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Key branding lessons from the Game of Thrones

Ivan Lim

March 3, 2021

Photo by HBO

Our watch may have ended but there still remains plenty we can learn from the Seven Kingdoms in The Game of Thrones (GoT), particularly in the field of branding. Our brand is how we portray ourselves, and has to be consistent and true to our ambitions and aspirations, but it’s so easy to set the stage for our brand and simply forget all about it. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some lessons from GoT that serve as a reminder about the importance of protecting and utilising our brand as a tool for our businesses. 


Photo by HBO
Activating your brand

Once a brand has been established, it’s important to activate your brand by doing what you said you are. Although the house motto of the Lannisters is “Hear me roar”, they’re more commonly known for the phrase “A Lannister always pays his debts”. 

You are what you do - people know us for what we do, not what we say we do. Sometimes what we say about ourselves is less important, because what people say about us is what we will be known for.

It’s important that you perpetuate the image that you want your brand to embody, because public perception is key in branding. You will have a brand by default whether you like it or not, but you can also actively shape the perception towards your brand by consciously weaving your branding in your products and messages.


Photo by HBO
Apply your brand to your customer 

Whether you’re targeting a new or old customer, it’s still important to research and understand them when applying your brand. When Daenerys developed her unique brand in Essos, she took the effort to hear from the people she was targeting, and reached out to them directly, thereby earning their trust and loyalty. The brand that she developed resonated strongly with her audience, and she reaped the benefits. 

But when Daenerys shifted her focus to the people of Westeros, an entirely different culture with contrasting interests and priorities, she failed to understand her “customers” and they were unable to connect with her brand that she had established somewhere else. Having already had a strong brand that worked in Essos, Daenerys made the mistake of assuming that it was a one-size-fits-all, did not make necessary adjustments accordingly, and faced blowback from her new audience. 

The takeaway is that when we are looking at exploring a new market, new demographic of customers or new products, it is critical that we conduct the necessary market research to understand the needs and wants of our clientele in order to entice strong brand loyalty. There of course needs to be consistency in your overall brand, but that does not mean we forget about our customers - we must have a certain degree of adaptation in response to changing preferences by our customers. 


Photo by HBO
Your brand is delicate and should be treated as such

Brand risk is one of the main strategic risks that companies face because there are so many ways for your brand to take damage. 

Look at the example of Jaime Lannister, a knight who broke his oath to defend his king and from henceforth was known not by his notable acts of valour prior to and after the act, but by that singular event which brought him his notoriety as a “Kingslayer”. It was not important to others that Jaime was one of the bravest, most brilliant swordsmen of his time, or the fact that he killed the king to save the people from a tyrannical ruler. What mattered was that people knew that he had broken his oath, and that was the defining act that superseded all other acts, negatively branding him permanently and making him universally despised. 

As humans, we have a proclivity to pay attention to negative rather than positive information, something known as a negativity bias. That means that bad news sticks longer than good news, and something damaging to your brand reputation could be disproportionately bad for your brand compared to something beneficial conversely. 

Our brand is one of the most important things to our businesses, yet also one of the most fragile. We need to proactively protect our brand, because a damaging blow to the brand may be more difficult to recover from than anything else. 


Conclusion

Although we don’t have Queens, Houses, or Knights in our daily lives, we can still draw some useful branding lessons from the Game of Thrones. Our brand is of strategic importance to our business. That’s why it is critical that we activate and effect our brand in an ongoing and consistent manner. If we anticipate change and it becomes necessary to make adjustments to adapt, we should still remain true to our core values. All in all, our brand revolves around how we shape our customers’ perception of us through our offer and actions, and since this perception can make or break businesses, it can either become our strategic advantage or our downfall. 




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