Game of Thrones: A marketing case study

As Games of Thrones is set to conclude on May 19th, the series has seen numerous brand associations and is on the verge of becoming a marketing case study

Game of Thrones main

‘Games of Thrones’ returned after a year and its comeback has delighted fans across the globe. The eighth and final season of the fantasy drama series began on April 14 and will conclude on Sunday, May 19.

As expected, the critically acclaimed series created a lot of excitement and buzz. Brands are also keeping a close watch and grabbing every opportunity to leverage such associations to directly reach to the audience.

Big brands such as JioSaavn, Hotstar, Fevicol, Cinthol, Tinder, Durex, KFC, Flipkart, Godrej Nature's Basket, and Tic-Tac left no stone unturned, referencing GoT in their taglines and on memes on social media platforms.

Indian viewers are the 5th largest group of viewers of GOT in the world. In the final season, the show is likely to peak its viewership, which has grown from 2m+ viewers per episode in the first season to 10m+ viewers per episode in this season.

The brands not only achieve popularity with this participation but also gave birth to aspirations and nostalgic values

Johnnie Walker launched the White Walker, a special edition whiskey. Mountain Dew released - A ‘Can with no Name’, an ambitious promotional scheme where the brand replaced the iconic green color on its cans with a white cover so when chilled it reveals the names of some of the show's characters. Fans are also being asked to tweet Mountain Dew using the hashtags #ACanHasNoName, #ForTheThrone 

A Can Has No Name

Oreo recreated the stop-motion opening credits of the franchise with 2,750 cookies in one of its largest-ever brand collaborations.

The campaign delivers a playful new take on the original cookie, and each pack features four unique embossments on top of the chocolate wafers, which represents: the Houses of Lannister, Targaryen, Stark, and The Night King.

So, is it fair to say that Games of Thrones has become a marketing case study so far?

According to Aman Abbas, Co-founder, Commwiser Consultant and a marketing specialist, “Game of Thrones has emerged as a cultural phenomenon. It is the most pirated television show ever, is critically acclaimed and its unforgettable one-liners are the stuff of legend. It has everything that goes into the making of a brand. GoT's immense popularity with diverse audiences is not lost upon other brands. And each new season brings with it a host of brands that try to cash in on the show's popularity, and when it comes to marketing case studies, this is as good as it gets”.

“Games of Thrones has indeed gotten a great following and they have been able to do some innovative tie-ups, however, I would think that this is more the norm of the day, than the exception. From a content point of view, it still needs to get a bit more refined, and the brand is yet a little distance away from being an exemplary case study”, opines, N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research.

Samriddh Dasgupta VP, Marketing Akiva Superfoods believes, it has indeed become a marketing case study, “GoT is a clear indication of what a brand needs to do in today’s world. It has been able to do four things really well, which most brands struggle to do. A visually delightful body of work that sits across geographies and age group, Building enough intrigue + content through the year to keep people hooked, Merchandise the narrative and occupy space in pop culture through gamification, music, art and more and the use of digital media as the primary distribution, resulting in much higher stickiness”.

It’s been a month since the Games of Thrones is trending on digital platforms and netizens are going crazy over the scenes, dialogues, character, and VFX.

So, would it be right to say that brand associations have helped as an added value to the Game of Thrones season? The connection between brands needs to be meticulously worked out. With its undisputable popularity, GoT has little to worry about. Association with brands rakes in the additional moolah. At the same time, it helps make up for revenue that may be lost due to piracy. But for the brands it can be a bit of a hit and miss” said Abbas.

Abbas also cites an example, “Take Bud Light for example. The Game of Thrones and Bud Light collaboration for the official ad for the Super Bowl LIII caught the attention of the viewers. But there's always a risk in associating with another brand, especially with one as powerful as Game of Thrones. A brand can be eclipsed by its more famous collaborator. As per Google Trends, that is what happened with Bud Light at the Super Bowl. Game of Thrones received four times as much search traffic as Bud Light when the ad was aired”.

Saurabh Uboweja, International Brand Expert, explains “Brands are hungry for creative marketing opportunities, GoT provides one such tactical chance for brands to hop on to. A concerted brand licensing effort has resulted in a large number of brands becoming interested. Once it reaches a threshold level, it becomes a matter of peer influence. Brands become influenced by other brands and don’t want to miss the bus. As far as netizens are concerned, their interest lies in the content of GoT which is addictive and watching it live makes them feel they are at par with the rest of the global viewers”.

Connection matters

The season saw the association across a wide spectrum of product categories, and among all, a Dating app jumped onto the bandwagon race. For brands is it really important to find a connection before associating? Amman Abbas feels, “A connection is a must. Advertising and brand marketing is changing at a breakneck pace. The audience too is evolving and so must the ways we attract their attention. Ads need to be entertaining or at the very least must elicit recollection”.

Samriddh expresses, “The user is aware and intelligent. If the brand finds a natural connection with the show, then the chances of the concept sticking are far higher. Nothing stops brands from riding the wave, but the ones that truly emerge as winners are the ones who think through their product line and brand, and then customises their messaging and market offering to use the GoT buzz to their advantage”. 

However, Chandramouli adds, “Frivolous connections and associations for brands with GoT or any other such series will only give frivolous results. It is imperative that brands only associate if there is relevance, else it is not useful”

Cross- Branding

In the world of marketing, cross-branding is a new trend where brands try to encash the space. How it is a great motivation for brands to stay relevant in the minds of their consumers?

Samriddh explains, “Cross-branding is a good way to open up wider audience bases to new ideas and products. The fluidity of users across digital (and traditional) channels is well known, and the cohorts keep intermingling. It helps both brands to expand their universe, generate positive word of mouth, and use these interventions to increase brand equity”. 

“Brands are always on the lookout for credible associations that reflect the preferences of their target customers. The GoT offers that and allows brands to associate with a global brand and international sensibilities”, defines Uboweja.

 Abbas says, “Cross branding helps a brand reach out to an audience that may otherwise be outside its consumer base. Association with a renowned brand can also help with brand recognition and product image.”

A certain brand that shares the same ideology as our brand will have an audience that we could reach out to directly. And today, Game of Thrones has as versatile as an audience one would see. It is just that the duration of such efforts is shortlived”, concludes Saurabh Jhingan, Co-Founder and COO, Latin Quarters.

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