In 2017, people are surprised if you don’t watch the Game of Thrones. The show has got 38 Emmy awards; more social media followers than Breaking Bad and Mad Men combined; 23.3 million Season 6 views in the U.S. alone.

That is shockingly awesome, right? Especially when you consider that Game of Thrones is fantasy: a genre that has never been known for being universally loved.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that Game of Thrones did what every growth marketer dreams of doing. They had a product that was not popular, turned it into a household name and made a fortune in the process.

But how did they do it?

If you would like to find out, you are in the right place, because this article will break down 5 key strategies that took Game of Thrones to the top and kept it there.

Number one is…

1. Make Social Your Strength

Game of Thrones has incredible reach for a T.V. series. Like we already said, it has got more followers than Breaking Bad and Mad Men combined with 17.1 million between Facebook and Twitter.

How did Game of Thrones do it?

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By putting a lot of effort into social media. They do not just add images to every single post they make – a smart way to boost engagement in and of itself – but what they do is that they constantly keep users engaged with relevant, high-quality content.

And I know. I know. It is crazy to have to tell people that in 2017. Social is a big part of the growth game… But that is not the point  I am making here.

The point is that you have got to work at your social messages, even if you are already one of the most popular T.V. shows ever.

And whether you are getting social or using traditional marketing, make sure to…

2. Experiment

Game of Thrones and 3D street art. Weird combination, right?

Right!

And yet it worked, getting the series coverage in popular U.K. publications like The Independent and Daily Mail. Even better, this was one of the many times that the Game of Thrones marketing team ran an experiment that ended up working extremely well.

In another example, they hired blinkbox to create a “real” dragon head that they placed on a beach. The result was hundreds of tweets, snaps and high-traction content pieces dedicated to the head.

When you see cases like these, it can be tempting to say: oh, they’ve got a massive budget. They can afford to experiment. We can’t.

And in a way, that’s true. Most of us can’t spend our marketing budget on a huge dragon head.

On the other hand, though, we can all find little ways to do something new and see what happens. It’s what growth hacking is all about – and you can see our own innovation playbook here to help yourself along. (a link to your content would go well here)

3. Get Visual

The Game of Thrones series is well-known for its breathtaking visuals… But did you know that the series’ marketing also features beautiful images and videos?

Just take a look at their Instagram shots, which feature, amongst other things, stunning images of 3D dragons and characters…

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Or this Facebook update, which – like all Game of Thrones Facebook updates – features high-quality images.

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We’ve known for years that images are wonderful for social media. Tweets with photos are 90% more likely to be retweeted – and over time, this adds up to a massive engagement advantage.

The problem is, too many companies are taking a laissez-faire attitude to adding images to what they do. They either add no images at all, or go with bland stock photos that don’t resonate with their audience.

Game of Thrones didn’t have this problem. They worked hard to keep their picture game strong and fun – and reaped the benefits of their hard work.

One of these benefits is covered in the point below.

4. Build a Culture/a Community

According to Ogilvy, 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their buying decisions. This makes it one of the most effective ways to promote – and one of the best ways to do this is by building a community around a product.

Here’s how the Game of Thrones marketing team and fanbase did this:

  1. By being active in social media discussions
  2. By making a community-ran wiki for Game of Thrones
  3. By running live events in support of the series

  1. With a dedicated Game of Thrones subreddit
  2. By running contests, competitions and other promotions that involve fans
  3. By giving users auxiliary content, e.g. this “Jon Snow comes over for dinner” bit that ran on NBC:

All of these activities kept fans engaged, giving people something to talk about and generating massive goodwill for the series.

Some of these strategies do require a certain “critical weight” of followers to work, e.g. having your own subreddit. Fortunately, there are simple strategies – like closed Facebook groups for paying product users – that can help you build a community no matter your size.

5. Be Market-Oriented

Game of Thrones is excellent at figuring out what fans want.

Going back to visual media the marketing team is constantly trying out new kinds of images. They mix up GIFs and stills from the series, live event photos, 3D graphics and more. This way, they’re always giving users what they want in the form of targeted, relevant content.

Another thing the marketing team does is freely give users behind-the-scenes content. In the past, viewers often had to pay to see red carpet interviews, bloopers, etc – but here, this is used as free marketing content instead. This way users get what they want while it’s still relevant.

The lesson is that you should give folks what they want instead of thinking about yourself first.

Now, let’s recap and go over the 5 marketing elements Game of Thrones does so well:

  1. They Invest in Social
  2. They Experiment
  3. They Focus on Visual Media
  4. They Keep an Active Community
  5. They’re Market-Oriented

Some of these may not seem like a big deal. After all, what’s the difference between just being on social media and really putting an effort into what you’re doing?

Everything.

That is the difference.

So don’t just brush these off. Try to really understand the subtle things that Game of Thrones does so right.

And if you would like to see how you can innovate your own marketing, and reap the benefits of a cutting-edge team working to promote your product, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Featured image: HBO