3 Major Takeaways from Season 8 “Game of Thrones” Marketing

Eva Maria Schmidt
April 4, 2019

Rally the realm – season 8 of Game of Thrones is about to begin. All eyes are on the North, where all the major players were last seen gathering for the last installment of the epic HBO fantasy series.

With so many stories and characters converging, events in the last season built the tension leading up to the final season to a fever pitch. It should be no surprise that the series is HBO’s most popular TV show of all time – GoT has captured the imagination of a global audience. To date, the show is telecast across no less than 170 countries and has amassed a global fan base of 33 million and counting across social media.

Marketers take note – GoT is digital marketing done right. With strategies involving a mix of online and offline tactics, HBO consistently and expertly tailors marketing campaigns to reach broad audiences, cultivate viewer loyalty, and maintain high levels of engagement.

Here are the top insights worth studying from GoT’s strategy that will be useful in marketing other products and services:

1. Use location to build excitement

HBO launched an unconventional effort to keep the buzz and hype around the final season high. In this new marketing initiative, the TV network challenged people to a worldwide scavenger hunt – hiding half a dozen real-life replicas of the Iron Throne and encouraging fans to find it.

With only 13 days to “claim the throne”, intrepid fans are given only a simple YouTube video clue of the throne replica in its mystery setting to solve the puzzle and beat the countdown clock. By periodically letting loyal fans in on subtle clues and hints released via social media, HBO let social media rumors and adventures actually enhance the show experience – all while promoting the hashtag #ForTheThrone – and costing HBO very little extra money.

The lesson for marketers: Tasty nuggets of information create dragon-sized appetites for the full meal. To take the games even further, use a centralized consumer engagement platform like Selligent to leverage social media hype as well as location targeting. Send relevant content at the right time and at the right location and maximize viral marketing campaigns.

2. Leverage immersive, offline experiences

E-commerce is the future – but brands take customer loyalty to the next level with real-life, well- branded environments. In the month before the season premiere, HBO launched its “Bleed for the Throne” promotion at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Described as an “immersive blood drive experience” – the campaign was executed in partnership with the American Red Cross, which had lost tens of thousands of scheduled donations this winter after freezing temperatures and storms forced them to cancel hundreds of blood drives around the country. Donors participating in the drive at SXSW or any of the other simultaneously timed blood drives across the nation could win a trip to the premiere of the final season of GoT.

The lesson for marketers: Bridging the gap between real life and digital marketing can be the key to delivering memorable customer experiences, particularly when executed through omnichannel marketing platforms. Read more about how analog marketing tools can help fix your digital customer engagement crisis.

3. Take the hype to the next level with co-branded collaborations

This year, major American brewing company, Anheuser-Busch, handed over the reins of its ultra-valuable Super Bowl LIII commercial airtime to HBO during the second quarter. Taking place in the medieval era, the commercial featured the “Bud Knight”, a character created for Bud Light’s commercial campaigns since 2017, in a jousting competition. But here’s the twist: the Bud Knight was riding head to head against GoT’s The Mountain, who defeated him handily and gouged his eyes in a gesture similar to his character’s actions in GoT season 4. The storyline wreaked havoc in the Bud Light world, yes, but it’s a brilliant commercial – by subverting expected tropes with the unforeseeable demise of a central character, the end result is a brilliant work of co-branded marketing.

And Anheuser-Busch isn’t the only one – Oreo leveraged growing excitement leading up to season 8 too, with this excellent co-branded commercial recreating the GoT title sequence.

We’re hungry.

The lesson for marketers: When paired well, the potential of reaching previously untapped customer segments with a co-branded campaign is well worth your while. Loyal fans love it when much-loved brands collide in unexpected ways, and marketers would do well to strike while the iron is hot to stoke the flames of their social media fanbases whenever possible. Marigold Engage client, AW LAB, for example, created a highly engaging social campaign that not only generated excitement for their co-branded campaign with Nike but also charged and enriched customer profiles with valuable data.

As you’re gearing up for this final, thrilling season of GoT, consider how you might ramp up your marketing efforts to deliver a new level of personalized interaction with your loyal customers. You may not ‘claim the throne,’ but you just might end up claiming a higher level of engagement and increased ROI… and that’s a prize worth pursuing.