By Greg Manago, Creative Development and Production Lead / Executive Producer, Mindshare Content+ and Entertainment
It’s not all just fight scenes, brothels, and dragons: we’re here to unearth the marketing principles lurking in “Game of Thrones,” season five. Here’s what we took away from episode six, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”
Well, at least Sansa and Ramsay’s wedding was at a nice, outdoor venue. This week’s episode of Game of Thrones brought us the Sand Snakes strutting their stuff, a look at where the Faceless Men store their many faces, Jaime and Bronn in their cos-play glory, a fascinating bit of trivia about Tyrion’s anatomy, and the return of the Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna.
But underneath the action and the intrigue, this episode seemed to be about obsession, particularly obsession with a rival. And while plotting and scheming for vengeance is one of the cornerstones of a good drama, dealing with a rival brand on Madison Avenue isn’t as cut and dried.
We’ve all had clients who spend a lot of their time thinking about what a rival brand is doing, has done, or how they’ll react to a marketing initiative. Keeping tabs on the competition is definitely a good idea, but when that crosses over into an obsession, that’s an issue. This week in Dorne, Ellaria Sand let her obsession with the hated Lannisters drive her to an attempt on Princess Myrcella Baratheon’s life, despite the latter’s innocence. Luckily for Myrcella, the Sand Snakes don’t seem to be the fierce warriors we thought they would be; the three of them barely scratched Jaime and Bronn before Dornish palace security came in and broke up the fight.
Ellaria wants to see the realm thrust into war (and Myrcella dead) in reaction to Prince Oberyn’s death last season at the hands of the Mountain. But her obsession and subsequent reactionary moves led to her arrest instead.
Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about the competition. But letting a rival’s actions dictate your big picture decision-making is never a good idea. Often times, doing so can lead to the wrong strategic decision. CMOs may not end up in chains as a result, but the wrong plan can lead to bad results for the brand, which in some ways can be worse.
That said, the right reaction to a rival at the right time can be a boon to your business. That brings us to Sansa Stark. While her wedding night with Ramsay was absolutely awful, earlier in the episode, she had a nice adaptive moment that marketers can learn from.
When Ramsay sent his lover, kennel cleaner Myranda, to bathe Sansa in preparation for her wedding day, Myranda used the occasion to not so subtly threaten Sansa with stories of Ramsay’s other former lovers and their tragic demises. But Sansa wasn’t taking it; she figured out that Myranda was obviously in love with Ramsay and gave her a warning of her own: “I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell, this is my home and you cannot frighten me.” It was a nice drop-the-mic moment for Sansa, and a reminder that with the right adaptive response (and without obsessing over your competition), you can send a message to both rivals and consumers at once.
Of course, throwing some shade on the castle dog walker isn’t the same thing as crafting a great piece of content in real time. The latter requires an integrated team, great strategic thinking, and a production methodology that can do high quality work quickly. But when it all comes together, that kind of work can be very rewarding.
It seems like the Tyrells need an adaptive response now that both Loras and Maergery have been imprisoned by the Faith Militant. Perhaps the war rooms of Madison Avenue can convene to offer some help to Lady Olenna, but she’ll likely need something a little more powerful than a content strategy and an Instagram video to get out of this one.