How Game of Thrones Can Boost Brand Equity

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a massive number of articles circulating about the upcoming last season of Game of Thrones (GOT). Being a fan is one thing, but as a branding expert you’ve probably noticed how many companies have decided to join in on the #GOTfever by launching a co-branded campaign or even creating a new product. Let’s talk a bit about the popularity of GOT co-branding, look at a few examples and identify some takeaways.

Co-branding, a strategic marketing marriage between two brands, is aimed at creating a joint product or service. These two brands do not compete on the service or product offered, and their shared goal is to build brand equity.

Co-branding has several potential benefits. It can reduce the cost of introducing a product to the marketplace by combining two well-known brands and accelerating the adoption period. It can also increase the customer base for both brands, by extending target reach. Additionally, it can serve to build brand personality and highlight brand values, especially if one or both partners have strong, well-defined brand values. There are two main forms of co-branding – communications and product-based. In the examples below, we’ll highlight the differences between the two.

So, why co-brand with GOT? For those of you who live on Mars, the final season of Game of Thrones is premiering on April 14th, 2019. As Statista explains, “Game of Thrones has taken the world by storm and its growing popularity does not seem to be slowing down. The latest season, the seventh of eight in total, regularly drew in over 10 million viewers to HBO, with millions more watching the episodes illegally online across the world.”

No savvy marketer could pass up the chance to reach a pool of 10+ million super fans. Representing a variety of different products, sectors, and business objectives, the following brands have joined the GOT craze to either facilitate product introduction or increase awareness in the media:

American Red Cross: #BleedForTheThrone is the latest campaign to encourage people to donate blood. Donors receive a GOT-themed t-shirt and the chance to win one of five trips to the Season 8 world premiere of Game of Thrones! This is an example of communications-based co-branding since the campaign was promoted through GOT official channels and was endorsed by several of the series’ major actors.

Oreo: Milk’s favorite cookie is no stranger to GOT promotions, and over the years Oreo has launched several campaigns to announce their Game of Thrones special edition cookies. The latest “Cookies are Coming” campaign can be seen on Instagram. Unlike with the Red Cross campaign, GOT didn’t explicitly endorse Oreo and we’re talking about a specific product – therefore, this is an example of product-based co-branding.

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Cookies are coming.

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Adidas: adidas Ultraboost x Game Of Thrones is a new line of recently-released sneakers. It features six different models representing the warring factions on the show – the Lannisters, the Starks, the Targaryens, White Walkers, Night’s Watch and the Dragons. Like Oreo, Adidas developed these new products to drive sales and has otherwise received no communications support from its partner brand. This is another example of product-based co-branding.

Hootsuite: “A Game of Social Thrones” was a 2016 video created by the social platform, Hootsuite to highlight their expertise in “uniting the warring kingdoms” of social media. Their objective was to gain exposure through video views and shares, and ultimately to drive new sales. This example highlights product-based co-branding as, once again, Hootsuite did not enjoy explicit endorsement or other communications support from Game of Thrones.

As with any other marketing tactic, co-branding carries some costs and risks. Official co-branded campaigns that rely mostly on one partner’s IP can be expensive for the other partner, and often mean accepting some loss of control over one’s brand.

To be successful, a co-branding campaign requires mutual agreement from both sides as to the business objective. When done right, co-branding is a useful and time-honored tactic that can pay off nicely for brands.

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