(This article contains no spoilers of past, present or future episodes)
Monday 15th April was the day all Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for - unless you are a super dedicated fan that watched it live at 2am, then the 14th April was the day for you.
Season 8 Episode 1, in 55 minutes, managed to demolish all of HBO’s previous records for the amount of viewers watching a single episode, with a total of 17.4 million viewers. But, what is potentially more impressive than this plethora of viewers, is the 20 months fans have remained loyal and waited for this season to begin.
Game of Thrones is the television series that leaves its viewers completely aghast, from its gripping storyline, to the untimely deaths of your favourite characters. It comes as no surprise that they have managed to cultivate this huge following.
However, this masterful story will only take fans so far. The marketing team for the show managed to create an incredible buzz around each and every season, and managed to sustain this hype for a two year gap before the final season.
Which leads us to question, how did you hear about Game of Thrones?
What is buzz marketing?
Buzz marketing is a type of viral marketing strategy that uses content, events and a community of influencers in order to create word-of-mouth marketing and anticipation for a product or service that is launching.
Two months prior to the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones, during the Super Bowl 53, Bud Light aired one of their advertisements featuring their iconic Bud Knight. Much to the viewers surprise, half way through the advert, audiences were quick to realise that this was not the typically funny, light-hearted Bud Knight advert, but instead, one with an intense Game of Thrones twist.
Game of Thrones has a huge fan base, with a lot of word-of-mouth marketing driving its reach to every corner of the world, so HBO does not need to rely on influencers or other brands to help promotion. However, this campaign shows the extent of loyalty the show has generated, with not only fans staying true to the series but other brands as well. Bud Light were willing to kill off their mascot, the Bud Knight, and share one of their most watched ads of the year with HBO in order to endorse Game of Thrones.
This advert not only showcased Game of Thrones to beer lovers, but the colossal level of support it demonstrated had the potential to turn those few who have not yet watched the series to binge watch the seven prior seasons.
Each Game of Thrones episode creates a cultural experience, some UK viewers will stay up till 2am to watch episodes live, while others will make a social gathering for the event each week. As a result, brands have tapped into the concept of an episode as a cultural event, by adopting a more interactive marketing approach on social media.
Surrounding the hype for each season’s premiere and finale, brands are using the mass following to their advantage by integrating it into their own marketing campaigns. Both parties benefit here, but for HBO, buzz marketing rockets as this will stimulate further in-person and online conversations about the show.
A good example of a brand tapping into this is Spotify’s campaign, ‘With Whom Do You Listen?’ While listening to music, users were able to see which Game of Thrones character they would be, based upon their taste in music.
An everyday, menial activity, like listening to music, was transformed into a campaign that would mean Game of Thrones was at the forefront of every user’s mind.
The result? Users in discussion to compare characters = buzz marketing in process.
A similar hype can be seen with the last Avengers film, due to be released April 25th, much to the disappointment of fans, ending the 13-year Marvel Universe reign.
In the run up to the event, Endgame “sold five times as many tickets in its first week as Infinity War sold in its first seven days of pre-sales.”
Cinemas have been adding multiple showtimes to prepare for the coming onslaught of fans, with some Vue locations in London starting screenings at 6am through to 5am the following day, every half an hour.
Producers have been building this Marvel fan base for many years, but to reach this astronomical level of anticipation for one film, marketers have been very smart with their release of teasers to keep fans hooked and eager to be part of the phenomenon of the last film.
As well as the release of various social assets through Marvel social media accounts and their main stars’ accounts, the three trailers released were the biggest tool in building their buzz marketing. Less really is more in this trailer, with all shots revealing clips from the first 20 minutes of the final film only. They picked up practically where the previous film left off and added brief moments of nostalgia for their fan base by including small clips from older films to build background context to events and indicate how far the characters have come.
By giving away very little in their trailers, Marvel have planted the unknown into the minds of their viewers, generating discussion and plotting of theories amongst fans. Again, what is the result? Buzz marketing.
These buzz marketing campaigns illustrate the truth about viral strategy, but a word of warning, ensure your product or service lives up to the expectations you build, otherwise no amount of hype will soften the loss of trust your customers will feel concerning your brand. Game of Thrones producers, these next three episodes will reveal all.