Some TV series take on a life of their own and become part of viewers’ lives, spawning a niche culture devoted to discussion and speculation about it – and this has certainly been the case with Game of Thrones (GoT). And many brands (and other entities) have harnessed that excitement to create successful – and memorable – GoT audience promotions, collaborations and interactions.
The medieval/magical series, which has been airing over this past decade, captured nearly 20 million viewers for each of these final weeks, and has been breaking records straight along – and its potential impressions online more than doubled that number:
To say brands were wise to partner with the hit series would be an understatement. In hindsight, it’s easy to say this series was a safe bet for brands able to create relevant promotions, but it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. There are plenty of series that generate high expectations and result in expensive flops. And this is why it’s important to closely monitor sentiment.
Viewership was split right down the middle, gender-wise, with a pretty decent spread amongst generations as well:
The promotions for this final season, season 8, were pretty wild – and driven by the masterful marketing done by the series itself. Their Instagram profile is visually stunning and has been wildly popular. And there was also an interactive experience created by HBO, called “Quest for the Throne.”
But let’s see what brands did to resonate with this highly engaged market.
Sentiment in the hours before the season finale was decidedly sour, as viewers overwhelmingly expressed their disappointment with episode five (the second to last show). They felt the series’ writers were not doing justice to the story, nor to the characters:
And (as of this writing) 8 million dissatisfied fans signed a petition to have the last season redone, in full.
But, just as many find that idea ridiculous:
But sentiment around the last two shows (and the last season haters, as well) were outliers, with overarching sentiment spanning the past year showing a much larger quantity of “happiness” posts trending, when compared to other (now) trending emotions, like sadness and anger. The sadness was typically associated with favorite characters dying, not the show itself:
Not that brands would mind if GoT was reshot for another season, as it’s been a bonanza for them.
Final Push for Promos
Quite a few CPG brands swung for the fences with their GoT promotions, and chief among them was Adidas. The shoe brand had a whole line of sneakers that appear to have sold out as fast as they released them:
Fans wanted and needed them – they were/are the superfan shoe to have, with “throw away” behavior coming from the loud minority angry about the series ending, not the quality of the shoe:
Adidas will undoubtedly watch closely for the rumored GoT spin-offs in the works to create additional offerings for fans. And you can be sure those who missed them this time, will be watching their chance to buy before they sell out.
Limited edition availability is smart marketing when fans are in a series frenzy. And Johnnie Walker White Walker Whiskey was another brand focused on exclusivity, with its limited edition whiskey, based on the zombie-like characters threatening mankind on the show:
And they also offered cocktail concoctions that had the potential to be consumed at the many viewing parties the series generated world-wide:
It certainly generated quite a bit of awareness from influencers, like the folks at Whisky.com who created a review video, with one of them wearing a White Walker mask.
Best of all though, the “printing [on the bottle] uses thermogenic ink that reveals a hidden message once the bottle gets cold.”
And beyond exclusivity, another brand seems to have gone with this “maximum effort” route to really impress this fickle fan base: Mountain Dew released “Brandless” – cans that revealed Arya’s kill list when chilled:
And then Oreo created an amazing 3D map, mirroring the one seen at the opening of each show – made out or Oreos, of course:
Was it Worth It?
Although it captured close to a million views and deserved all the attention it got, when searching for brand sentiment around the show, we see Starbucks mentioned most often, along with Xbox.
Xbox released a Telltame Games offering based on the show, so its popularity makes sense – but what gives with Starbucks? One of its cups scored an unintentional cameo in a scene of the show, and eagle-eyed viewers spotted it and blew up online about it:
And Starbucks, which offers an unrelated dragonfruit drink, took advantage of the viral moment with this clever response, securing its top sentiment spot:
And it wasn’t only brands that benefitted from the series.
Bleeding for the Throne
SXSW partnered with HBO and the American Red Cross to create a huge blood drive where visitors where invited to “join the fight for life and take your place in the great war to come. Join us in Austin for a blood drive and an immersive experience inspired by iconic characters and moments from Game of Thrones.
Will you Bleed For The Throne?”
The immersive event was pretty successful – and lots of fun for participants to see in person:
Bleeding Not Required
This doesn’t mean you have to have an element of doing good to attract an audience – nor that you should count on an unintentional cameo to propel your promotion, though it may seem that way.
Clever marketing that captures the hearts and minds of smaller segments will be more powerful in the long run than a chance happening. And if you’re not authentic to your brand messaging, and to your audience, your efforts will fall flat. Having the ability to track fans love, or disappointment, in whatever relevant topic is trending keeps nimble brands ahead of the pack – and creating Oreo castles that crumble exactly the way they want them to!
Reach out and we’ll help you identify ways to make the most of top trends affecting your brand category – or identify them before your competitors do!