This past Sunday, more than 16 million people in the U.S. tuned in to watch the Season 7 premiere of HBO’s stellar hit Game of Thrones. How did the television show manage to amass such a widespread and dedicated following? The program, which is based off of writer George R. R. Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire, has relied on a comprehensive cross-channel marketing strategy to engage and captivate people across the world.
Whether you’re a Thrones nerd or not, the show is an excellent example of how to use a mix of online and offline marketing channels to reach a broad spectrum of people, encouraging word of mouth to continue to draw attention to the show.
Here are the top three takeaways that you can apply to your own marketing campaigns:
Think Outside the Box on Social
Instead of following the status quo of television shows and announcing the season premiere date through a press release, advertisement, or a social media post. HBO decided to pursue the latter technique, albeit in an incredibly original way.
Since the new season hints at the forthcoming war between ice (the white walkers) and fire (the show’s ferocious dragon trio), Game of Thrones started a Facebook live video of a block of ice being melted down, revealing the debut date beneath. Although the live feed suffered from several technical glitches, it encouraged fans to stay glued to their computer screens to witness the unveiling and engage with it, since they could speed up the flames melting the ice by commenting on the feed with the words “fire” or “dracarys” (the word used to command the dragons to spew flames). And, it was successful – more than 3 million people have watched the video.
Game of Thrones also built its audience through other social media platforms. Last week, HBO launched Snapchat filters for users of the platform ahead of the event. Members were encouraged to modify selfies with Game of Thrones-themed filters that included the network’s name and the day of the week the show airs. This is a sound strategy, since Snapchat reaches a younger audience than many other platforms.
The show was also huge success on Twitter. During Sunday’s premiere, 2.4 million tweets about the show were posted, making it the most tweeted about episode in the show’s history.
Use Events to Reach New Audiences
This winter, the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience was launched in cities across the country. Fans enjoyed music from the show, interspersed with video from the television series. The concert was a unique way for the network to whet the appetite of those counting down the days until the new season premiere, as well as attract potential new viewers.
HBO also reached out to a new audience by partnering with 21 MLB teams across the nation this summer to host Game of Thrones nights. The special ticket package offers fans the chance to take their photo on the Iron Throne and receive a special themed bobblehead.
The event will take over Boston tonight at the Red Sox-Blue Jays game, and the team’s Facebook site posted a video suggesting dragons have already landed in the Hub.
Spur Word of Mouth with the Unexpected
Last week, Sky Atlantic, the network that airs Game of Thrones in the U.K., sent out a herd of white walkers (the zombie-like characters threatening the Thrones universe) into the city’s streets. The guerrilla marketing effort, which was picked up by media outlets across the world, was followed up by a similar spectacle at London’s King Cross commuter station yesterday morning, ahead of the season premiere.
The guerilla marketing strategy across the pond was successful, where viewership climbed 30 percent over last year’s Season 6 premiere.
It’s clear a strong marketing and communications strategy has been instrumental in launching the success of Game of Thrones. Consider applying these three tips in your marketing campaigns to spur word of mouth, piquing the public’s interest in your products or services.