Every brand doing content marketing should create a space or central hub for the content to live. Doing so allows teams to get the most out of their marketing by consolidating fragmented digital content to a one-stop-shop. While creating a central hub is a universal best practice, the amount of branding that a hub should have is a different story. This is a challenge many marketers face and is one they all have approached very differently. Although there is no right or wrong answer, there are a few factors to consider that will help steer you in the direction that’s right for your brand.
Having a content hub that’s “branded” means the look and feel is aligned with the overall company branding. The colors, typeface, imagery and experience should be similar to that of the brand’s site and other marketing materials. This also means that the hub has a domain that includes the brand (ie: http://www.brand.com/blog or blog.brand.com).
A content marketing team may choose to have a branded content hub for a few reasons. First, having a branded URL for a content hub provides strong domain authority and will deliver high volumes of search traffic almost immediately. Second, it’s a good choice for a brand that already has a positive perception. For a brand that has a poor perception, a branded hub may not be a great choice, since its audience could dismisses the content immediately, assuming it’s promotional.
Let’s look at a branded example: Pepsi Pulse by Pepsi
Pepsi’s content hub, Pepsi Pulse, leverages Pepsi’s domain authority and actually lives right at pepsi.com. As you can see, the site looks and feels like Pepsi, with its logo and product clearly displayed. Pepsi’s social accounts are also pulled onto the site, making the destination truly a central hub for its content. The content published to Pepsi Pulse is all about pop culture and music, topics with which Pepsi wants to associate itself. For Pepsi, having a branded hub is a great choice because the brand already has a positive perception that it’s trying to strengthen even more.
Unlike a branded content marketing hub, an unbranded hub should not look and feel like the brand. It should not promote the logo or even necessarily promote the products or services. The brand should not be included in the domain name either. While an unbranded content marketing hub can feel like a ludicrous option and be difficult to sell into conservative-thinking organizations, there are several good reasons why a brand could and should go this route.
An unbranded hub is a great choice for brands that are trying to repair trust issues with audiences from a history of too much promotional content or to disassociate from poor current brand perception. This is also great for parent companies with many sub-brands as an option to simplify and consolidate its content marketing efforts. The other reason a brand may choose this option is if they’re truly committed to producing a high-quality editorial hub and don’t want to risk any company brand association to discredit the content.
The main drawback of creating an unbranded and off-domain content hub is forfeiting existing strong domain authority search traffic.
Let’s look at an unbranded example: Makeup.com by L’Oreal
Without some digging, one would never know makeup.com is owned and powered by L’Oreal. The only indication of this is found at the very bottom of the site with a L’Oreal copyright. Makeup.com reads like a true beauty magazine with articles about trends, tips and tutorials. Not every article features makeup products however, with some revolving around food, fitness and fashion instead. While articles that do include makeup have “Shop the Story” calls-to-action, they link out to L’Oreal products on various reseller sites, eliminating the feel of a pushy sale. Social accounts featured on the site are also branded as makeup.com, rather than L’Oreal.
Choosing an unbranded hub was a good choice for L’Oreal for two main reasons. First, the parent company owns 32 brands. Consolidating these brands under one umbrella simplified its content marketing efforts and allowed them to put one strong foot forward, rather than 32 fragmented programs. Doing this benefited them in their e-commerce strategy as well. Even with articles linking out to purchase their products, there’s enough variety in the brands and price points for the “Shop the Story” to feel helpful rather than salesy. Second, the makeup.com URL was a brilliant choice, as it didn’t force L’Oreal to give up much domain authority but still allowed them to create a neutral destination.
Somewhere in the Middle
Finally for those who can’t choose sides, there’s always somewhere in the middle. Many brands practice the art of compromise and choose a solution that takes aspects from both approaches.
Let’s look at an example that falls somewhere in the middle: Content Loop by Capgemini
While content-loop.com is an off-domain URL, the site itself looks and feels like Capgemini. A banner stating “Powered by Capgemini” at the top of the page enforces this, as does the favicon of Capgemini’s logo. While the content published on Content Loop does not mention or promote the brand’s services, the only calls-to-action and advertisements found on the site are for Capgemini.
Another great example of a content hub that falls somewhere in the middle is Bring Your Challenges by Prudential
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to approach branding of a content marketing hub. When choosing the level that’s right for your brand, be sure to keep in mind your program’s goals and challenges to ensure you’re addressing those appropriately.