“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground”
With the hit TV series Game of Thrones is coming to an end – what better way to commemorate this than to dedicate an ENTIRE blog post about the history, making, and cultural phenomenon that is Game of Thrones? Here at adHOME, to say we’re fans of the show would be a definite understatement. In fact, we somehow managed to have our Easter party in a ‘Game of Thrones’ theme, searching for Daenerys’ dragon eggs and all. With this said, it’s needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), we’re going to miss the show like Brienne of Tarth misses Jamie.
For those who don’t know a lot about the show, it began as a fantasy novel titled “A Song of Ice and Fire” in 1996, becoming a New York Times Bestseller in 2011. The same year, the Game of Thrones TV series was launched, creating what has come to be a cultural phenomenon. In the beginning, there was little promotion of the show needed, due to the large existing fanbase from the book series – however, since then, we’ve seen exponential growth in terms of the fan base and excitement around the show.
In the first season’s trailer, there was little to no information given, other than the fact that “Winter is Coming”. Comparing the first seasons’ teaser trailer to the most recent, there’s a stark (pun intended) difference in terms of cinematography and general message. With how vague the trailer was, no one really knew what to expect (other than those who read the books). Check out the season 1 trailer (we’ve also included the most recent trailer for comparison) and tell us you knew what was happening!
Season 1 Official Trailer
Season 8 Official Trailer
Yeah, neither did we, and only about 67 thousand people even viewed it. But once this game got started, we were all hooked! You couldn’t walk down the street without escaping the phrase “Winter is Coming.”, and it was this one simple phrase that fueled one of the biggest successes in TV history to date.
When Game of Throne first premiered, it was only 10 episodes long, packing every episode with important content and cliffhangers that made the audience want to tip over the edge. With hardly any effort, they had created an experience where each episode felt like a cultural event. During season 1, it was recorded that on new episode days alone, around 9.3 million people viewed GOT. This doesn’t include everyone who viewed the show the next day or via torrent. By Season 7, it was recorded that over 32.8 million people were watching GOT on new episode days—once again, not including those who binged it later, watched it the next day, or viewed it via torrent/download.
That’s a lot of people, and a surprising amount of popularity growth over this span of time. But, how did they do it?
Game of Thrones did something unique when promoting the show. Where most TV series create a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more right off the hop, they instead turned to the actors, fans, and crew to spread the word semi-organically. This ultimately opened up the conversation online, specifically Twitter, sparking conversations about theories, asking questions to the actors of the show (which they obviously didn’t answer, #spoilers), posting reaction videos and more. Soon, there was so much buzz around Game of Thrones that to the show quickly became a trending topic across social media platforms. It then took the opportunity to keep the social-ball rolling with more online marketing and social media marketing stunts.
Game of Thrones Marketing Stunts
#RoastJoffery lit up on social media like dragon fire when it was announced in December of 2013. Within the first 48 hours, it led to 60,000 submitted roasts, 1 million interactions, and 850 million impressions. All during the off-season of the show. Anyone who wanted to participate was invited to submit their roasts officially on the website roastjoffrey.com (now redirected to HBO).
The season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones was revealed in a creative and interactive way. A live stream was set up with a camera pointed at a block of ice, and everytime someone typed “Dracarys” into the livestream chat, “dragon fire” would spit out towards the block and it slowly revealed the premiere date for the season 7 premiere. Over the videos lifetime, it generated 3.7 million views.
In 2016, Game of Thrones partnered with Spotify to allow users to see what character in the series they were based on their listening habits. Indie rock listeners would get Jon Snow whereas you were more like Cersei if you regularly listened to powerful female vocalists. Whichever character Spotify decided the listeners were most like, they were then awarded a carefully curated playlist based on what the character (and therefore, what the listener) would enjoy.
Game of Thrones “Partnerships”
Game of Thrones partnership with Oreos was unique partnership taken as far as a cookie and TV show partnership can go. Oero released a limited edition package of oreo cookies one week before the premiere of season 7, featuring the sigils of the houses battling for the throne imprinted on the cookies. Oreo also recreated the Game of Thrones intro using over 2,700 Oreo cookies, creating one of Oreo’s most appetizing commercials yet.
For the launch of Season 5, Tim Horton’s also joined in on the hype and produced a few social media posts to leverage the engagement from the Season 5 launch. A nice touch from the coffee chain.
Johnnie Walker partnered with the show, making something that seemed strange at first, but quickly made SO much sense, White Walker Whiskey. It was created as a limited time product, designed to be served chilled (much like a White Walker’s heart) and made to mimic the taste of the Game of Thrones setting (vanilla, red berries and orchard fruit). Quickly this product became the drink of choice for Game of Thrones viewing parties.
As marketers, we are intrigued by all things innovative and creative, and Game of Thrones is definitely a powerhouse in this department, both on and off the show. As sad as we are to see this show go, we can appreciate everything that has gone into it. Being a creative agency and having engineered out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, we love to see what ideas others are coming up with (like Game of Thrones themed Oreos!?), as it teaches us that there is no idea too “out there” when it comes to promotional marketing.