Game of Thrones Marketing – Advertising Perspective
⏱ Reading Time: 9 minutes
HBO’s fantasy drama series, Game of Thrones has taken over the world since 2011 and it has broken all sorts of records from then. With eight years of explosive drama and unexpected twists, it is time to say goodbye to Westeros. This excellent show received 17.4 million views as reported by The New York Times and one billion views globally according to Yahoo Finance on opening day alone.
Whether you watch it or not, it is hard to ignore huge marketing initiatives by HBO to build as much awareness as possible and by major brands like Oreo, Mountain Dew or Adidas. Those brands are some of the biggest sponsors. It is obvious that all those brands have nothing in common with kingdoms, thrones or dragons, so it’s been very interesting to see how they teamed up for campaigns using Game of Thrones themes.
Besides it is an award-winning show, there is just so much to learn from all 8 seasons. Take a look at some of the great marketing campaigns inspired by Game of Thrones, and what lessons can marketers learn from them.
For The Throne Campaign
One of the best ones was #FortheThrone.
HBO hid six Iron Thrones around the world for fans to find before the final Game of Thrones season premiere. In this way, they inspired fans and brands to celebrate this last season and to see how far they would go for the throne. Locations of the thrones were in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, Canada, the UK, and New York.
Here’s the video showing one of the thrones in its mystery setting:
Video 1. For the Throne campaign example
The campaign’s website includes these three calls-to-action: “bleed,” “quest” and “create.”
Picture 1. #FortheThrone Quest
Fans were able to “bleed” for the throne by donating blood in partnership with the American Red Cross. Fans across the country who dressed up as the series’ characters and gave blood were entered in a contest to win a trip to the season eight world premiere. With this campaign, over 350,000 pints of blood around the world were tallied.
“Our primary goal in this campaign, contrary to most experiential activations, wasn’t about impressions or clicks or views—it was about lives saved. One pint of blood affects three people. Game of Thrones’ is about sacrifice and devotion and the new season preparing for the Great War. So, the idea is to put the testament and will of our fans to the greatest test. And what is that sacrifice? It’s blood.” – says Steven Cardwell, director-program marketing at HBO.
Fans could join a “quest” for the throne by participating in a stunt scavenger hunt for six replicas of The Iron Throne planted in remote locations across the world.
This part included HBO tapping 18 artists from around the world to re-imagine 18 official show props — to see what they would “create,” in other words.
Adidas Running created six new designs for its Ultraboost shoes. They were inspired by the colors of Westeros, including specific designs for House Stark and Lannister, two designs for House Targaryen, the White Walkers, and the Night’s Watch.
Picture 2. Adidas GoT inspired shoes
Oreo is quite know for tracking popular things at the moment – and this HBO show was only one of the examples. This cookie company released a special edition pack of Game of Thrones-themed Oreos, pictured below:
Picture 3. Oreo cookies with Game of Thrones motives
They focused on the last season, so the cookie designs featured four embossments representing the houses still battling for the Iron Throne. The houses are House Lannister, House Targaryen, and House Stark—as well as The Night King and White Walkers.
Additionally, to make their efforts more shareable on social media, they also re-created the iconic Game of Thrones opening title sequence with Oreo Cookies.
Video 2. Oreo GoT opening title sequence
Mountain Dew Campaign
Mountain Dew also partnered with HBO to launch “A Can Has No Name” campaign.
They released a limited line of unbranded cans, under the hashtag, #acanhasnoname. In order to win an unbranded can, fans were sent to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to tell it what they’d sacrifice for a can. Participants were then entered into a prize draw.
Video 3. A Can Has No Name GoT campaign
Johnny Walker Campaign
Johnny Walker presented a limited-edition White Walker single malt scotch whiskey, best served icy cold. The bottles have a message inscribed using temperature-sensitive ink that’s only visible at freezing temperatures. The brand saw an opportunity to collaborate with HBO and they sure seized that wintry moment.
“We knew there was fan appetite for a Game of Thrones whisky and once we saw the vision from Johnnie Walker for a way to collaborate we knew the idea was perfect and the time was now. From the beginning, they understood that we wanted to create something special, and they’ve accomplished that with White Walker by Johnnie Walker.” – said Jeff Peters, vice president, licensing & retail at HBO
Video 4. Johnny Walker GoT Campaign
Urban Decay Campaign
Urban Decay launched a collection of beauty products inspired by Game of Thrones. Fans of the show are urged to get the ‘For The Throne’ look with cosmetics kits modeled on the show. An eyeshadow set features a pop-up iron throne.
The collection features palettes like ‘Lannister Red,’ ‘Winter is Here’ and ‘White Walker’.
8 Things Marketers Can Learn from GOT Campaigns
Now, you’re ready for some marketing lessons that are sure to help improve the effectiveness of your campaigns:
1. Don’t miss an opportunity
Just like in Game of Thrones, some opportunities are only given once. Make an effort not to pass up on a chance to utilize a trending topic in your favor. Finding a dynamic method to modify a popular theme will surely spark some positive comments and get your brand image look positively. It’s about good timing.
2. Gather all the weapons you can
Ensure you have the best tools to maintain and improve your customer experience. After gathering all the tools, you need to know how to use them. In order to not only attract website visitors but also convert them into customers, it is inevitable to properly use right ‘weapons’.
3. Join your forces
Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen joined their forces because of a mutual goal. The same goes for marketing. In order to achieve great results, you should consider brand collaborations. They are quite effective because they help you gain exposure to a wider crowd and help you attract new customers.
4. Knowledge is power
When preparing for war, it is not enough to know the weaknesses and strengths of your enemy. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your side are also important. By collecting all the information needed, the easier it will be to make the right decision to claim the throne, in our case – the marketing throne.
5. Strong leadership
A great leader has a strong vision that he shares with his teammates. Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow are great examples of strong leadership. They’ve put together a team of experts to help them reach their goals. Together, they created a strategy, a concrete content plan, and offered value through their target audience.
So, if you don’t want to be the Joffrey of your business, follow this advice.
Picture 5. Joffrey, example of a bad leader
6. Winter is coming
One of the most famous lines quoted from GoT. It is about being prepared for what is coming with strategic planning. Every business at some point will face unexpected challenges for which should be prepared. By having a great strategy, constantly planning, and being ready to adapt in every situation, you will survive the winter. Plus, you always need to have a back-up plan.
7. Don’t forget the power of social media
A major piece of Game of Thrones advertising involves interacting with social media. It is highly recommended for reaching wider audiences and interacting with visitors. Focus on visitor interactions and produce shareable content, such as tweets, pictures, or videos.
Related: Drive Better Customer Engagement
8. The element of surprise
We can all agree that Game of Thrones is mostly known for its unexpected scenes. And for the most part by killing off some main or important characters. While we don’t propose that, it is important to keep your audience updated with fresh, innovative ideas which will also keep their interest in you.
Even More Great Game of Thrones Marketing Examples
Before we finish, let’s see a few more examples of how Game of Thrones have affected both social media channels and brands alike.
Twitter launched Game of thrones emojis based on hashtags of character names.
Picture 6. GoT Twitter character emojis
Language-learning app Duolingo has launched a course in High Valyrian. Delivered in the same way as any other language course, the High Valyrian course teaches users the basics of the language spoken by Daenerys Targaryen.
Picture 7. High Valyrian on Duolingo
Ikea sure knows how to draw customer’s attention and differentiate from the rest of the market. Since we all have this kind of throne in our own homes, IKEA created a porcelain throne inspired by the Iron Throne. It appeared in store in France.
So, for now, it is obvious that IKEA deserves to sit on the Iron Throne!
Picture 8. Ikea’s GoT inspired marketing
Also, GOT costume designer Michele Clapton revealed that the show’s capes, including the one that Jon Snow wears, were made from IKEA rugs. This went viral between many GoT fans, and IKEA wanted to joke on itself too, so they launched a “how to transform rug into a fur cloak” – By Jon Snow.
According to Marketing Week: “The reactive campaign has reached 151 million internet users, who have posted 83,500 messages in reaction, while delivering 778 million global impressions.”
This has also had a halo effect on the product itself, with a 775% rise in searches for the SKOLD rug and a “good impact” on sales, says Ikea’s UK marketing director Laurent Tiersen
Picture 9. IKEA rug instructions, as inspired by Jon Snow
The fast-food giant decided to hop in on the GoT train, too. The advert ‘Lunchtime is Coming’ shows actor Kristian Nairn (Hodor in GoT) as a KFC employee, waiting nervously for a group of people to storm the place with their orders. Using a popular character and a wordplay KFC has presented their new product, “chicken and rice”.
The last, but not less important example is Spotify. It is known as one of the best examples of online promotion when talking about Game of Thrones. Spotify and HBO have launched the “With Whom You Hear” website. It analyzes your Spotify’s listening history then matches you with a character from the show that fits your tastes.
Winter Is Here
Getting creative as well as catching the buzz can mean the world for your brand. It can boost your visibility, spread your influence and, if you’re creative enough, reach completely new customers. By using your imagination you can strengthen your authority, while staying up-to-date with current affairs. You may not ‘claim the throne,’ but you just might end up claiming a higher level of engagement and increased ROI. And that is a prize worth seeking after.
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