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This is the 2nd article of an ongoing series of analyses of stars and brands that went through major changes into the digital age, to achieve greater success: Fanthropology — The Study of Fans and IP’s (Stars and Brands).
With the recent cancellation of Game of Thrones successor series Bloodmoon and subsequent announcement of House of the Dragon, now is a good time to think about the past and future for both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire: where they were, where they are, where they will be — from a business standpoint.
While A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) was well-renowned before GOT’s conception, it never reached the level of other “mainstream” fantasies like The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Although the novels were highly respected in fantasy novel fandoms, their exceptional level of quality could never justify their comparatively lackluster impact on a global scale, outside their loyal fanbase.
After 4 books, a TV adaptation appeared and suddenly changed everything. GOT is now arguably the most popular TV series in history, with extreme publicity surrounding each new season, plus the exceptional quality of writing and filming (yes, except that one season) that basically escalated people’s expectations for a mere TV show to a whole new level. GOT changed the way we perceive TV.
So, how did this series go from a well-respected novel series to a giant media brand?
From Imagination to Realization
ASOIAF novels are phenomenal, and I stand by the belief that the purest, richest form of media is when it’s in the original format intended by the creator — in this case, books. However, there is no denying that GOT is far more successful than the books could have ever dreamed of. The numbers speak for themselves: GOT’s revenue ($4.5 billion) is 5 times that of ASOIAF ($900 million). After all, watching TV (for the most part) is easier than reading books. Especially when those books are often more than 1000 pages each.
The series’ potential for TV is what showrunners Benioff and Weiss (D&D) foresaw, and accomplished together with Martin and HBO. It’s simple logic — if the core material is great already, then why not introduce it to a wider audience by remaking it in a new format? As a result: GOT became the most watched HBO series ever, and ASOIAF book sales skyrocketed in response to the show’s popularity. This way of parallel thinking is the fundamental business model for every brand or star.
Chicken and Fries and Viral Commercials
GOT also understood the power of viral marketing. For example, Hodor is a much-loved character in the series, and there are thousands of memes dedicated to him and his famous line: “Hodor.” Well aware of the viral potential, GOT and KFC made a parody commercial and reached 10 million views on Youtube the very first day. It’s KFC UK’s most successful ad campaign ever.
This is only one of the show’s creative ads, including the “Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial” and the “Icelandic Mountain Vodka” ad, the latter featuring Hafthor Bjornsson, who played Gregor Clegane in the show. Most of these commercial has a comical, parody-esque aspect that is high in contrast to the serious, almost sadistic nature of the series — thus showing the audience a new, vibrant side of the series itself, while creating tangible value for all brands involved in these ads. It’s a win-win.
On a side note, remember that Starbucks coffee cup from Season 8, that turned out not to be a Starbucks cup? Well, Starbucks got an estimated $2.3 billion from that unintentional advertisement. This is a serious power.
Trinkets and Treasures from Westeros
As an epic fantasy series, there is infinite potential for ASOIAF and GOT merchandise, and many of them are extremely rare to find. From figures and board games to shoes and even whiskey — to account for an estimated $2.6 billion in total sales.
Would the countless numbers of merchandise have been realized, if ASOIAF was never adapted as a TV series? I would guess not, because, in terms of visual perception, visual media is just much more detailed and universally similar, compared to literature which is highly dependent on individual imagination. For example, different Jon Snow figures would look very different from one manufacturer to another, had Kit Harington not visually represented him in the show.
Opportunity for Brands
The biggest takeaway from ASOIAF and GOT is the importance of taking the opportunity to turn something awesome into something even better. This is exactly what D&D, Martin, and HBO did, and regardless of the show’s debatable ending, the series made a greater impact on pop culture more than any other TV show has done in the past. Credit is due where credit is deserved.
Evolution is necessary and possible even for the biggest and greatest of franchises, and digital is the answer. Stan World is here to help stars and brands grow on a completely new community based on a next-gen digital platform using blockchain technology. We are an online VR platform where popular stars and brands launch their Virtual Resorts.
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