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Game of Marketing: The Creative Ways Brands Play the Game of Thrones With Epic Storytelling

game of marketing-how brands play game of thrones with epic storytelling
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”  – George R. R. Martin
Perhaps the same can be said of branded content. Because there are distinct parallels between the fantastic fantasy world created by George R. R. Martin in his epic series A Song of Ice and Fire and the massive and complex world of online marketing.
Both are thick with complex rules, unsung heroes, shifting allegiances, and the allure of vast reward. Both rely on (and anticipate) the skills of the storyteller. And both have no end in sight.
Perhaps that’s why so many brands are drawn to Game of Thrones, piggybacking on both the HBO series and the fantasy tomes to connect with Martin’s colossal audience and convey their own stories.
Here are our favorite examples of brands hijacking Game of Thrones to create branded content. (Because, all men must die brands must content market.

Tide’s “A Season of Stains”

At the conclusion of the blood-splattered Season 4 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the detergent brand Tide shared an inforgraphic depicting the various stains that marked the season, stating: “Pint-sized or mountainous, Tide can get out a season’s worth of stains from our favorite messy show.”
As Adweek’s Christopher Heine writes, “Tide’s Game of Thrones social play shows it’s not afraid of a little blood.” It was a bold and creative creation that was shared and favorited thousands of times on Twitter. Clever, cleaners.
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Quiznos’ “House of Thrones”

What do Quiznos sandwiches have to do with the dark political drama House of Cards and the fantastical Game of Thrones?
Apparently everything. As Time reports, “In the three-minute short, a man playing the conniving and eloquent Frank Underwood offers wry witticisms directly to the camera as he travels around the continent of Westeros, poisoning kings and throwing warriors into endless abysses. He even stops his evil plotting for a moment to make the requisite short joke about Tyrion Lannister.”
It concludes with a quick reference to Quiznos’ takeout in a brown baggie – that’s all. But the video includes a coupon for $1 off your next sub and links to more original content on the brand’s Tasty.TV. And I admit, it was entertaining enough for us to eagerly click through and see what else these sandwich maniacs were up to.

Contently’s Game of Thrones-style Map of the Content Marketing World

Marketing nerds, rejoice: More Game of Thrones branded marketing content has arrived, this time from the content masterminds over at Contently.
“Like Westeros, the content marketing universe is a complex place filled with magical creatures (data scientists!) and villains (budget-sucking display ads!),” says Contently’s Strategist. “At Contently, we follow the happenings in this lands of branded content with the obsessive meticulousness of the most ardent Game of Thrones fan.”
And we are glad they do, because they were able to translate the content marketing world into this amazing GoT-esque map. Our favorite part? The display ads, banished north of the Wall.

Random House’s “Dothraki Companion” App

Want to speak like a “khal” or “khaleesi”? Now you can, thanks to the new Dothraki Companion app developed by Random House and offered by its foreign language self-study imprint, Living Language.
The app was written by linguist David J. Peterson, who created the language for the HBO show. It includes games, vocabulary lessons, conversational dialogue and more. It’s an intensive dive into the Dothraki culture, perfect for any (severely) devoted Game of Thrones fan.

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon’s “Game of Desks”

We love Jimmy Fallon because we just know he’s a regular old nerd who happened to land a most un-regular job. And he definitely champions his nerdy side in this Digital Original, which features the challenges he faces as the ruler of his Late Night’s Watch writers and the kingdom of Rockefell.

Shutterstock’s “Game of Brands: The Game of Thrones Houses as Modern Corporations”

Boring old stock photos, begone! Shutterstock took a unique and compelling approach to branded content with its Game of Thrones-themed photo essay.
The Shutterstock blog explains: “We’ve re-envisioned six of the prime players, from the Targaryens to the Starks, as 21st-century companies more concerned with competing for market share than ultimate rule. Check them all out, then see which Shutterstock assets were used to bring these contemporary concepts to life.”
Shutterstock conveniently created a Game of Thrones Lightbox of all the images used to create the fictional brands.
shutterstock frey celebrations
(photo source: shutterstock)

blinkbox’s “Dragon Skull”

UK movie and TV streaming service blinkbox marked the addition of Game of Thrones Season 3 to its library with a unique publicity stunt: planting a massive dragon skull on Charmouth beach, which is located on Dorset’s Jurassic coast and known for its dinosaur fossils. They then sat back and watched the reactions.
Blinkbox explains: “The dramatic work was inspired by a memorable scene in the series which sees character Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) discover a dragon skull in the dungeons of King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. … Game of Thrones is easily the most talked about TV show of the moment. We wanted to mark its arrival on blinkbox with a spectacle every bit as dramatic as this amazing series.”

Hootsuite’s “Social Media Winter is Coming”

“Some of the biggest houses in the social media realm have quietly butted heads and blocked access between one another. Unfortunately these walls aren’t built to protect the citizens. While wars rage on behind the scenes, the users of these paths are beginning to find their favorite networks a lot less accessible, and a lot less social,” wrote Hootsuite blogger Evan LePage back when this was published in 2013.
Thus was the inspiration for the fabulous infographic below (click to enlarge).

Oreo Cookie: All Cookies Must Dunk

And then, there’s this addition from those quirky cookie makers. Not quite an epic story, but epic nonetheless.

Which is your favorite GoT branded content example? Share in the comments or over on Twitter. And for help creating your own wondrous, amazing, fantastical content marketing, give us a shout.


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