10 Ways Game of Thrones Will Make You a Better Marketer
The smash hit, Game of Thrones, heads into its fifth season with more bite than ever before. The stakes are high as scantily-clad characters continue to fued over who will be the supreme ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. But it’s not simply the plot and attractive actors that keep viewers glued to the screen, there are many clever, underlying factors that are responsible for converting ordinary viewers into die-hard fans.
Just like any TV show, product or service, getting your consumer hooked and ‘converted’ equals success. So, how does ‘Game of Thrones’ accomplish this consumer engagement and conversion and how can marketers apply these methods to their own work?
Mystery is the most important element of a great story. Game of Thrones intertwines 6 main story-lines with dozens of mini subplots – all of which result in an audience that simply can’t bear the anticipation of the next moment. Will boy-king Tommen Baratheon be a successful leader? Will the secret affair of his true parents be revealed to the world? As a viewer you are fed hints and teasers but the truth will never be revealed – not until the timing is perfect.
People are curious by nature, and this innate curiosity must be quenched; We must figure out what’s going on, that’s why we ‘stay tuned.’ The same rule holds true for business. If you say too much too fast, no one will care. Successful companies find ways to withhold certain elements of their product or service so that customers undergoes a process of discovery. It may not seem logical to hold out information when you have a 30 second explainer video, but by letting your customer’s curiosity peek and allowing them to discover positive qualities on their own, you help hook your brand.
After the third season of Game of Thrones aired, 1,135 Aryas, 241 Khaleesis, and 67 Daeneryses were born in the US (according to the the Social Security Administration). This was a totally unexpected outcome for the producers, but it was a great boost for brand awareness! It measured customer reach by non-traditional methods. Very often, online marketers rely solely on analytics that analyze stats like impressions, likes, clicks, shares and of course conversions. These elements are important for determining the success of your campaign, but they are not the only KPI (key Performance Indicators). Campaigns can go viral by word of mouth, via a key influencer or create a great reputation for your brand.
Treat your staff well and they will work hard for you, treat them badly and they will poison your wine. Well, that’s the lesson King Joffrey learned, as he lay dying on the floor wondering which of his many enemies was the one behind his murder. Was it the mad monk Varys, Sansa Stark or one of his own subjects? If he had been half the man that Jon Snow is, he would have people sacrificing their life for him.
Good leaders like Jon Snow take command and guide others, but not from a place of superiority and entitlement, from a place of trust and understanding – on the individual level. Snow understood the fears and desires of his Night’s Watch team and was therefore able to lead them into a surprising and unlikely victory against the Wildlings. In business, Good leaders inspire the individuals within their team, they align company goals with self growth. Bad leaders micromanage and fail to see where individuals shine and therefore weaken the team in the process.
Who can forget when the tiny, blonde haired Daeneryses ‘mother of dragons’ eats a 7 pound horse heart (don’t worry it was really just a giant gummy bear). The audience was shocked – but more importantly the audience was hooked. Whether you are making an explainer video or a product launch, use the element of surprise to catch and reel in your audience. Heart-eating princesses are an example of powerful imagery (check out some great free image resources here), but you can use other techniques, such as revealing a personal challenge, telling a funny joke, throwing out a crazy statistic or surprising your audience with an animated character!
Surprise sticks in our brain.
Sōnar Māzis! That means ‘Winter is coming!’ but unless you are a Targaryen, fluent in high Valyrian you probably wouldn’t understand it. Dothraki is another made-up language in GOT and is spoken by the the horse-riding warriors of the Dothraki lineage. Why on earth did the producers of Game of Thrones go out of their way to make 2 fake languages? I mean,they even hired the Language Creation Society to be concise and consistent with every non-existent word.
The answer is the same for the creators of Klingon, Aliense or Apple products; Language creates a sense of inclusion for those who speak and understand it – setting them apart from the others – the non speakers.
For instance, if you own an Apple product, you are part of a culture that values sleek design, clean packaging and minimalism; this is their voice, their brand and their message. Apple users feel privileged and revered. While Buzzfeed uses a totally different language- they choose fun and humor, spreading their message with off-the-top pictures, puns and analogies to create a community of clever, light hearted fans.
It’s one of the most shocking scenes, when a character we’ve grown attached to dies. Ned Stark was beheaded, his wife Catelyn was stabbed to death and her sister, Lysa Arryn was thrown to her death from a hole in the middle of the sky. When doing marketing you sometimes might fall in love with an idea or copy you have written; you may push for a campaign even when it doesn’t fit. People get attached to old logos or organizational processes, sometimes to the detriment of themselves, their team and even their company. When it’s time for it to go, Just let it go. Think about it, if the guys at Game of Thrones are willing to kill even the most beloved characters for the sake of plot progress, a little company upgrade may not be such a bad idea.
Following the process of letting go, is the ability to embrace change. Once you let go of what isn’t working, be open and willing to embrace a change. When Arya Stark fled King’s landing, her feminist, sword-swinging personality didn’t cut it anymore, so to survive, she took on the guise of an orphan boy. Margaery Tyrell, the royal daughter of Lord Mace, was married to a gay man then wed to an evil child dictator and handed over to his prepubescent brother. Every time she was hit with a challenge she figured out a way to get through it, even if it meant rewiring her strategy and starting new. Many companies you know and love today (i.e Groupon, Flickr, Starbucks) started out as completely different products and had to make a tough decision: Do we pivot or throw our hands up in the air?
Sansa Stark went from being a kidnapped and helpless girl to a protected and confident authority- due to her alliance with Petyr Baelish. Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth made a very odd team, but one that complemented each others strengths and helped them survive a long harrowing journey. Strong Partnerships are a secret weapon when it comes to moving forward. A true symbiotic relationships will benefit both parties, often to an exponential degree. In terms of business, choosing the right strategic partnership can gain you access to not only a larger audience, but a much broader range of resources, tools and expertise.
Before the TV series was created, George R. R. Martin’s novels were hugely popular in their own right; So the producers of Game of Thrones asked the question, WHY!? What will these folks want to see? Answer: science fiction, fantasy and medieval stuff.
But that’s not why it sells…
The show is successful because it got into the mind of viewers; delivering what they REALLY want – forbidden love, revenge, loyalty and overcoming challenge. The viewers want to relate to the characters, and then be taken away into fantasy. The themes within the series are standard human experiences, but successfully delivered via royal monarchies, fire breathing dragons and duels to the death (who can forget how lovable Prince Oberyn got torn apart by “the mountain”) If you are selling your service or product ask yourself, ‘what does the customer want and how can I deliver it?’ Think 2 steps ahead, get into their brain and design your product or service around the customer.
Tyrion Lannister is the dwarf son of Lord Tywin, the head of the House of Lannister. He was born into a royal family but is ridiculed and treated inferior to those around him because of his size. This is ironic because he is highly intelligent and very shrewd. He comes to the aid of those who are right, apologizes when he is wrong and speaks the truth. To sum it up, Tyrion is a decent guy who treats the people around him better than they treat him. This is how your Customer Service team should function.
If you’re company made a mistake then apologize. If a feature didn’t work as it was supposed to, then own up to it and give them a free month of service. Most customers who call in with complaints or experience technical difficulty don’t expect a pleasant and friendly response, so that’s exactly what you should give them; And then give them more than that! Refund what they lost, replace their product and give feedback when you read an amazing review! It may cost your company money or time in the short run, but in the long run you will get a reliable and dependable reputation and you will succeed as a company brand. I don’t see Tyrion getting killed off the show anytime soon.
There you have it, if you want to be a more awesome and better marketer, follow these 10 steps and continue to indulge in the guilty pleasure that is Game of Thrones, (it’s for your career growth and company, afterall!)
Did you learn any of your own marketing tips from watching Game of Thrones? If so we’d love to hear it in the comments below!
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