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How to ensure your 'Hero Content' doesn’t become a 'Brand Villain'

By David Hunstone, Chief executive officer and director



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This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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March 4, 2019 | 7 min read

Any hero worth their salt has a strong focus, a decent support team and always keeps an eye on the competition. Their story resonates across borders, time and people. And the same principles apply to 'Hero' video content – inspiring stories that create massive brand awareness.

Hub content event.

Hub's first event in the series focused on on 'how to' content.

These are just some of the insights we discussed at Hub’s latest brand Insight Breakfast on using hero content to improve businesses’ communications strategy.

Red Bull head of programming & audience, Tom Reding and our audience of leading marketers explored how we can ensure great content truly lights the customer journey in our experience economy - as opposed to just sitting on YouTube, withering and dying.

Every hero needs a good support crew

In YouTube’s ‘Hero, Hub, Help’ content framework pyramid, ‘Hero’ is at the top, the beacon that draws audiences in, while the ‘Hub’ and ‘Help’ content works to convert them into repeat visitors.

Our Hero can’t work in isolation: it’s part of an overall strategy which really maximises how marketers can influence and engage with consumers at every stage of their brand interaction and purchase journey. When these three parts work in harmony with each other, they help the brand become a consistent, meaningful part of a customer’s life rather than just randomly crashing in and out of it.

For example, our work for sports shoe brand Saucony involved creating Hero commercials which illustrated how running provides an escape from modern life by following runners who turned the sounds of the city into white noise. But it was that net-widening content, combined with six supporting ‘Help’ information films which combined together to increase website visits for the brand by 26%.

Hone the art of storytelling

Hero content is about incredible stories that transcend the usual brand narrative. Stories create an emotional framework which is more engaging, memorable and shareable for the customer, and within which you can then introduce rational facts and product messages.

Who knows the name of a current UK ski-jumper? Probably not many of us, right? But who remembers the story of Eddie the Eagle, his determination and relentlessness in the face of adversity? Lots more of us, I bet.

That’s because stories are based around an emotional hook, a universal human truth which everyone can tap into. So when you’re planning your Hero content, first understand what your objectives are, then find the emotional hook which allows you to showcase those brand needs and values – maybe it’s excitement, transformation, purpose, adventure, joy, childhood innocence, intrigue or even fear?

Then follow the classic storytelling techniques of assembling your cast of characters. You need a hero who exemplifies your brand values, a villain (usually the issue your brand helps overcome) and a decent supporting cast of mentors and adversaries along the way, in a classic three stage set up, confrontation, resolution narrative.

Red Bull’s sponsorship of the first swimmer to complete a circumnavigation of Great Britain in November, is a great example of brilliant storytelling Hero content. Swimmer Ross Edgley’s previous failed attempt, his battle against the elements and physical deterioration during his epic 155 days challenge is the stuff of Greek legend, with his branded Vlogs racking up millions of views.

You don’t need to spend big to achieve your objectives

Big budget productions obviously work well – as long as they’re done properly – but it’s this ability to deliver emotion and tell a good story authentically which is most crucial.

Brands of all sizes are increasingly using user-generated content to achieve their commercial objectives. Take Starbucks’ White Cup campaign a few years ago, where customers were asked to doodle on their Starbucks cups then upload and share their designs to win the chance to design a new limited edition cup. Or the brilliant simplicity of the Vanish ‘share a tip’ campaign, inviting users to upload videos of how they use the stain remover.

Seed it right

Creating the world’s greatest hero content is no good if no one sees it. So distribution is key. When creating your content, keep in mind what sort of material performs well on publishing platforms such as Mashable or Ladbible or even national media channels relevant for your brand or product. Then pitch your finished content to them, for even louder amplification.

Understand your competition and work with them

Analysing the marketplace in which you are operating – how your competitors are performing against you and what drives engagement – will help ensure your Hero content flies high. For instance, using successful, tried and tested marketplace techniques (such as strategic use of keywords in your title, scripting or related data wrapping) mean that internet algorithms will naturally start suggesting your videos to audiences as additional, relevant content. Try and start your plan with a focused insight report which will then help you achieve your commercial objectives even more efficiently.

David Hunstone is CEO and director of content for insight-led video strategy and production agency Hub

Hub is offering Drum readers the opportunity to have a complementary Insight Report, exploring how their video engagement data compares to the rest of their marketplace, using Hub’s proprietorial strategy software. For more information, contact David on or on 0207 014 3711.

Hub will be holding the third in its series of Help, Hero, Hub Insight Breakfasts on how to use Hub content to improve business communications strategy on Tuesday 14 May, 830-10am, Charlotte Street Hotel, London W1T 1RJ . You can sign up to attend for free here.

You can register to watch the video from the Hero content event discussed in this piece and click here to see the video from Hub’s first event discussing ‘Help' and 'How To' content.

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