Advertising Strategies and Lessons


Six Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Game of Thrones

August 28, 2017 Melissa Ledesma

And so the end is here. The season seven finale of Game of Thrones (GoT) aired earlier this week. Whether you are a die-hard fan or part of the population who has never seen a single episode, you likely agree this show has made a major impact. What many love most about Game of Thrones is that it teaches lessons while also displaying the consequences of not learning from your actions.

Like the characters in GoT, marketers have many opportunities to learn lessons. Campaign analysis is a big part of how we continue to evolve our methods and approaches. Lessons learned and lessons ignored both have major impacts on marketing outcomes.

Because we wish the best for everyone, we want you each to be the Westeros of your vertical. (If you don’t know what Westeros means, see the bottom of this post where we provide a GoT glossary.) So here are six GoT-themed tips to help you conquer the competition.

1. You Should Never send all your soldiers to the same fight.

This is the lesson of “divide and conquer” mixed with a bit of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” A timeless strategy, for marketers, this is one not to be forgotten. It is easy to become excited or enthusiastic about a new media channel or marketing idea, but it’s rarely wise to invest too much in any one area of your plan.

GoT watchers have seen success from strategy diversification, first from Robb Stark as the King of the North when he outsmarted Tywin Lannister using a small force to distract Jamie, and again when Jamie Lannister outsmarted Danerys by dividing his forces to take down Dorne and Highgarden while only sacrificing Casterly Rock. Instead of amassing their total armies, Both Robb and Jamie placed a smaller number of soldiers in various battlegrounds to implement attacks on multiple fronts and create distractions. Both characters, at one point, found themselves with limited resources compared to their enemies and, they each understood a diversification strategy would help secure their wins. Whether in war or marketing, a strategy of diversification creates a safety net to support the realization of campaign objectives.

2. Avoid assumptions, seek the facts.

As marketers, we should never stop asking questions. When we implement a plan that works, we must not be content to rest on the assumption that it will continue to work. Similarly, when a strategy proves unsuccessful, we should always ask “why” to thoroughly understand what caused the breakdown and how to improve for future performance. Asking questions leads to knowledge and optimization. Conversely, making assumptions can result in significant mistakes.

For example, during this most recent season of GoT, believing her family to be dead, Arya Stark stopped asking about them. She would have never known her family was reunited in Winterfell if Hot Pie hadn’t told her. Likewise, until Jamie Lannister heard Lady Tyrell’s bold confession, Cersei assumed Tyrion killed her son. In both of these cases, assumptions led to misinformation. And misinformation led to bad decision making.

3. Align yourself with allies and capitalize on their strengths.

Strategic alliances combine the talents of multiple organizations, typically with the objective of generating positive outcomes for both parties. To identify the right partners, it’s essential to know your strengths and identify the skill sets and expertise you’d like to bolster.

For many GoT viewers, witnessing Tyrion team up with Daenerys to take on the Iron Throne was one of the most exciting points in the series. When Jon Snow met the Mother of Dragons, we suspected everything was going to change. As a Lannister, Tyrion represents a reputation of financial success. Danerys, as the last Targaryen is the  leader of foreign forces ― the embodiment of strategy and strength. And as one of the few men to ever organize the Free Folk, Castle Black and Winterfell, Jon Snow epitomizes leadership and planning. Tyrion, Danerys and Jon all have the propensity to be successful individually, but as a united force the three together minimized their faults, while capitalizing on each other strengths.

4. Identify your goals, then prioritize your challenges.

Like most things in life, 80% of success typically comes from 20% of the effort. Exceptional marketers know the importance of prioritizing initiatives based on their level of impact. They focus their time and money on the tactics that generate the greatest results.

Each season, problems and obstacles face GoT characters from all directions. As viewers, we get to watch the strategic decisions made by the characters. Who is the bigger threat, Cersi in the South or White Walkers? As Queen of Westeros, Cersi is both evil and psychotic, but she is still just a person. She is the single greatest obstacle for anyone looking to rule Westeros (or live there in peace), but she is nothing compared to an army of undead seeking total annihilation and marching towards the seven kingdoms. Jon Snow, Danerys and Tyrion all agree that overthrowing Cersei is minimal priority compared to the need to save the human race from the threat of White Walkers. Together, Jon, Tyrion and Danyerys identified their goal, determined challenges and realized there is minimal benefit to overthrowing Cersei if the kingdom is facing potential devastation and doom. First, they will unite to save the world, then to rule it.

When analyzing a marketing strategy against business goals, marketers must define the order of priorities. Analyze your goals to identify your dragon and obstacles that may represent the destruction of the human race, err… we mean destruction of your campaign. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted and waste resources on actions that won’t drive your ROI.

5. Try Taking calculated risks to reap the rewards.

As a marketer, playing it safe is not always best. Instead, sometimes strategically stepping outside of your traditional methods could work to your advantage. Embracing new technologies, mediums and tools, even when they are not tried-and-true, can bring positive results. At DMS, we recommend setting aside a percentage of the media budget for testing. These calculated risks help our clients identify opportunities to scale and help them to stay ahead of shifts in media and marketing strategies.

GoT fans have seen that sometimes you have to send in the dragons. When Tyrion was met with the challenge of preparing King’s Landing, the capitol city, for a large invasion, his army was vastly outnumbered. Believing the expected would lead to failure, he moved forward with unorthodox tactics. Instead of sending out the Lannister fleet, he used all available men to defend the city while he deployed wildfire to set the opposing fleet ablaze. In a moment, Tyrion went from being the anti-thesis of a solider to the hero of the battle. Traditional plans were not working. But, once Tyrion was brave enough to implement his out-of-the-box strategy, his army achieved major success that had been long evading them.

6. “Winter is coming,” so have a battle plan.

The famous words of House Stark remind us that strife, to some extent, is always ahead. While you can’t foresee everything, you can develop a solid marketing strategy that builds to success while anticipating challenges along the way. The best brands typically innovate, stay active, plan for the future and prepare for the unexpected. You can’t stop Mother Nature. When winter finally arrives, you best have your Valyrian steel and Dragonglass ready to fight off the Night’s King. For non-GoT watchers, this translates to stacking the decks with a talented team and top-notch digital tools in your marketing arsenal.

Need a Maester in the game of marketing?

In Game of Thrones, Maesters serve highly regarded positions as learned men, scholars and healers. Essentially, when something goes wrong or you have a problem that needs attention, you want a Maester on your side.

With more than a century of combined experience, our team at DMS has enough expertise to have earned the maester title. If you are looking to make new alliances to reach your marketing goals, contact and get connected to our sales team.

GoT Glossary:

  • Dragons: Fire-breathing beasts controlled by Daenerys Targaryen
  • Dragonglass: A form of volcanic glass. Along with Valyrian steel, it is one of the two known substances capable of killing White Walkers.
  • Free Folk: Self-proclaimed name of the sovereign people who live in the lands beyond the Wall, still on the continent of Westeros but beyond the boundaries royal rule.
  • Maester: An order of scholars, healers and learned men in the Seven Kingdoms known for their scientific and intellectual pursuits
  • Mother of Dragons: One of the many titles for Daenerys Targaryen
  • Night King: The supreme, and frightening, leader of the White Walkers and army of undead living beyond the “Wall” of Westeros
  • Valyrian steel: Ancient form of metal known to be extremely powerful in battle; Highly sought-after commodity
  • Westeros: The unified all-powerful empire comprised of the Seven Kingdoms
  • White Walker: Legendary, ancient race of humanoid ice creatures leading an army of undead, zombie-like ice beings

Written By: Melissa Piccinich, Marketing Manager @ DMS

About the Author

Melissa Ledesma

An innovative problem solver by nature, Melissa Ledesma is both experienced and passionate about the digital marketing industry. She has held a number of high-level positions within the real estate, mortgage, entertainment and digital advertising industries, including Director of PR and Business Development at NJ Lenders Corp. and Director of Communications & Government Affairs at Eastern Bergen County Board of Realtors. As Director of Content & Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), Melissa demonstrates a strategic, creative and tactical approach when handling the thought leadership programs and marketing and communications efforts for DMS and its family of brands. She manages all conferences, sponsorships and event execution and plays a pivotal role in the creation of written, digital and video content for all campaigns. Melissa has consistently positioned the team at DMS as experts in performance marketing across multiple industries.

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