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6 Lessons About Storytelling and Brand Marketing from Game of Thrones

Winter is here! The final season of Game of Thrones is going to hit the screens this Sunday and we can’t be more excited about it. There are a lot of good shows around but none of them lives up to the popularity and the fan base of this mythical world. In fact, it was the most popular TV series of 2018 without having released any new episodes!

But among the fights, killings, sex, betrayals and brutality, Game of Thrones offers a lot to be learnt that can be used in your marketing strategy. It is not all about the fictional story – it is more about what we can learn from it and implement it in the real world.

Lesson no: 1: “You Win or You Die” So Master Your Content Strategy

The marketing world is in an ongoing war. But the difference between Game of Thrones and business is that there can be more than one winner. Think of the market as the Iron Throne, but disassembled. Someone has more elements than the other person. With each portion of the market that comes your way, you take away a piece of the throne from your competitors and you are building your own throne up. Everyone who has a piece of the throne is a winner in a sense – now it is about who is a bigger winner. However, that still doesn’t mean that everyone can be a winner.

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The war for quality content that the users will enjoy is at large. Each company is competing for a bigger share of the market and quality content is the weapon.

The one who masters the art of creating engaging quality content shall be the one sitting on the largest (and comfiest!) throne. So learn the important thing: Game of Thrones has reached the level of popularity by doing exactly that – creating content that is appealing to the large masses but also engaging enough to keep people coming back for more.

Speaking of quality content…

Lesson no: 2 “Hodor, Hodor” (Don’t Miss an Opportunity)

At the beginning of the series, Hodor was even ridiculed by some of the fans for not having a lot to say (pun intended). However, as the series progressed we learnt the entire story. Who thought that it is “Hold the door”?

When it comes to creating quality content, a missed opportunity for a lot of brands is not grabbing the opportunities that the underlying stories can offer.

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Think of it this way: if there is a scientific discovery, the way it is reported is by having a punchy headline and information about what the discovery is about. However appealing the title sounds, a lot of people might not know the basic things to understand what this discovery means.

Take a look at the coverage in the last few days about the first black hole photo ever captured. A lot of news websites, science blogs and even businesses wrote about it. But the sides of the story we saw were focused on the actual photo initially. The next day, details about the person behind it started to emerge. However, there was hardly any basic information on black holes. Undoubtedly, there are millions of posts online about black holes. But when something this big is published, it is time to use the opportunity even if you need to revive old content. Why? The Google News section! When a topic is trending people would want to know the latest. Fresh, relevant and quality content will find its way on top of the results.

Additionally, if you are selling a unique product, use the Hodor principle and dive into the past. Tell your customers how the product came to life, who were the people behind it, how did you come up with the name and similar.

Lesson no:3 “For The Watch” (Your Customers Are The Most Important)

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One of the most shocking moments of the entire series so far was the killing on Jon Snow. We all must admit we were happy to see his resurrection (thanks, Melisandre!) but the moments leading up to Jon’s stabbing can teach us a valuable lesson for the world of digital marketing.

Jon broke the ancient rule of the Night Watch and let the enemy over the wall. While Jon though letting the wilding in is fine, the Night Watch didn’t appreciate that and took it in as a betrayal – and traitors must be punished. The cult-like killing sends a strong message that being a leader with loyal followers doesn’t mean that you can go against the majority just because you believe you have the power to.

The killing itself was in a way symbolical – the Night Watch took their turns in wounding Jon with their daggers. Each member of the Night Watch took part in the murder since the betrayal was personal for them. It was more of an act of personal revenge packed in a group action – it was to punish the betrayal more instead of to eliminate Jon to prevent future decisions that might be damaging.

In a more metaphorical sense, think of your brand as Jon Snow himself. Your customers are your Night Watch. What happens when the loyal customers turn their back on the brand? The brand dies or suffers great damage.

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The problem with a lot of businesses is that they do not listen to what the customers have to say. It is a misconception that loyal customers will follow you blindly – competition is so big nowadays that even the most loyal customer won’t think twice to turn their back on you if you disappoint them.

It is not uncommon to see customers of a brand becoming enraged because they disapprove of something that the brand did.

If you don’t want to suffer the same fate as Jon Snow did, you need to listen to what your customers say. Sometimes, comments from customers can be really absurd in your opinion, but if you keep hearing the same thing over and over again, it is time to react and prevent any damage yourself because Melisandre might not be available to sort the mess out.

Lesson No: 4 “A Bruise is a Lesson and Each Lesson Makes Us Better”

Trial and error is one of the most effective learning strategies. If you don’t try, you will never know. If you want to take the Iron Throne, you need to take risks. And frankly, the entire plot of Game of Thrones is based on taking risks.

Take the infamous Gillette ad for example. For a lot of people, the ad was exactly what the world needed. It sent a powerful message for men to strive to be better and to promote women’s rights. But for others, the ad was absolutely disgraceful and offensive, causing for a lot of men to protest against Gillette products and stop being their customers.

Gillette argues that the ad wasn’t meant to be offensive to anyone. To be fair, it didn’t say “men are bad” but it said, “why can’t men try to be even better than they are”. However, part of the public didn’t see the vision. Still, after the release of the ad, Gillette received massive support from women.

Gillette definitely did not see such reaction coming. However, they firmly held their grounds and stood behind the ad. It might have cost them some customers, but it also brought them new customers. This can be concluded from the report that states that sales weren’t affected after the entire media fuss surrounding the ad.

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In business, sometimes you need to make risky choices. Calculated risk sounds good in theory, but in practice, you can’t really plan everything. There usually isn’t a right or a wrong way – it is about paving the road you chose to lead you to success. After all “two different roads might take you to the same castle”.

Lesson No: 5 “Why is it That When One Man Builds a Wall, the Next Man Immediately Needs to Know What’s On The Other Side?” (Keep An Eye On Competition)

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Because that’s how we move forward – by trying to outsmart the smartest person. The fight for the Iron Throne isn’t done only by swords – it is also done by analysis, strategy and more importantly, knowing what your enemy is up to.

In content marketing, keeping an eye on your competitors is important so you can get a peek over their wall and use it to your advantage. Quality content is a product of knowing what your customers want, knowing what your competitors are up to and knowing how to do it better than them.

Final Lesson: “Never Forget What You Are for Surely the World Will Not”

Every house in Game of Thrones has a specific set of values. So does every business.

However, something that a lot of businesses tend to do is blindly follow the trends without establishing a consistent image of the brand.

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Your company needs to have a defined set of values together with a unique philosophy and ethos. But it is not enough only for you to know that, your employees also need to know what the brand stands for.

Next, you need to communicate that consistency in a way visible and understandable to customers. Imagine how disappointed a customer will be if they are used to seeing quality content from you and then one day they receive something that is practically unreadable.

Don’t be a Margaery and change your strategy fully as soon as a new trend appears – be a Daenerys – stick to your core values, deliver consistency and adapt your strategy rather than fully changing it.

Marketing lesson done!

Hopefully, our approach has given you a new outlook and you will watch the final season armed with the ability to see the bigger picture that you can apply to your business.

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There’s only one thing we know for sure – this last season will keep us on the edge of our seats. George R.R. Martin, we salute you for the genius you are!


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