Learn the Theme Park Strategy: Hub and Spoke Marketing in a Nutshell

Learn the Theme Park Strategy: Hub and Spoke Marketing in a Nutshell

by John DeLancey May 03, 2017

The majority of Disney theme parks around the world are designed using a common layout, known as the "hub and spoke" model. It is incredibly useful to apply this same layout to our marketing strategy design.

Let's talk about Hub and Spoke Marketing!

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Starting from the Beginning

When Disneyland was designed, Walt and his team were very intentional about the layout of the park.

They explicitly designed it using this idea of a "hub and spokes" - one main thoroughfare leading to the "hub" (anchored by one of those "visual wienies" from Mickey's 10 Commandments) which then led down the "spokes" to various themed areas of attractions. Those areas at the end of the spokes were connected, as well, by a railroad running around the circumference of the park.

This same concept was applied at most of the Disney theme parks around the world. From Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World to Paris to Shanghai, this layout has proven to be incredibly effective since the very beginning.

The "hub and spoke" model is not a new concept in marketing, either: I'm not the genius who came up with it. I'm just the dude trying to illustrate it and advocate for it using this comparison with the Disney theme parks. 

The idea has been around for so long because it works: it is a fantastic way to envision our overall marketing strategies and how each component works together to reinforce the central ideas of our businesses. It can help us to ensure we aren't leaving out or neglecting one or more of those components so that we always know that our marketing machine is working at its most efficient.

"The Hub" - Your Company's Website

At least for the moment, and for most companies, our website remains the hub of all of our online marketing (and even our offline marketing in many cases).

This may well change as technology and the internet continue to develop, but I feel safe in my claim that the website will remain the hub of the most important business activity online for some time to come.

Especially if your company is pursuing a content or inbound marketing strategy, your website is where the most vital components of your marketing will reside:

  1. Your central branding and identity definition
  2. Details about your products and/or services
  3. Communication methods (including "funnels," contact forms, phone numbers, email addresses, and so on)
  4. If applicable, the majority of your "content," including blog posts, videos, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, and so forth

The website is the location at which we will most often focus on "converting" a visitor to a lead or a customer. A pretty important aspect of the plan, no?

All roads lead - ultimately - to (and from) the hub.

The problem is that the hub, alone, is useless. Who cares how beautiful your website's design or how informative your content is if no one can find it? Enter the spokes.

The Spokes - All the Rest of That Marketing Stuff

The spokes of our marketing "wheel" are where things get fun. The spokes are the channels that guide people between our website "hub" and all the other places online (and off) that they spend time or look for information.

Example Hub and Spoke Marketing Model

For my purposes, I divide the spokes into centrally themed "areas" or channels of marketing:

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Email Marketing
  • Referral Marketing
  • Offline Marketing

And so on. Your business may not make use of each of those kinds of marketing or it may include others I haven't listed. You might also organize your spokes (or more accurately, the areas those spokes lead to) completely differently.

The biggest point to make here is that the spokes lead to whole areas of marketing activity, just as they lead to whole areas of different attractions in the Disney theme parks.

Example Hub and Spoke Marketing Model - Social Focus

For example, the "Social Media Marketing Land" area will include both organic and paid (advertising) social media (and could be further or alternately subdivided into Facebook vs Twitter vs Instagram, etc.). 

Just for fun, I like to think of organic social traffic as the ubiquitous "Dumbo the Flying Elephant" attraction: slow, steady, and everyone can appreciate and take part in it.

Paid social traffic, on the other hand, is more like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: a fast-paced, high-energy attraction you can hop on at any time for a thrill and, in marketing terms, a surge of targeted traffic when needed. Not for everyone or for every campaign, but fantastic when appropriate.

"Search Engine Marketing" will likewise include organic search, or SEO, and paid search methods like Google AdWords and so forth.

The idea is to recognize that each of these areas requires specific attention and effort to maximize its benefits. Often we'll find, particularly with social, that these can be completely unique areas of community activity or discussion, and we need to be active participants wherever that occurs.

Choo choo!

The last component of our hub and spoke marketing model to consider is the "rim" of the wheel: the component that connects the areas at the ends of the spokes.

The idea here is that we'll often find one or more of the "spokes" reinforcing another spoke directly (rather than always moving first through the hub). For example, our email or offline marketing might refer people to social media profiles, posts, groups, or activity directly rather than back to the website and a specific offer.

Keep these connections in mind as you design your marketing campaigns. Take the opportunities to reinforce the other spokes in addition to your hub when you can.

Wrapping it all up

Keep in mind that the hub and spoke marketing model is exactly that: a model. It's not a marketing strategy, but rather a way to envision all the component pieces of our marketing strategy.

This model can be applied regardless of how our marketing strategy is designed. You might adopt an inbound marketing strategy to focus almost exclusively on organic traffic to your website, or you might rely entirely on paid promotion channels and offline marketing to get people to your storefront.

Take the concept and make it your own. Figure out where your hub is and what it looks like, then make sure it's optimized to facilitate the pathway "spokes" that lead to and from the various marketing activity areas you define, as well.

I hope this approach to envisioning your company's marketing strategy has been as useful to you as it remains to me. Let me know in the comments if your "wheel" looks different from mine or if you have any questions!

And that's going to do it for this week's lesson! Join me next week for another marketing lesson inspired by the Walt Disney Company!

See ya real soon!

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John DeLancey

John is the head Disney nut and marketing aficionado at Marketing the Magic.

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