What 'Game of Thrones' Teaches Us About Marketing

Image source: Flickr

Image source: Flickr

 Game of Thrones is the TV series that has taken the world by storm. This hugely popular show is viewed across the world and has built up a vast legion of fans.

The show has many elements that have made it into such a big hit since the first series was released in 2011. With something this popular, it’s always useful to look at the lessons that we can take from it.

So what can we learn about marketing from GoT?


Surprise Your Audience

If there’s one thing that Game of Thrones does well, it’s using the element of surprise to great effect. From the shocking end of the first season where Ned Stark loses his head to the horror of the Red Wedding and countless other “I can’t believe that just happened” moments, the series takes special delight in throwing curve balls at the viewer.

It doesn’t play by the rules. After all, the usual rules suggest that the heroes survive even when things are looking impossible for them. But the rules simply do not apply here. And this is one of the secrets to its success. You simply do not know what is going to happen.

You can use the same tactic in your marketing by focusing on the element of surprise. The best marketing campaigns are always doing something different to avoid being like everyone else. By surprising your audience and doing something unexpected, you can thrill and delight them.

Avoid doing the same as everyone else is doing—the same competitions, blog posts, and videos. Be creative, be fresh, be innovative—and keep your audience guessing.

Plan for the Long Term

“Winter Is Coming” is the saying of the Stark family that is now the most famous line in the TV series. It says so much in just three words, suggesting that they have learned over many years that hard times are always just around the corner and they must always be prepared for them. Only the strongest will survive, and the Starks have survived many bitter winters before.

Follow their lead and plan for the long-term. Publish content regularly and create a content schedule not just for the coming weeks but also months ahead.

Be like the Starks and prepare for difficult times ahead. Things will not always go to plan, you may not meet your goals, or the landscape might change completely. You need to be prepared for the long-term and the possible challenges that await.

It could also mean you should avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. Don’t focus exclusively on your blog or one social network to drive business. Platforms change, tactics change, and rules change. So use a range of techniques so you are never relying on one.

Get People Behind Your Cause

Game of Thrones is all about leadership and getting people to follow your cause. Just look at Daenerys, the last of the Targaryens. She has spent the first few series building up her army and taking her time to grow her loyal band of followers.

You need your base, your followers, to help you grow. You will find these primarily on social media, enthusiasts who will share your content, promote your products, and argue your case.

Build your own social media army over time by providing them with value. Connect and engage with them on a regular basis and use their help to grow your business.

Tell a Good Story

Game of Thrones promotes the power of good storytelling. The plot has been expertly planned out over decades (the first book was released in 1996), and the characters are rich and detailed. They come across as real people, and even the minor characters are never cardboard cutouts.

The stories are thrilling, and as mentioned already, the twists are impossible to predict. The TV series has this rich source material to work from, and it’s part of why the show became the success it did.

Use storytelling in your marketing. You may not be writing a GoT epic, but you can still use the power of story. Tell the story behind your brand, use stories in each blog post, tell mini stories in your social posts. Even an advertisement can tell a story.

Add a Regional Element to Your Narrative

GoT doesn’t only tell a good story, it tells a local one. The globe’s most successful show uses marketing within itself to advertise the qualities of its characters. Families, houses, clans, and peoples, all tied to a region that defines them. This small sample size gives you an idea:

  • Wildlings: The Wild – A bleak and rough expanse, cut off from civilization and order

  • Starks: The North – Cold, harsh, and determined – much like Arya

  • Lannisters: Casterly Rock – Visually impressive and rising above its surroundings

Even if you’re a worldwide brand you can get value from regional marketing. If you’ve started in Florida you can go wild on sunshine and flowers. If you’ve decided to buy into Seattle then don’t hold back on your emerald and Queen City references. Establish what your local selling point is and then use it to spread the name of your business. 

Use Word of Mouth Marketing

As well as the events in the TV series, you can also learn from how HBO publicizes the show—even if you don’t have its budget.

One of the most important techniques is word of mouth. There is no better way to promote your business. HBO thrives off this, constantly sending out teasers and holding PR stunts to get people excited. It uses social media to get fans psyched up and lets them do the rest.

Do the same. If you have a new product coming out, tease your audience. If you have a special sale coming up, don’t give everything away. Get your audience talking about it and sharing your posts. Build up buzz, and use word of mouth to your advantage.

The Power of Interactive Marketing

HBO also knows how to get people involved and build more buzz using interactive marketing. Just look at the #roastjoffrey hashtag campaign, where fans were invited to roast the villainous boy king. It spread across Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and Instagram and GoT over 850 million impressions.

Be interactive and get your audience involved. At its most basic, this could involve polls, asking for feedback, holding competitions that require their input such as sending in photos or videos.

This is a fantastic way to build buzz on social media, spread your message further, and grow your base.

Learn from Game of Thrones

GoT is one of the biggest TV hits of all time, and this is no accident. From its storytelling to its rich characters and highly effective promotion, it gets all the ingredients right.

Learn from its success by taking the same techniques and using them in your own way, from great storytelling to building your own army of fans. Let it influence your marketing tactics and follow its lead. No matter what your budget, you can enjoy success by following the same tactics.

Article Contributor: Patrick Foster, eCommerce Consultant - www.ecommercetips.org

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