The Dark Side of ‘Game of Thrones’ for Marketing

The use of “A Game of Thrones” in content marketing is a subject you could write a book about. I’ve seen infographics, case studies and even post-episode recaps; usually because a PR person threw them at my feet (which is not unwelcome, even if I don’t get to talk about most of them). One I received recently jumped out at me like a whitewalker on a dragon glass roof, because I realized there’s a deep dark side to all of these marketing metaphors.

"Game Of Thrones – The Story Of Marketing" by Agile CRM.
“Game Of Thrones – The Story Of Marketing” by Agile CRM.

The use of “A Game of Thrones” in content marketing is a subject you could write a book about. I’ve seen infographics, case studies and even post-episode recaps, usually because a PR person threw them at my feet (which is not unwelcome, even if I don’t get to talk about most of them). One I received recently jumped out at me like a whitewalker on a dragon glass roof. It made me realized, there’s a deep dark side to all of these “A Game of Thrones” marketing metaphors.

Here’s the image in question, put together by Agile CRM, which you can see in context here.

It’s a nice infographic. Decently put together, easy to read. Reasonable character choices.

But Game of Thrones is not a reasonable show. Every character has a dark side (whether they bring the darkness, or someone else forces it upon them). And looking at those dark sides, I think, creates some pretty interesting metaphors for marketing teams, too!

So let’s take a properly George R.R. Martin point of view on these roles and flip the coin over to the side that says valar morghulis, starting from the top of the org chart: CMO.

Tyrion Lannister is the CMO because he know things, everything. Which is true. But he’s also in exile with a drinking problem because he couldn’t get along with the c-suite (who he shot with a crossbow on the toilet, by the way). Now he’s working as a consultant for the only other team that would hire him, in a world without AA.

A Game of Thrones Tyrion DrunkJon Snow is the marketing manager because he makes sure every marketing plan is a success. He’s also the Night’s Watch’s hero. … Except the Night’s Watch murdered him — knives to the belly after he was lured out by the intern. Sure he came back to finish off that one last project he cared about, but then he walked out and took half the production staff with him (to a project we have to admit was a slaughter, but pyrrhic victories still count).

Daenerys Targaryen is the creative manager, because she’s introducing a new ruling system to the Seven Kingdoms. Not mentioned: she also has the world’s only dragons — bright, fiery, new ideas no one else could possibly have! … And they remained locked in a cave for far too long because no one could figure out what to do with them … and they were eating some children in the countryside. (There’s a metaphorical innovation dilemma to talk out at your next company retreat: Can you unleash your dragons without having them consume the children of everyone else in the company?) Also, while she’s the brightest bulb in the whole show, she’s clearly handling too much responsibility and it’s blocking effective use of her creativity.

Web designer: Cersei Lannister. That’s an interesting spot to put someone known for inappropriate relationships and burning things to the ground. I might have gone with creative director for her explosive ideas and disregard for collateral damage.

A Game of Thrones Cersei Lannister SmugSansa Stark, email marketing manager, sends the right message. Those are skills she learned while being threatened and held hostage by half the power brokers on the show. And she’s somehow managed to keep the list robust enough to help take back her ancestral home. Not a bad fit!

Social media strategist: Varys, master of (child) spies. Varys is perhaps the least honest character on the show, always hiding both his ends and means behind an impenetrable screen of anonymous “little birds” and board room obfuscation. No one else knows what he does or how to do it themselves, and it turns out he’s been working against their goals this whole time.  Who knew?!

SEO manager: Margaery Tyrell, because she’s always on the lookout for the perfect keyword. She’s also been the bride of a series of sometimes underage and always prematurely dead kings. She was imprisoned by the church for alleged black-hat behaviors, yet found a way to rise back to the top by shifting content strategy and embracing their new algorithm. [SPOILER ALERT] She was wiped out in one of Cersei Lannister’s creative fireballs. (Maybe a sudden shift in keyword strategy?)

Content manager: Arya Stark. Blind assassin who keeps an enemies list and turns on her trainers right after they’ve taught her everything she needs to know to do it on her own? Most recently seen hacking a man’s own sons into meat pies and feeding them to him with a smile? That’s another interesting choice.

The PR team: Missandei and Grey Worm. It’s true they do manage relationships and image for Daenerys, so we’ll ignore the fact that the one’s a humorless eunuch named Grey Worm.

And finally, we have marketing analyst Bran Stark, who desperately wants to make a mark if he can stop making silly mistakes. The flip side is he can’t walk without another team member carrying him, spends most of his time staring blankly into space, and fell so deeply into watching videos that it got the team member who was helping him eaten alive. His power is the ability to become someone else! So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

A Game of Thrones Bran ScaredMetaphors are fun! Just don’t take them too seriously.

Valar Morghulis.