Warning: this blog contains light spoilers for season 8.
Think your industry is competitive? Try living in Westeros, where everyone with a personal brand is vying for the same thing: the iron throne. Marketers have a few things in common with these regal hopefuls: they have to contend with other powerhouses, they have to fight the skeletons from their past (literally and figuratively), and they have to survive a vicious social landscape that has already burned them more than once.
So whether you’re sitting on an office chair, an iron throne, or an office chair that feels like iron, you can learn some important marketing lessons from Westeros’ would-be kings and queens.
Varys, AKA the Spider – Keep an ear out for changes in the marketplace.
The Master of Whispers knows the value of information. You can call him the Lord of Deep Listening, overseeing an intricate network of spies spread throughout the seven kingdoms that bring him insights about the people. He has survived five monarchies by picking his allies carefully and his enemies more carefully still, monitoring the social landscape and disrupting the marketplace at opportune times.
Petyr Bailish, AKA Littlefinger – Anticipate future outcomes by building good, sound models with multiple variables that account for potential market changes.
Okay, so he hasn’t said it explicitly, but we know that’s what he meant when he told Sansa to consider all outcomes. “Don’t fight in the North or the South. Fight every battle everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.”
Danaerys Targaryen – Lead with your strengths.
She might be Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and… well, you get the picture. She’s a lot of things. But most importantly, she’s the Mother of Dragons, and everybody knows it. In light of seasons seven and eight, we’ll add an important corollary: protect your strengths. Danaerys, like many business leaders, has suffered big losses by going global, but her biggest loss, by far, was compromising her key differentiator. This mistake may prove fatal.
Arya Stark – Be adaptable, but don’t change who you are.
After rigorously training to be “no one” in Bravos, Arya declared, “A girl is Arya Stark, and I am going home.” She’s a dexterous, flexible fighter who can wear many faces, but she recognizes and embraces the power of her true identity. Marketers, too, have to adapt their product and messaging to serve different markets and segments. The successful marketer can do this without losing touch with what makes their brand strong.
The list could go on. Over eight seasons, Ned Stark has taught us to prepare for winter, Tormund has taught us to f*@& tradition, and Bronn of the Blackwater has taught us the value of a good pricing study.
As you watch the last episodes of Game of Thrones, keep an eye on Sansa, the masterful CMO who never forgets her audience, Brienne of Tarth, who sticks to her brand values, and Jon Snow, who appeals to emotion. We know we will.