Apr 18 2011 1:21pm

Marketing HBO’s Game of Thrones; or, You’re Doing It Right

GD Falksen on the Iron Throne

After much anticipation, the HBO television series Game of Thrones has arrived with a bang. There is undoubtedly much to be said about this adaptation, but I will leave that to wiser heads. Instead, I would like to point out the remarkable job done by the program’s marketing department. Game of Thrones has been highly anticipated, and not only because of its connection to A Song of Ice and Fire.

HBO has done everything possible to have the name and imagery of the film directly in the public eye. In addition to the usual advertisement and posters, the marketing team has demonstrated a very skillful use of Facebook promotion, and even the use of free food to spread name recognition for the program among people who may not be familiar with the book series.

Perhaps most ingenious of all, this past weekend HBO set up replicas of the Iron Throne (as seen in some rather iconic promotional imagery) in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Members of the public were invited to come and have their pictures taken seated on the throne, which they could then choose to instantly post to Facebook and/or Twitter, giving HBO a last minute promo blitz. I checked out the Philadelphia display myself, and you can see the result above. The entire collection of photos appears on the show’s Facebook fan page gallery.

In addition to being an impressive display of marketing, there is a lesson here to be learned. Obviously, HBO has put a lot of money into promoting Game of Thrones, and that’s not something most of us could dream of doing for the projects we work with. But the end goal of HBO’s marketing team, the skillful use of public media and unconventional advertisement methods to keep the series in the public eye, is a template that could be applied elsewhere both easily and cheaply. If more books were promoted using this same kind of technique, even with much smaller budgets, we would see far fewer of them falling by the wayside.

G. D. Falksen is awed both by Game of Thrones itself and by the impressive work of the marketing team. He’s also very glad that he was in Philadelphia this weekend.

Daniel Goss
1. Beren
I would also like to point out that having a transparently idiotic review done by the New York Times has done quite a bit to rile up the fandom, if nothing else.

Let the conspiracy theorizing commence!
Rob Munnelly
2. RobMRobM
Marketing has been remarkable. You're barely scratched the surface.
- Website with all the making of clips.
- Advance review copies spread all over the place.
- Creation of the Maester's box of scents of particular locations and associated maps.
- Maester Path on line contest and payoffs.
- Food trucks and Thrones (as you mentioned)
- Bike taxis w iron thrones in nyc and LA, etc.

Seamus Cooper
3. Seamuscooper
I'm also impressed by the marketing, but I'm less convinced that this model is easily replicable. I don't have the money to get lots of props from my book built, and if I did, nobody would care enough to tweet their picture with them. HBO poured tons of money into this campaign, and they started with a large group of dedicated fans who were inherently interested due to their love of the books. I don't think those of us starting without the fan base or the truckloads of cash could possibly generate such a successful campaign.
James Whitehead
4. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I definitely agree that HBO put forward a full court press when it came to marketing/advertising this series; hell, "Winter is coming..." is a great teaser tagline in off itself.

We just have to hope that HBO ensured that the focus was on the product they're marketing and not the marketing itself. All sizzle and no steak would be a serious blow to HBO. And creative as marketing/advertising can be it is the final product that will keep the viewers, not snazzy slogans.


PS - @3Seamuscopper, good point. It is far easier to be creative & 'think outside the box' when you have 'flippin' great wadges of cash' to throw around. ;-)
Chris Lough
5. TorChris
I agree with Seamus in that a book/series/etc. with low visibility isn't going to be helped by visible marketing stunts. The interest needs to be there already.

What the Game of Thrones push did marvelously well was take the already existing niche audience and excite it in ways that made it visible to mainstream audiences. We were fascinated by the campaign up here in the offices, as at first it seemed completely daffy. Food trucks? Okay.

Of course, when we first saw the massive lines for those food trucks we understood. HBO was inciting those unfamiliar with the series that here is something that is already immensely popular, so you better get up to speed. Ditto for the Iron Throne opportunity pics.

I think the real artistry behind the promo push, though, was how it made a scene to outsiders while at the same time immersing longtime fans in one of their favorite fantasy worlds. Being able to experience Westeros in a tactile manner is an incredibly exciting prospect. What was once something only you a couple friends read years ago is now food on your plate, and both experiences are communal and personal.

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