Game of Thrones Season 7 Special: Marketing Lessons from HBO

 In Content Marketing

There are two types of people in the world.

  1. Those who watch the Game of Thrones.
  2. Those who don’t.

Based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, Game of Thrones is not only known for the story, well-written plot, shocking deaths (often of the most favorite characters), breathtaking visuals and mind boggling plot twists that leave an everlasting impact, but also for the colossal marketing efforts by HBO throughout the year.

Every time there’s a season finale of Game of Thrones, the internet breaks. Talks about the show, its characters, behind-the-scenes and fan theories take the internet by storm and fuel imagination of the fans, who form a steady audience base.

The season five finale of the 38 Emmy Award Winning show generated 8.1 million views while season six got an astounding 8.9 million. We won’t be shocked if the penultimate season of the show breaks both the records, as fans all over the world are thrilled to see the characters fight for the iron throne. After all, the battle is intensifying.

Here’s what we love about the channel’s digital marketing gimmicks and what are the key takeaways for marketers.

1. Facebook Cover Video

Recently, Facebook introduced cover videos to enhance pages. The official Game of Thrones page on the platform uses the space in an appropriate manner and creates a stir for the next season. The last time we checked, it was being used as a placeholder for the announcement of the premiere date of the show.

2. #RoastJoffrey

Dubbed as the ‘first social media roast’ for one of the most despised characters of the show, “#RoastJoffrey” got fans, brands, celebrities and the cast doing their bit on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram.

As a result, within the first 48 hours, it led to 60,000 roasts, 1 million interactions and 850 impressions. This happened when the show was off-air.

Welcome to , a disrespectful celebration of his grace and the world’s 1st social media comedy roast.

3. #CatchDrogon

During the premiere of the fifth season of the show, HBO asked the fans to #CatchDrogon (one of the three dragons who went rogue after roasting a goat herder’s daughter). It built up on viewers’ excitement and asked them to catch the fire-breathing beast with lures from “Drogon Bait Shop” on Giphy. Once they laid the bait tagged with the caption and spotted the dragon, fans needed to quickly retweet the same as a proof. And that’s not all. Fans who could successfully spot the dragon (virtually of course) were rewarded with unique content or prizes.

4. #TakeTheThrone

After the fourth season premiere of Game of Thrones, HBO made the fans use the hashtag #TakeTheThrone. This unique hashtag converted the fans’ letters of words into a replica of the Iron Throne that doubled as a 3D interactive model. It also gave fans the chance to sit on the Iron Throne at San Diego Comic Con or win other prizes.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Just got these in the mail today. Thank you @GameOfThrones

5. #PrepareForWinter

For the seventh season, HBO asked viewers to tell them how they’re going to welcome winter with #PrepareForWintercampaign on the Twitterverse! It retweeted some of the Tweets on the official page much to the delight of the loyal fans!

6. Beautiful Death

Game of Thrones is known for iconic deaths of characters in every season. HBO knows this fact well and it created a site specially to highlight all the memorable deaths in the form of beautiful artwork. Then, it used the same for a 30-day countdown for the season four premiere. Available on the website Beautiful Death, it also pinned the amazing artwork on Pinterest for the fans.

7. Featuring Fan Art on Tumblr and Pinterest

HBO features fan-generated content on Tumblr and Pinterest. Being recognized and featured on the official page of their favorite show gives the fans a kick and is considered no less than a reward. It is a sure shot marketing strategy, because it is human tendency to fall for appreciation and recognition.

8. Recaps, Recaps and more Recaps

What do GoT fans do all year round when their favorite show is off-air? They watch the entire series again, work on fan theories or fan-fiction or take up other activities that remind them of their favorite show. Others stay hooked on to any kind of material provided by HBO. 

Taking a cue, HBO launched a YouTube video with a stunning recap of the first six seasons right before the season 7 premiere. By the time you read this, the video must have crossed several thousands of views. No kidding.

9. Livestreaming Fire and Ice

Building up the anticipation of people for the upcoming seventh season of the show, HBO launched a Facebook Live event to announce the premiere date.

Staying true to the name of the book series, the livestreaming involved people watching a gigantic block of ice melt on the social media channel. Viewers could type FIRE in the comments to send flamethrowers. This simple, yet powerful gimmick generated 3.7 million views. Beat that!

10. Snapchat Filter

Snapchat is where all the action takes place for young fans of the show. HBO released hidden temporary Snapchat lenses for fans on Snapchat. These lenses once unlocked, will work for an hour. Users can use the selfie-filter and transform into a petrifying White Walker or opt for the front camera to spot a White Walker and kill it with a “dragon glass” dagger! This gave fans an immersive experience on the platform.

I know what’s keeping me entertained at work today 😂  @GameOfThrones

11. Pride Day on Instagram

HBO celebrated Pride Day with Renly Baratheon’s action figure against a rainbow backdrop on Instagram. Apart from that, its Instagram account is full of the show’s characters with action figures or, you know, just being marvelous!

12. Various Tie-ups

Game of Thrones integrated with Spotify to come up with #SpotifyGameofThrones. The campaign used users’ playlists to determine which character from the show they were similar to. It fetched the show 14,800 mentions.

They also tied-up with Coldplay to create a spoof video for Red Nose day on NBC; the 12-minute musical received about 15 million views on YouTube!

13. Polls

HBO rules the Twitterverse. It uses the platform as conversation starters for the show as we’ve already seen in many examples. One of the ways they consistently use to ensure that people get talking and participate in their campaigns is to use twitter polls.

Fear is for the winter.
Choose your favorite  winter moment before .

14. Quizzes

Just like polls, HBO also likes to engage its audience with quizzes or trivia-based questions from the show. Apart from meeting its marketing purpose, the trivia questions also help fans brush up their knowledge of Westeros!

15. Taking the Audience Behind the Scenes

For the seventh season of Game of Thrones, HBO took the fans behind the scenes. It released special videos that gave them a close look at the costumes (A Story in Cloth), soundtrack (A Story in Score) and special effects (A Story in Special Effects).

The previous season, it gave the audience a sneak peek into the prosthetics. Hungry for the tiniest detail related to the show, they hang on to every second of these videos and rummage for hidden clues about the upcoming season!

16. Whispers of Westeros Newsletters

In case you didn’t know, HBO has a special newsletter for the fans of the show called Whispers of Westeros. It contains exclusive information and other tidbits that keeps the fans overjoyed throughout the year!

17. Traditional and Guerrilla Marketing Efforts

Apart from its digital marketing efforts, HBO’s offline marketing efforts are also worth mentioning. A few samples of the same include but are not limited to:

  1. Creating the epic dragon ad in New York Times in 2013
  2. Asking artists to recreate important scenes to promote the sixth season
  3. Hiring celebrity chef Tom Colicchio to create Game of Thrones themed menu served from branded food trucks in New York and Los Angeles
  4. Unleashing an army of White Walkers on the streets of London
  5. Commissioning 3D street artists to recreate the wall for an image-led campaign, which was made interactive when passers-by tweeted #ScaleTheWall
  6. Constructing a statue for promoting the fourth season and then, bringing it down inch by inch with every mention of #BringDowntheKing

18. Riding the Show’s Success Wave

Apart from making efforts to market the show, HBO is riding on the show’s success. For instance, fans analyze the showbetween the season and remarkable podcasts run on various channels.

Other brands occasionally join the bandwagon too. While Hootsuite gave us its version of the title score, BlinkBox placed a giant dragon skull on a beach. Recently, intricately carved designer doors called Doors of Thrones were installed in various Irish pubs. The hype rarely comes to a standstill.

Key Takeaways

The marketing of Game of Thrones is not only well-received by a very active fan base, but also well-executed. Apart from the social media strategies, the other wacky promotions of the show are testimony to the fact that HBO is always ready to explore the unexplored or see what’s “beyond the wall.” This is what works for them every season and helps them keep the buzz alive and teach some valuable lessons to marketers:

  • Know what resonates with your target audience.
  • Don’t be stagnant even when you’ve amassed a large, loyal fan base.
  • Keep the conversation going by giving users something to talk about.
  • Give the audience a call-to-action they can’t help but execute.
  • The audience loves Easter eggs, so make some and hide them where they can be found.
  • It’s as important to entertain the users as it is to inform them.
  • Make the most of user-generated content.
  • Don’t stop being creative and thinking out-of-the-box.
  • Incorporate storytelling into your marketing efforts.
  • There’s no harm in going over the top with clever campaigns.
  • Give fans an inside look or story every now and then.
  • Find ways to reinvent social media channels.
  • Reward your audience whenever you can.

This post originally appeared on the E2M Blog and was written by Pratik Dholakiya, the Co-Founder of E2M. Feel free to reach him: [email protected]

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