Game of Thrones and The Corporate World
No one could have guessed the influence that Game of Thrones would have when it first aired in 2011. The world watched in awe as book fans and newcomers alike gaped at the bravado – and horrors – of the Starks, the Lannisters and everything in between. A show with this much action, moral ambiguity, and hints of supernaturalism comes with its own set of expectations. Game of Thrones not only kept the ‘dark’ in Dark Ages but also set a bar for its cross-genre appeal.
Naturally, viewers were abuzz. Ratings flew and now the show will be entering its sixth season. Complete with its own merchandise, HBO’s boldest show hit a home run.
In the world of corporate video marketing, there are a few messages to take home from this series. Here are some of the valuable lessons that corporate companies can learn from Game of Thrones when marketing to their clients:
1. Don’t Overlook the Underdogs
Every company has at least one employee who goes unnoticed. Their work is integral to the company’s success, and they are often forgotten. This employee is also usually lower on the totem pole. It’s important to encourage work morale and recognize each employee’s efforts – especially when involved in marketing for the company.
We all love an underdog with the ability to succeed despite the obstacles. There is no bigger underdog than Jon Snow. He’s the illegitimate son of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell and the epitome of a natural-born leader. Snow uses his status (or lack thereof) to propel him forward, eventually becoming Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Another great example is Tyrion Lannister, the son of mogul Tywin Lannister. Both show incredible tenacity by using their wits, charm, and inner strength to rise in the ranks.
On a grander scale, larger corporations with bigger markets may fail to recognize smaller potential competitors. The biggest dilemma is deciding whether to respond. Silencing a low-cost threat is a safe option. However, it does take time for competitors to gain momentum.
2. Be Willing to Learn the Ropes
Another reason we love Jon Snow is his willingness to learn. After joining the Night’s Watch, it’s pretty obvious that Jon has his work cut out for him. He starts at the bottom as a recruit, slowly working his way up showcasing his fighting skills. Jon quickly gains the favour of Commander Jeor Mormont and becomes his personal steward. His camaraderie with the Wildlings later earns him the coveted position of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Avant-garde marketing means moving into uncharted territory. Like Snow, companies would benefit from taking calculated risks to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Treading into new areas is scary. Testing the waters to see which marketing schemes work for your company is a major way to get attention. Even if your target is not reached, recognition doesn’t hurt.
3. Don’t Make Rash Decisions
One of the most poignant characters to draw from is Daenerys Targaryen. Originally sold off to Khal Drogo of the Dothrakis in exchange for an army, Daenerys soon became the Dothrakis’ most prized – and dangerous – weapon. Her character rises from the ashes (literally) after the Khal dies and she loses her stillborn child. With the help of her aid Jorah and her three newborn dragons, Daenerys quickly takes command of the Dothrakis, Meereens and thwarts the leaders of Qarth.
This Game of Thrones character teaches us the art of patience. She comes from a long line of rulers and is often compared to her late brother Rhaegar; a courageous, wise leader who had a strong moral compass. Her reputation comes with calculated decision-making. She is often faced with how to punish those who enslave others, how to infiltrate cities, and which traditional values to keep.
Video marketing requires a lot of decision-making. From its conception to completion, there is a multitude of minds working together to execute one mission. This relies on collaboration between different people giving different perspectives.
According to Harvard University’s Business Review, there are three types of market-related decisions that affect how you represent your company: strategy and planning, execution, and operations and infrastructure. Strategy and planning decisions involve lining up marketing goals with strategy and aligning the priorities of marketing and sales. Execution decides how a company will deliver their message under different vehicles and varying budgets. Operations and infrastructure cover the fundamental details of execution, covering every aspect of how things are marketed.
4. Winter is Coming
Easily the mantra of the show. While Game of Thrones approaches its sixth season, winter has still not come. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of time spent in preparation for a long, cold season and everything that comes with it (see: White Walkers)
This is not to say that corporate video marketing depends on any particular time of the year. However, attention to timing is important. There are certain times in the day when participants are less active on social media. One can assume this also means less reception to marketing ads. A great way to prepare your audience for the release of a new product or service is to warm them up. With short video clips, ambiguous messages and even behind-the-scenes footage, you can create a buzz strong enough to annihilate your competition. Not every company can rely on seasonal anticipation (e.g. Apple releasing a new iPhone each fall). Sometimes, you have to act before your competitor does.
5. Be Likeable
For some reason, likeability always slips under the radar. Many forget how important it is for clients and customers to like your brand (unless you’re Buckley’s, of course). Nobody wants to use a product or service that they feel obligated to use. Clients want to feel like they have options. Be the ideal choice.
In Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister isn’t exactly the most loveable at first. He treats his dwarfism as both a curse and a blessing and later uses it like armour. His witty sarcasm, intellect, and craftiness overshadow a superficial shield of machismo. His wit and charm are what often keeps him alive when he becomes imprisoned and sold off by traders. When it comes to liking Tyrion, you don’t have a choice.
6. Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon
Daenerys Targaryen comes from a long line of powerful descendants. Our first meeting with her in season one shows her stepping into a boiling bath without a flinch. It soon becomes clear that this dragon descendant cannot be burned easily. Interestingly enough, this foreshadows her ability to take the heat; especially when she later makes a mistake that turns the Meereen people against her.
Metaphorically speaking, a company’s marketing scheme is a surefire (get it?) way to meet results. However, if this backfires, your message needs to be strong enough to stand by. Especially if it is essential to your company values.
7. Don’t Aim to Be the Best. Be the Best.
In a nutshell, Game of Thrones is a battle for the Iron Throne. Many families fight to the death for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Some of the major noble houses include The House Bolton (formerly House Stark), House Arryn, House Frey (formerly House Tully), House Greyjoy, House Lannister, House Tyrell, House Baratheon and House Martell.
A good modern-day comparison is the smartphone market. Many would argue that Apple holds first place. Closely following are Samsung, LG, HTC, Blackberry, Sony, Nokia, and Google’s much-anticipated smartphone set to release this September.
A huge part of what separates Apple from the rest is its innovative designs, cohesive management style, exceptional customer service, and in-house operating systems. While we’re not technically saying they are the best, they sure don’t give us a reason to say otherwise.
8. Names Carry Weight.
Branding is everything. In the world of Winterfell, illegitimate sons aren’t given the privilege of the family name. In the marketing world, corporate companies aren’t given that luxury. Every product that stems from a company follows a distinct pattern; a part of the company brand. While you can never fully disown it, you can abandon it long enough for people to forget it ever existed.
Just kidding. Kinda.
Even Sansa who relocates from her home; betrothed to King Joffrey, and then marries Tyrion Lannister and Ramsey Bolton, knows who she is. She is Sansa Stark of Winterfell. And her name, despite everything, holds power.
Honour your brand as you would honour your word. Your name carries weight and is a major card to play.
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