What Game of Thrones Can Teach You about Marketing

Why does Game of Thrones enthrall people of all cultures and in all continents? Sure, the production is perfect and the story keeps on surprising everybody with new plot twists. But most of all, it is the cross-media content marketing that creates the incredible buzz.

It all started with A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. Five volumes provided the basis for a TV adaptation by HBO. In April, the series entered its sixth season and has now overtaken the book series. The story is already being retold from a wide variety of perspectives on social networks and fan forums. There are insights into the show’s production, information on the characters’ backgrounds, and exclusive glimpses into the lives of the actors. The filming is documented on YouTube, and apps and video games give fans the chance to dive even deeper into the fictional world and live the adventures of their favorite characters.

Game of Thrones is a record-breaker. The latest trailer for the new season racked up almost 30 million views in less than 24 hours.

Cryptic posts and teaser videos on Twitter generate added excitement: “Follow the Three Eyed Raven. Gain the power of #TheSight,” is one example. They encourage interaction on social media and fan forums, such as the German fan page www.eis-und-feuer.de. So the series’ brand is growing stronger thanks to social and earned media. But to ensure a consistent overall experience across all relevant channels and information sources, it requires a comprehensive strategy, precision timing, and perfect orchestration of methods.

Content for all five senses

On the announcement of the fifth season, TV network HBO worked with Campfire, a marketing agency in New York, to develop a comprehensive storytelling concept. Through special campaigns and live promotions based on the five senses, HBO and Campfire succeeded in generating an immense buzz on social networks, engaging both fans and casual viewers alike.

In LA and New York, a food truck served Westeros-inspired meals prepared by a star chef. The result was large queues at the food truck and countless social media posts. This event engaged the fans’ sense of taste.

To address the sense of smell, an influencer campaign was started. Selected fans received a package containing a scent kit with little bottles of aromas that evoked the smells of Winterfell, King’s Landing, and other key locations in the series. In addition to this interactive scent experiment, the sleek metal box also contained a link to an exclusive Game of Thrones website with new information on the series. The fans and influencers who received the package created unboxing videos and shared them on their own YouTube channels. This created a multiplier effect that was extremely effective and highly authentic.

Both promotions generated earned media and had a strong viral effect.

And these are just two of the numerous devices used in a highly sophisticated composition. It is based around the concept that information targeted at specific fan groups will be shared over a wide variety of channels in the form of owned and earned media. The fans become involved in the events and excitement is generated, making the entire Game of Thrones experience more intense and unique. Like in a Swiss watch movement, every tiny element plays a vital role. From this intelligence and precision, business marketing can learn a lot about efficient communication in the digital age.

Transmedia and marketing: arbitrariness is the enemy

Let’s assume for a moment that you want to market a new product. There are many channels are your disposal: everything from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest to blogs and forums. Our tip is to take full advantage of each format’s strengths to target your product at the right audience. Striking images and trending hashtags help you to succeed on Instagram. On the other hand, on Facebook you should add a link to your images and select a strong headline.

The composition of your story is the guide to your transmedia storytelling. It determines your content and when, where, and to what extent you convey it. This makes the audience — or in your case, the customer — interested in the progression of the story and want to follow it further.

Use short teasers on social media to make your readers want more, and profit from direct personal dialogue with your target audience. Ideally, you should provide more detailed information on your website or a dedicated content hub. You can use discussion forums or direct marketing to reach influencers with special, exclusive content on advanced topics.

This is how you engage your target groups with tailored, relevant content and build up excitement methodically. It is important that you maintain an overview and focus on your strategy.

Four rules to help you take the ‘Content Throne’:

  • Develop a detailed composition that spans across the variety of channels and creates excitement
  • Analyze and define exactly which channel works best for your main medium/product
  • Decide on the right formats and appropriate tone of voice for your target groups
  • Ensure your tone of voice and imagery are consistent and memorable

Heed these golden rules and even the harshest winter won’t be able to hinder your marketing strategy in the digital age.

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