Hero, Hub and Hygiene: Where Marketing Meets Publishing

David Armano
4 min readJan 23, 2016

Q: When should a brand act like a publisher?
A: Ad blocking software

You find yourself watching an entertaining series starring your favorite celebrity and Jerry Seinfeld. Or maybe it’s your favorite internet cat celebrities joining forces in a holiday themed music video. Or it’s a *satirical article from The Onion showing up in your Facebook feed. What the above have in common is the fact that none of them are the advertising most of us grew up with on our televisions or even desktops for that matter — but they are all working in the service of brands and organizations.

Welcome to the age of brands as publishers — designed for mobile screens, Google algorithms, social news feeds and driven by essential success metrics: “sharing and subscribing”.

A brand marketing meets publishing model is nothing new, nor is the Hero, Hub, Hygiene approach coined by Google originally as an approach for YouTube. But as many brands are finding out, adding the nimble publishing approach to your existing global behemoth marketing machine is a daunting task. Just like any significant shift organizations must make to any part of their business — marketers both at the brand and agency level must find common ground in how they define major components:

Brand Platform
A common mistake made in the worlds of marketing, branding and advertising is confusing a campaign with a brand platform which is akin to confusing a banana with a banana tree. For the sake of clarity — “Dove Campaign For Real Beauty” is a brand platform, while Dove Sketches was an activation that evolved into campaign like territory. As referenced in Building Modern Brands — a brand platform is foundational in nature and modern brands are evolving to reflect not only rational and emotional benefits, but articulating what they stand for in a societal context. Can campaigns be derived from brand platforms? Yes, but they are more evergreen in nature vs. moment in time and should influence all activations no matter how strategic or tactical.

Activations
Unlike a brand platform — activations are more time and context sensitive. These are your programs, campaigns, events and other activities that will range from highly strategic and pre-planned to highly responsive and in the moment. Activations should be strategically aligned to the brand platform but also possess the flexibility to expand contextually. These are the ways the brand platform comes to life over time.

Hero
Hero activations are where brands place their big bets. Typically these are the global integrated marketing campaigns though increasingly they can still be big bets without ever coming to life in traditional channels like television. These can also be big communications and engagement activations involving media and influencers. Regardless of classification, brands often times don’t support more than one to two of these annually and sometimes they can extend beyond a single year.

Hub
Hub activations can be more frequent and are often times less ambitious than a Hero campaign. Partnerships with media companies or digital influencers for example can often fall into Hub territory. Depending on the nature of the brand or organization — Hub activations could be as few as quarterly or as often as monthly. The rise of native advertising and sponsored content is currently fueling the popularity of Hub activations that don’t always directly support a specific Hero campaign.

Hygiene
Hygiene activations can fall into the “always on” “daily” or “content engine” classifications. Often times, Hygiene activations require multiple publishing touch points such as social channels or Web destinations. Barilla for example aggregates both Hygiene, Hub and Hero content onto its “**Passion For Pasta” Tumblr. Hygiene activations can be as frequent as daily and in some cases even hourly.

Hero, Hub and Hygiene all have two things in common:
1. Activations across all three must be coordinated.
2. Increasingly, they require a blend of a “marketing meets publishing mindset” in order to scale and operationalize.

And it is here where many organizations will face challenges. Integrated marketing is an apple while publishing is an orange. Increasingly brands will need both in order to remain relevant in the search engines and social news feeds of consumers and customers. To do this — marketers will have to genetically splice that apple and orange together to create an entirely new fruit, designed to work around the ad blockers and entice consumers to pause, take a bite and pass it on.

*The Udder Truth was created by Dairy Management Inc. in partnership with Edelman
**Passion For Pasta is a Barilla Group activation executed in partnership with Edelman

David Armano

Made it this far? A little more about me: I’m currently Global Strategy Director at Edelman, the world’s largest and only independently held Communications Marketing firm. When I’m not working with brands and organizations, I can be found sharing thoughts both here and over at Logic + Emotion. And when I’m not sharing thoughts, I can be found out on the open road or partaking in various age appropriate activities with my two snapchatting teenage boys.

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David Armano

Marketer, strategist, thinker and doer. I write about human behaviors and the relationship we have with technology and brands