Now that the fifth season of Game of Thrones is behind our back, millions of fans (just like us) are trying to recover from the absolute jaw-dropping finale. Shock is the only constant in George R. R. Martin’s epic series.
If there a TV show out there that can teach us something about the world of digital marketing, that is HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Before starting, a necessary ‘spoiler alert’. While in this article we will avoid references from the finale, it may still include some spoilers from previous seasons of the show.
Despite all controversies about the actual contents of the series (too many naked scenes, too many gruesome deaths), there is no doubt at all that Game of Thrones is a great brand, probably one of the best Tv productions ever created.
And it not just great programming, but also an amazing opportunity to learn few lessons about the art of marketing in the digital era. Taking a ride in Westeros you can find remarkable insights, hidden in the intricate plot twists, the raw dialogues, the extreme characterization of all elements.
It’s no surprise to us that both the novels and the Tv series have gathered legions of faithful supporters, particularly among the youngest (the so-called millennials). Armed with the inseparable smartphone, they are picky customers, demanding and extremely hard to please.
Customers of the ‘post digital transformation era’ know what they want and waste no time looking for your brand. Either you’re there when they need it or you don’t exist at all. They ask for exciting experiences, stories that jump off the screen and inspire loyalty. And Lannister, Targaryen and Stark have pleased them all.
In fact, the Game of Thrones brand has everything needed to appeal digital customers:
- Distinctive and unique storytelling;
- Archetypal heroes and themes;
- Clear vision of what’s to come;
- Breathtaking visual elements;
- Innovative omni-channel customer experience;
- Strong social media presence.
Another season has come to an end; ten episodes full of emotional turmoils. And now we will all have to wait in the cold for another year, wondering what the author and the producers have in store for the next season. Nobody knows who will win the Iron Throne, but one thing's sure: the story will raise the bar, even more.
While we ponder, it’s also worth considering why - as marketers - we’re so enthralled by the destiny of the Westeros. Game of Thrones’ massive success is more than a simple fortunate event. It’s a well planned strategy. Here are 5 digital marketing lessons we can learn from Game of Thrones.
BRACE YOURSELF, GOOGLE IS COMING
We start by borrowing the motto of House Stark, "Winter is Coming". If you’re a fan of the show, you know that Stark is the most ill-fated family of the whole world depicted by Martin. The deep meaning behind these words is one of warning and vigilance. Even when things are good, you must always be ready for unexpected changes.
What’s the greatest marketing challenge in the Internet era? To get noticed by Google and recognized as the first reference to fulfill customers’ needs. Google algorithm, with the mobile-friendly update, could be ‘winter’ for your mobile marketing if you can’t deal with the Mobilegeddon. Knowledge is power: stay in control by staying up to date.
CONTENT IS CONSTANT WAR
In the first season of the show, Cersei Lannister offers one of her most chilling warning: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Same with content marketing, the ground you build amazing customer experience on.
In an inbound marketing perspective, empowering customers means being what they want to consume, the best resource they find in the purchase process. Game of Thrones gives hints: create an epic storytelling, always exceed expectations and make customers anxiously wait for what’s next.
LOYALTY IS THE KEY TO WIN
Varys ‘The Spider’ explains the two principles that guide most people in Westeros: “Those who are loyal to the realm, and those who are loyal only to themselves.” The world of Westeros is based on one simple fact: every single person is loyal to someone.
Every business wants loyal customers, the key to succeed in the long term. Customer retention is cheaper than acquisition, but way harder to get. You need to be customer obsessed and give people a reason to keep coming back to you: loyalty programs, gamification dynamics, a remarkable customer experience.
ALWAYS DELIVER YOUR PROMISE
The entire Game of Thrones plot revolves around the story of someone who makes a promise and tries to deliver it, no matter how hard it is. The Lannisters “always pay their debts”; Brienne of Tarth tries to protects Catelyn’s daughters; Arya Stark wants to avenge his father’s death.
At the core of every brand there’s a distinctive promise: what you are is what you ultimately deliver to your customers. Every single touch point of the customer journey is shaped by your ability to deliver that promise. In the Age of the Customer, when you sell your products, you always sell yourself too.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE ENEMIES
“Knowledge is power”, says Petyr Baelish 'Littlefinger' to Cersei. If you know what your enemies are doing, then you’re always one step ahead. The game of the throne is played with swords and shields, but also with strategy and analysis. Only the weak has no knowledge.
To stay top of mind, you should know what everyone else is doing and, most important, you should never underestimate your competitors (just look at the ‘retail vs e-commerce’ war). If you know who your competition is, what they offer and how they engage with customers, you can get ideas and discover opportunities.
And remember: in this ever-changing scenario, disrupted by innovative technologies, you can’t rest on your laurels.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow”.
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