Game of Thrones has become the most watched series of all time. Beyond the great storytelling, we can draw out brand lessons.
By Ayo Moses Ogedengbe
The TV series, Game of Thrones, has no doubt come and gone. However, the lessons will be here with us for a long time as content creators.
The series comes with great knowledge and nuggets for statecraft, leadership, family management, brand management, financial education, personal development, politics and public administration.
We really do not need to look far from the words of Sir Tyrion Lannister, if we want to know why Game of Thrones is such a successful work of art, and even a classical work of storybranding, if we look at the houses.
He said, “What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken? Who’s better to lead us into the future?”
According to Business Insider, over 500 brands worldwide connected to the content created, and over 100 brands connected with the TV series directly through HBO for marketing purposes.
We are all Game of Thrones.
If the houses were to be seen as corporate brands, as they really are in the series, and the characters as personal brands, we will each find one that represents us and the brands we patronise the most.
Let’s take a look at the branding lessons from the series.
THE 7 HOUSES
A brand is any entity with an identity that differentiates it from any other. As it is with corporations, so it is for a person. A brand should necessarily have a logo, a character, motto ( or payoff line) location, core values, mission and vision, as well as the people pushing its ideas and objectives.
There are 7 houses that makes up the storyline of Game of Thrones, with each and every one of them fiercely competing to assume the Iron Throne. Intra and inter competition is naturally the result where brands share a similar vision. For the avoidance of doubt, the 7 houses are listed below with their various brand peculiarities.
- THE HOUSE OF BARATHEON
Logo: A crowned black deer on a yellow background
Motto/ Payoff line: “Ours is the Fury”
Core Values: Strength, Bravery, Collaboration and Doggedness
HQ: Storms End
Location: The StormLands
The House of Baratheon became a royal member of the 7 kingdoms when Robert Baratheon, in line with the brand’s core values, led a rebellion against Aerys Targaryen “The Mad King” and father to Queen Daenerys and Viserys, ending the 300 year-old reign of the Targaryen dynasty.
Brand core values, mission and vision engineering, as well as re-engineering are important. If not in alignment with immutable principles, you are very likely to see inconsistencies in your brand and its heritage.
- THE HOUSE OF LANNISTER
Logo: Golden Lion on a Red Background
Motto/ Payoff line: “Hear me Roar”.
Core Values: Legacy, Achievement, Elite, Class-conscious, Power, Materialism
HQ: Casterly Rock
Location: The Westerlands
It is important to note that the Lannister Brand has a very dirty past that made them wealth. To this end, all their negative history, they tried to clean up. They left the ‘’HEAR ME ROAR’’ for internal communications and used “A LANNISTER ALWAYS PAYS HIS DEBT” for their external comms, thereby causing a communication conflict that created internal crisis in the long run.
One can only build a brand for so long based on money and power, or technology. Empathy is very important in building a reputation and a connection with your target market, and how we treat people when we have the power to do as we please, will go a long way to determine brand legacy.
- THE HOUSE OF STARK
Logo: Grey Wolf on white background
Motto/ Payoff line: “Winter is coming”
Core Values: Integrity, Loyalty, Valour, Family, Unity and Trust
The House of Stark is the number 1 family in terms of running a brand on immutable principles. Their brand core values are built on sustainability.
If we are going to build a brand that will outlive us and birth a great legacy for generations unborn, then the above core values as projected by the House of Stark brand is worthy of adoption.
- HOUSE OF TARGARYEN
Logo: 3-headed red dragon on black background
Motto/ Payoff line: “Fire and blood”
Core Values: Survival, Family, Secrecy, Power and Mysticism
HQ: Red Keep
Location: The Crownlands
This house started from the beginning with a weird principle to only mate with family members so as to preserve their unique features and this is why they all have the long blonde hair as a physical attributes of their personal brands.
Magic can bring great profit and attention, in terms of money and power. But keeping the people and winning will need a dose of balance. If your brand has a magic factor, don’t lose it. Use it selectively and never forget empathy at all times so you don’t become demystified.
- THE HOUSE OF GREYJOY
Logo: A golden octopus on a black background
Motto: “We Do Not Show” (official)
Motto/ Payoff line: “What Is Dead May Never Die”
HQ: Salt Throne
Location: Iron Island
Core Values: Ruthless, Resourcefulness, Resilience, Result and Independence.
“We are ironborn. We’re not subjects, we’re not slaves. We do not plough the field or toil in the mine. We take what is ours.”- Balon Greyjoy
In every industry, you are likely to find ruthless organisations running with the GreyJoy brand philosophy. They do not conduct much research, spend little on branding and only wait for you to go to the market with your ideas.
Once you do, they start to look for all your weak points, branding style and all that can make them take over your space without expending much effort as you.
Theon GreyJoy, the prominent member of the house, served as a ward of Lord Eddard Stark. He lived at the Stark castle of Winterfell, where he developed a cordial relationship with his Stark hosts. Despite the respectful treatment, he was insecure and boasted of his real status at the IronLands as a Lord and eventually betrayed them.
There are a few things to learn from the GreyJoy brand philosophy. When launching out your brand, never forget that the first-mover advantage can sometimes be a trap, as there could be a GreyJoy somewhere at the corner.
- THE HOUSE OF TYREL
Logo: A golden rose on a green background
Motto/ Payoff line “Growing Strong”
Location: The Reach
Core Values: Nimbleness, Hospitality, Simplicity, Modesty and Royalty
Do you remember Margery? How she was basically moved by her mother to marry 3 Kings in her short lifetime? Talk about the thirst for power!
If we see the iron throne and the royal court as profit, we must never forget that even more important is to have a brand that stands for something. If you stand for nothing, you will fall for nothing. Your brand should be developed from immutable principles and be known for real value.
- THE HOUSE OF ARRYN
Logo: White Falcon in a circle with a half moon on blue background.
Motto/ Payoff line: “As High as Honour”
HQ: The Eyrie
Location: The Vale of Arryn
Core Values: Honour, collaboration, preservation and survival
When building a brand, it makes sense to go the whole 9 yards. Set your vision clearly. Project your mission carefully and re-engineer your core values to fit the vision and other objectives that can endure. Register your trademarks and incorporate right so you can hand over the brand to your successors and create a great heritage.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.