Opinion

Game of Thrones proves that brands participating in cultural moments will take the throne

The final episode of Game of Thrones airs today, bringing to an end an eight year TV phenomenon and the brand campaigns that have piggybacked off it. We can learn a lot from the brands who leveraged the HBO series in the right way, according to Shutterstock CMO Lou Weiss.

Cutting through the clutter is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only is there more competition to create engaging content, but creatives and marketers have less than three seconds to capture their audience’s attention.

But take the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Many brands including Johnnie Walker whiskey, the Red Cross Blood Bank, Shutterstock and Aldi have leveraged the cultural phenomenon and invested in creative campaigns that reach their customers.

With so much competition, the brands that truly understand what their consumers want have cut through the noise and created high-quality, viral content that stands out.

There is a science to achieving virality. Thinking from a consumer’s point of view will help creatives evaluate how their brand can join the conversation. Brands need to think about remarkable content, in the literal sense. Ask yourself, will this garner commentary from your audience? Is it highly shareable?

Oreo made waves with its Game Of Cookies campaign, recreating the entire Game of Thrones title sequence out of limited-edition house emblem-stamped Oreos. The campaign worked well because Oreo produced unique content that was relevant to its brand, tapping into the show’s timeliness to showcase how it can be a part of the conversation. At the end of the day, it’s a biscuit brand, but it understood its audience — what they click on, how they converse — and leveraged this to create content that was highly shareable.

Often, the most talked about and shared creative campaigns are produced by brands that have leveraged the right platforms at the right time. Picking the right channels is extremely important. It’s crucial to think beyond the creative, and understand  not only what the conversation is, but where the chatter is taking place. Oreo’s campaign was launched on Twitter, where Game of Thrones conversations not only reside, but thrive. Easy to share, the clip trended beyond its target market and reached new audiences due to its meaningful connection with a global, trending event that millions of people were already talking about.

That’s a side effect of leveraging culturally relevant moments – you can reach audiences you wouldn’t otherwise, and enter conversations you wouldn’t usually be part of.

Fox Sports’ Fox League, Fox Footy, Supercars and Fox Rugby all featured a Game of Thrones round across the network, bringing the buzz into the homes of sports fans. Johnnie Walker’s White Walker whiskey bottle created a limited edition offering that helped spark the interest of consumers who don’t normally buy the brand.

It’s extremely hard to do this while retaining clear brand messages that resonate with new and old audiences.

So listen to audience insights. Pay attention to what’s trending beyond your own community.

It might not always be possible to predict when something will go viral, but those who do will ultimately take the throne.

Lou Weiss is the CMO of stock image and video library Shutterstock

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