Looking back at Hero, Hub and Hygiene, what did it get wrong?


It’s 2014. Sochi miraculously managed to pull off the Winter Olympics, Rio hosts the World Cup, and you can’t get ‘Thinking out loud’ by Ed Sheeran out of your head. In the world of digital marketing, the ‘hub hero hygiene’ model is the talk of the town. Four years on, what can we make of the impact the HHH model has had on the digital world?

Introduced by Think With Google for YouTube creators, the three-pronged approach to content creation describes how different sorts of content can serve different functions in engaging and retaining your audience. There’s hub content, which is editorial ‘push’ content designed to outline your key message, hero content, which is the flashier, large-scale creative content, and hygiene content, which is the always-on, ‘sticky’ content usually designed to educate.

This ‘new’, exciting concept encouraged content creators to plan and schedule their content in a more strategic way, beyond relying on the pull of one viral video. And while it was intended for video specifically, we saw many brands and marketers alike jump on the bandwagon.

One of the best examples of hero content is Volvo Trucks, more specifically their video featuring Jean Claude Van Damme, which draws attention to the precision of their power steering. The cinematic video is the ‘hero’ section of the strategy, and is still revered years later. Their ‘hub’ content, in comparison, can be identified as their short ‘Drivers world’ episodes, which look into every aspect of making a volvo truck, while their hygiene content — check out their YouTube playlists on electromobility and automation — looks specifically at how the trucks work.

What a lot of content marketers failed to realise is that the HHH approach indicates a starting point, rather than being a ready-made strategy. Whilst it is a good entry point for recognising the need for different kinds of content, it doesn’t go far enough, says Curated’s Director of Content Monica Karpinski. “I think the HHH model is ok as a starting point but focuses more on describing different types of content rather than outlining a plan that leads users to take action, or how these work as part of a broader strategy aimed at a business goal.”

It’s easier to see how this system of content planning and creation works with one specific type of content, particularly video. However, when considering content as part of a user’s complete journey, categorising content in this way can be restrictive. “All the types of content described by HHH might be used in different ways depending on your goal and client, with each able to interchangeably achieve the goals HHH allocates to them,” says Monica.

“For example, content aimed at boosting search visibility can also deliver authority and should be conceived in relation to a site’s wider UX, rather than having these three separate goals allocated specifically to an ‘H’ each.”

So, what would we recommend instead? There’s no harm in using HHH to generate ideas and start to get a sense of the journey you want your audience to take when engaging with your brand, but when it comes to strategy, you’ll need to look deeper. The HHH framework won’t give you an insight into what people want to or are going to read.

Whatever your strategic framework, it’s essential to map out the journey and actions you want your audience to take, and how this can contribute to your overall goal. Be specific in what each channel can contribute and then work to define how each stage of your execution works towards that initial goal.

At Curated, our unique audience research methodology, ‘gap analysis’, identifies the sort of content that is lacking and needed in a particular space. It works to uncover the discrepancies between what people want to know when they search for information online, and how well and poorly these needs are being met by competitor content. It comprises search, and analysis of UX, media, language, and more.

It works because it allows us to zero in on the nuances of user intent while figuring out how to leverage these needs in a way competitors aren’t. This methodology has contributed hugely to our growth as a company and it is responsible for some of our best work.

Want to learn more about our unique approach to content marketing? Feel free to drop us a line!

Featured image credit: Volvo Trucks

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