences?

Bodnar: For us, we have our INBOUND event every year, where we invite our customers and anyone interested in inbound marketing methods to rally for a week in Boston. It’s about determining how we can have a consistent experience here—from the online experience of the event to the offline event itself. It’s hard, and we have a hard time, for instance, getting our orange brand color produced consistently. 

Sauvé: So chief marketers of digital companies do think about physical brand experiences? 

Bodnar: Sure, there are always those peer conversations: If you have a friend who has great hair, you’ll say, “Well tell me about it!” You’re always going to have those offline conversations.

Sauvé: Where do you see that happening?

Bodnar: Consumer goods is where the online and offline experiences meet. You have more reviews and word-of-mouth proxy. 

Sauvé: How do you think online digital experiences and offline physical experiences will come together in the future? 

Bodnar: I think physical/digital are on a collision course. They’re going to start becoming closer and closer together, and the harsh dividing line that I think exists in many ways today will be much blurrier over the next couple of years. 

Sauvé: Where do you think this online/offline or physical/digital split started? 

Bodnar: I think consumer goods is where offline/online started, so it’s most pronounced there. As we move along the way of digital experiences, you’re eventually going to do business commerce through augmented and virtual reality. Is that a physical experience or not? Is that an online or offline experience? Isn’t it both? That’s going to happen first on the consumer side and eventually come to the business side.

Sauvé: What would that look like?

Bodnar: How we’re able to interact with physical goods and how we’re going to augment our experience with physical goods is going to change dramatically. For example, when we had our marketing team kickoff, we all got Snapchat spectacles. We’re taking these videos in a circle that allows us to showcase and do different things. I could see packaging being a big part of that. People are commenting, leveraging and using packaging as part of that digital experience that they’re sharing. I think it’s going to evolve greatly. 

For instance, Uber partnered with Snapchat to augment the Uber ride. If you’re in an Uber, there are special Snapchat filters that you can only unlock and use while you’re in your Uber ride. If I was selling a packaged good to millennials now, I could spend marketing dollars on Snapchat filters for them to use during their unboxing experience of the product to augment their experience. 

Sauvé: So essentially, Uber is digitizing a physical experience to augment it and make it share-able.

Bodnar: Exactly. And it’s also an opportunity to showcase the value of extension products, to increase a viral coefficient, or to actually learn how to get more value out of the product you’ve just purchased because you have an augmented experience.

Sauvé: How else can digital and physical experiences play off of each other?

Bodnar: Well, you can use digital to test concepts for the physical. You could make new designs a part of the digital component of buying the product to learn which design is shared more.

Sauvé: So if physical and digital are on a collision course, we have a problem. I can change an email or digital ad quickly, but how quickly can I change a package and get it on the shelf?

Bodnar: Any time you’re doing something that is both digital and physical, there’s going to be a disconnect…you’re never going to be able to do them on the same time horizon, so you have to figure out how you can have one inform the other.

  • Marketing

Kipp Bodnar is the Chief Marketing Officer of HubSpot, where he sets HubSpot’s global inbound marketing strategy to drive awareness and demand for HubSpot’s inbound marketing and sales products. Prior to his role as CMO, he served as Vice President of Marketing, overseeing all demand generation activity worldwide, building out the EMEA and APAC marketing teams, and managing HubSpot’s field marketing, localization, strategic partnerships and social media efforts. He also serves as a marketing advisor for SaaS companies, including SimplyMeasured, InsightSquared and Guidebook. 

Bodnar is the co-author of The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More. An industry-leading speaker and blogger, he is also a strategic advisor to three companies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Marshall University.

Danielle Sauvé is a theater major-turned-marketer, writer and strategist. Having held positions in many portions of the consumer packaging ecosystem (consumer goods manufacturer, promotional agency, brand strategy and package design firm, pre-media firm and workflow software), she now works with a platform of global companies owned by Danaher that are simplifying the packaging value stream (Pantone, Esko, X-Rite, AVT, Videojet, and Laetus).

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