Navigating Physical Brand Experiences in a Digital World
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: 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 Sauve: 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, then 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 an experience they’re having themselves or having an offline experience that you’re facilitating.
Sauve: 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 the product, and then I 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.
Sauve: How have you seen this play out in Hubspot's physical and digital brand experiences?
Bodnar: So for us, we have INBOUND every year, where we invite our customers and anyone interested in inbound marketing methods to rally for a week in Boston. For us it’s about: How do we have a consistent experience here, from the online experience of the event to the offline event itself? It’s hard—we have a hard time, for instance, getting our orange brand color produced consistently.
Sauve: So chief marketers of digital companies do think about physical brand experiences?
Bodnar: Sure, I mean, there are always those peer conversations: 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.
Sauve: Where do you see that happening?
Bodnar: Consumer goods is where the online/offline meets. You have more reviews and word of mouth proxy.
Sauve: How do you think online digital experiences and offline physical experiences will come together in the future?
Bodnar: 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.
Sauve: Where do you think this online/offline or physical/digital split started?
Bodnar: Consumer goods is where offline/online started, and so it’s most pronounced. 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.
Sauve: 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 allow us to showcase, to 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 were 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.
Sauve: So Uber is digitizing a physical experience to augment it and make it shareable.
Bodnar: Exactly. And it’s also an opportunity to showcase the value of extension products, or increase a viral coefficient, or actually learn how to get more value out of the product you’ve just purchased because you have an augmented experience.
Sauve: How else can digital and physical experiences play off of each other?
Bodnar: Well, you can use the 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.
Sauve: 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 fast 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’ve got to figure out how you can have one inform the other.