The dominance of the smartphone in consumers’ day-to-day lives has fundamentally changed the way they engage with brands. With internet access available almost everywhere, consumers now hold the power and are able to engage with brands on their own terms: at any time and in any place.
So, brands need to react to this always-on culture with always-on strategies that tread a fine line. On the one hand, they need to make a big splash with eye-catching campaigns that can reach a mass audience. On the other, they need to ensure they’re producing a regular stream of compelling content to maximise this engagement and cater to the needs of their target audience. It’s from this need that the idea of Hero content and a multi-pronged content strategy has emerged. But what is Hero content and why is it useful?
Hero content is major brand activity that’s designed to make a big splash and appeal to a mass audience, so as many people as possible become exposed to it and the brand. This means that it can be expensive and time-consuming to produce (big ideas take time and money) and so it’s produced infrequently. Common forms of Hero content include major adverts, competitions, experiential activities and viral content.
One of the most famous examples came from Volvo in 2013. Taking advantage of the nostalgic, somewhat ironic, love for Jean-Claude Van Damme, the automobile company created an eye-catching advert called The Epic Split that featured the actor doing the splits between two Volvo trucks.
Following in this mould, Gatorade teamed with Usain Bolt to create an animated short film that celebrated the athlete’s life, Thorntons launched a gamified ‘Ultimate Guide to Easter Eggs’ hub that showed how the chocolate treats are produced, and Swedish broadband company Umea Energi allowed members of the public to experience the pain of slow internet by going about their daily lives while wearing an Oculus Rift VR headset.
Hero content can also come in traditional written form. To promote the second season of prison drama ‘Orange is the New Black’, Netflix teamed with the New York Times to place a paid-for story about the plight of female inmates. A number of other companies have done the same and produced striking pieces that reflect well on both brand and publication.
But not every form of Hero content needs to cost a lot of money or gain placement on the website of a major newspaper to make an impact. Examples of this kind of content include ebooks about a subject that’s important to the brand’s target audience, brochures or data sheets about their products or services, and white papers that reveal research into a particular area of interest.
Hero content like this can be used to drive leads for a sales team to nurture. Businesses can add it to their website and ask for users’ name and email address (along with other details) to gain access to it. Once those details are in the company’s CRM, the sales team can take over and nurture the lead towards a conversion.
Whatever form it takes, Hero content is typically positioned alongside two other forms of content: Hub and Hygiene. Together with Hero content, they form what’s known as the Three H content strategy.
The Three H content strategy lays out three distinct types of content and is visualised in a pyramid to highlight the different volume that each type is produced in and the role each one plays.
At the very top of the pyramid is Hero content, as there are limited quantities of it but it’s designed to be an entry point to the business.
Beneath that, where the pyramid is slightly wider, there’s Hub content. This is more evergreen in nature and is produced more regularly than Hero content. It should address issues the audience cares about as it’s designed to retain their interest after they’ve seen the Hero content and showcase the brand’s value.
And finally, right at the bottom, where the base is as its widest, sits Hygiene content. This is content that the audience is looking for through search engines and is very frequently produced in order to pull in that traffic.
It’s a clever approach, giving brands a clear idea of not just the kind of content they should be creating, but also how much of it they should be creating and what each type needs to achieve. However, it’s not the only approach out there.
Hubspot has devised another approach that’s based around content topics. This strategy takes into account the way people now find information using long-tail search terms: for example, ‘where can I go to eat tonight’, ‘what’s the best place to eat nearby’.
Businesses using this strategy decide upon top-level topics that are important to their target audience and then create a piece of ‘pillar content’ around that subject. This should be a single page that covers everything about a topic but doesn’t go into specific detail. A make-up brand, for example, might create a pillar page about eyeliner and touch briefly on the different kinds of eyeliner, tips for application and removal techniques.
Supporting this pillar page is cluster content that focuses more specifically on the subjects mentioned within the pillar page. These could be ‘What is liquid eyeliner?’, ‘How to apply liquid eyeliner’, and ‘What’s the difference between liquid eyeliner and pencil eyeliner?’
Pillar and cluster content link to and from each other, helping generate search authority and giving the user the opportunity to effortlessly click from one to the other.
We at Neon use an approach that focuses on target audiences and the stages of the buying cycle. We still use Hero content, but support it with what we call Sub content (supporting content that addresses similar subject matter to the Hero content) and social content, which also touches on a similar subject matter and draws people in through our social channels.
The content is created with the target audience in mind, so we can take their needs, goals and pain points into account and provide them with something genuinely valuable that will leave a lasting good impression. And we ensure that there are Hero, Sub and Social content for each stage of the buying journey – Awareness, Consideration and Conversion – so we can drive the user through the funnel and understand how strong of a lead they are.
You can find out more by downloading our free content strategy template.
Hero content and The Three H strategy has become the driving force behind most brand content strategies in recent years, and that’s for a very good reason: it’s smart, scalable, and generally works very well. But it’s not a guaranteed success and it’s not the only strategy out there.
When considering a content strategy, brands should think carefully about who their target audiences are, the different stages of the buying cycle and how content can fit within it. A car company, for example, should think of the challenges that customers face when buying a car and what they might need to know when considering the purchase.
Good content is all about reaching an audience in the right way at the right time to meet their needs. If you’re strategy isn’t doing that, it’s time for a rethink.
Would you like to develop a content strategy that focuses on both your target audience and the marketing funnel? Download our free content strategy template!
Want to be at the top of the search ranks? How about a website that’ll give your audience a great experience? Or maybe you’re looking for a campaign that’ll drive more leads? Get in touch to find out how we can help.