The continued rise of the smartphone has fundamentally shifted the way consumers 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, and, on the other, they need to ensure they’re producing a regular stream of compelling content to show they understand this always-on world.
It's from this need that the so-called ‘Three H’ content strategy has emerged. A three-pronged approach that’s broken up into a content pyramid, The Three H’s comprise of Hero, Hub and Hygiene content. Sadly, this has nothing to do with Egypt and there’s not a bottle of Domestos in sight. So what do these words mean and why are they important? Fast Web Media investigates…
What is The Three H Content Strategy?
The Three H Content Strategy is all about volume, and that’s why it’s shaped like a pyramid. At the very top of the pyramid, where the shape forms into a point is Hero content, as there’s limited quantities of that. Beneath that, where the pyramid is slightly wider, there’s Hub content, as there’s a little bit more of this kind of content. And finally, right at the bottom, where the base is as its widest, sits Hygiene content, which there’s a lot of.
It’s a clever approach, giving brands a clear idea of not just the kind of content they should be writing, but also how much of it they should be writing.
What’s more, each of the three segments work together. The Hero content draws people in and the Hub and Hygiene content work to convert them into repeat visitors. These two forms are designed to be more targeted to a particular kind of audience so those people engage with it, and that’s one of the strategy’s core benefits.
“[The Content Pyramid] recognised that audiences tend not to live their lives according to a campaign schedule,” The Guardian noted in 2015, “and that they’re likely to keep coming back and re-engaging if you provide regular content that ticks the right boxes.”
By giving consumers Hub and Hygiene content, brands are making sure that those “right boxes” are ticked, giving people the incentive to engage and keep returning.
What is Hero content?
While Hub and Hygiene content are both important, the most significant content form in this pyramid is Hero content. As mentioned, Hero content is less frequently produced, and because of that, it tends to have the majority of the budget and resource pushed behind it. It also needs to make a big impact, so Hero content tends to shoot for mass appeal and come in the form of mediums that will gain that appeal, such as major adverts, competitions, experiential activities and viral content.
A classic example of Hero content 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.
More recently, the sports website SB Nation has caused a stir with 17776. A sci-fi story that imagines the sport scene of the future, it’s intentionally weird (and at time of writing, incomplete) because it’s meant to generate buzz about its strangeness and get people sharing. It’s worked too:
What are the problems with Hero content?
Hero content has to make a big impact like this because the Content Pyramid puts all the emphasis on it winning views. Hub and Hygiene content in themselves aren’t designed to create mass awareness; they’re designed to be more targeted and engage with people who have become aware of the site, brand or product through the Hero content. Of course, that’s only possible if Hero content is good enough at doing its core job, and quite often it is. The Epic Split garnered over 86 million views on YouTube, while search interest in SB Nation shot up dramatically following 17776’s release.
This is only half the equation, though. It’s no good for Hero content to simply grab people’s attention. For it, and the Three H strategy as a whole to work as it should, the Hero content needs to encourage people to click through to other areas of the website and engage with the Hub and Hygiene content. This is where there’s a potentially big problem, because the Three H strategy was never meant to cover content as a whole. Created by Google in 2014, the strategy was designed specifically for video content, which is to say, it’s designed specifically for YouTube. And that’s a very important detail many forget.
YouTube is an exemplary example of user experience. Focused as much on what the user will watch next as what he or she is currently watching, the platform’s entire structure is based around recommendations. They pop up after the video and run down the right hand side of the screen. Channel owners can set the next video in a playlist to start directly after the one currently being watched has finished, and the homepage of these channels allow for the content to be laid out in simple, easily accessible playlists and segments. On YouTube, you’re never far away from that next dank meme or funny dog video.
Problem is, other platforms aren’t nearly as well structured. Brand websites and eCommerce shops are set out to foreground the product, either by driving visitors to a product page, or the place they need to go to buy. Content doesn’t play a significant part, so it’s less prominent in the user experience. This ultimately means that while the leap from Hero to Hub content on YouTube is relatively small and achievable, on any other site or platform, it’s much larger and much harder. Even if your Hero content is fantastic and draws inestimable views, clicks and shares, it may not be driving people towards the Hub and Hygiene content. And if it’s not doing that, it’s not doing its job.
How to Approach Hero Content
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. When considering the Three H strategy, and especially the Hero content that sits at the top of it, brands need to think carefully about what that content is and how it’ll work to engage people. If you’re a car company, for example, think of the challenges that customers face when buying a car, and the values you want to impart. Or if you’re a finance brand, think of the educational information your customers need to use your services. In other words, bring a bit of your Hub and Hygiene approach to your Hero because by doing so, you’re winning more than just clicks and visits, but hearts and minds as well.
What do you think of the Three H strategy? Have you seen any great examples of Hero content? Have you seen any that didn’t work? Let us know over on @FastWebMedia