When HubSpot asked us to create a monster

The client

Does HubSpot need an introduction? The company that invented inbound marketing, created a beloved marketing automation suite, and taught a generation of marketers how to do… everything? Yes, that HubSpot.

The crux

HubSpot was expanding beyond their core marketing automation platform into a CRM they built in house for small and medium enterprises. They were entering a market with fierce competition from established competitors with compelling visions. HubSpot needed a new campaign that could go head-to-head against the incumbents — without alienating loyal customers.

Taking on giants

HubSpot’s marketing reputation burns bright. But at that time its CRM enjoyed waayy less fanfare. Most businesses hadn’t even heard of it. Which was a shame. Because Hubspot offered distinctive value — a homegrown CRM that fitted tightly within their marketing ecosystem, and the super-intuitive UX they’re known for.

Our team had fun with this project, talking to customers and folks across sales and product to understand their ideal buyers. It turned out the sweet spot for this sale wasn’t a demographic, it was a position and mindset: someone at a brand looking to change, who already had a CRM they were unhappy with. And critically, the company wasn’t so far down the ecosystem rabbit hole that they’d have to think long and hard before ripping it out: someone very annoyed with Big CRM.

Next came rough creative concepts: a whiteboard approach where we share multiple, bold creative routes. (It’s not designer-friendly; in fact, you kinda have to squint a little to imagine how it’d look after an actual creative team touched it. But these works-in-progress are a great way to get awesome feedback on tangible creative routes, and the exercise is fun for everyone: like an episode of Mad Men minus the misogyny).

The bad guy

One of the best ways to insert some fun and quickly convey complex concepts is personify the pain customers feel in the status quo. In this case, we nicknamed it Kludgy: the experience of working with cobbled-together tech not fit-for-purpose (more common than you might think).

Cute for a bad guy but we think it gets the point across without a lot of cumbersome copy.

HubSpot loved it. But clever concepts do not a campaign make: it was time to put Kludgy to work. We launched a social campaign for the ages (with a splash in the New York Times too, ‘cos, y’know, why the hell not?). Check out the deliverables for an idea of how it broke down…

The deliverables

We tested the following formats to within an inch of their life.
Here are some examples:

Display banners (dynamic)

3 x separate routes


Static banners (native)
5 x separate routes

Multiple visual routes (including animations and static ads) for Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn


We ran block ads in the New York Times for a few weeks to get Hubspot’s CRM in front of hundreds of thousands of eyeballs.