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What Game of Thrones Teaches Us About Integrated Marketing


January 20, 2015

Imagine a medieval world filled with a menagerie of cultures and legendary feuds that are all connected through an ancient history of tragedy and triumph… a moment in time when sinister dragons tore through the sky, wretched winters lasted a lifetime, splendid summers came for just a few fleeting months and only the lust for power is eternal.

Picture a forbidding throne wrought in iron, a seat from which seven kingdoms are ruled, where kings and queens, knights and renegades and high lords and honest men fight for honor with blood and tears, all to play their part in the ‘game of thrones.’


Based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones, has amassed quite the following. With more than 7 million viewers, and even more who are planning to tune in for the highly anticipated fifth season, it’s clear the series’ popularity has been strong (stronger than Valyrian steel – to be exact).

So, what exactly is it that the creators of HBO’s hit series are doing to keep fans, new and old, coming back for more?

Perhaps it’s their impeccable ability to leverage both traditional and digital marketing, or maybe it’s because their word of mouth advertising spreads faster than wildfire (man, that stuff is intense), but one thing is for sure: Game of Thrones resonates because it brings together what people know and love: entertainment, storytelling and social interaction.

Digital and social marketing, if wielded correctly, can be a powerful way to communicate with your audience – especially if you’re telling them a story. A large part of what’s made the show such a hit, aside from Tyrion’s wit, Kit Harrington’s long black locks, or perhaps most importantly, the DRAGONS —is how the excitement among fans is articulated across social media and through storytelling.

According to Nielsen, over 6 million people saw a tweet about the show for last season’s premiere, which also brought 1.9 million users to Facebook and helped the show’s Facebook page reach 10 million fans. (They’re now sitting pretty with over 14 million).

Since the show premiered in 2011, HBO has managed to consistently interact with their GOT fans in an authentic and engaging way: by getting involved in their conversations both off and online.

One of the show’s most engaging social efforts was #RoastJoffrey- a simple hashtag which encouraged fans to “diss” one of the show’s most hated characters. It was simple – he makes us cringe. But, who knew that #RoastJoffrey would, in its first 48 hours, collect more than 60,000 roasts, 1 million interactions and 850 million impressions?

In just thirty days before the show’s fourth season premiere, the network shared another larger than life campaign called Beautiful Death. The photo-sharing contest featured 30 branded illustrations – each representing a significant death of a character, and then asked fans to submit their own artistic representations.

beautiful death game of thrones

Along with the thousands of physical drawings submitted to HBO, popular social media sites like YouTube and Instagram were buzzing with submissions and feedback from seriously engaged fans. It’s been two years since the campaign began, and the network continues to reply to fans and share their reactions and drawings on GOT’s Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages.

By giving people a channel to express their interest and enjoyment, as well as encouraging ongoing conversations between the show and its fans each season, HBO’s Game of Thrones has created a devout following.

We, too, can learn from the successes of Game of Thrones by interacting with our followers the same ways they are already communicating, using the same channel’s by which they’re interacting.

Through deploying a delicate mix of traditional, digital, and social marketing, you can position a successful campaign that works to increase engagement and expand brand awareness. It’s about taking control of great ideas, harnessing that creativity into a compelling story, and capturing the attention of your audience.

Game of Thrones returns for a highly anticipated fifth season on April 12th. Stay tuned. Winter is coming.