It’s Thursday and the week is almost over.
As I was contemplating my post tonight, my thoughts wandered off to Game of Thrones and how could I tie in the show with some Marketing Insights? For those like me who love the show, you will surely agree that the characters and ruling families can be related easily to politics, life and yes even marketing firms. In an age when it sometimes feels like Smart Devices are smarter than the users and people consume news and data through the prism of pop culture – comparing the marketing landscape to Westeros seemed like a win-win idea.
Oh and I must warn those reading on that I will be sharing insights thru the end of Season 7, so if you don’t want to know – Spoiler Alert!!!!
Let’s get started:
There are so many sub-plots and families to consider when I started thinking about this post. I settled on 5 – House Lannister, House Targaryan, House Tyrell, and the White Walkers.
House Lannister – The large, established Marketing Firms
When you think of House Lannister, you think of power, deceit, treachery and viciousness. Comprised of Tywin, Cersei, Jamie, Joffery and Tyrion, this a family of individuals who know how to seize power and to maintain it. There is nothing they won’t do to make sure that ultimate power stays with their house. Tywin, before his untimely demise at the hands of Tyrion, preached the lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of the sheep. And in Season 1, Cersei clearly stated the position of House Lannister:
In many ways, the values of House Lannister align with the large, corporate marketing firms that have been the main players in the industry forever. They align with the government to get favorable laws passed to help them stay in power. They use their considerable pull to keep smaller firms from gaining real traction and are experts at leveraging debt to make sure they remain in power – much like Cersei used the Iron Bank to further her pursuit of power.
These firms aren’t going away and don’t see their tactics as ruthless. Much like a game of thrones, when you compete for marketing business – you either win or die. These firms understand that concept and act accordingly.
As in any business or ruling family, there are those who embrace this cut-throat policy (Cersei, Joffery and Tywin); those who understand it conceptually but try to use it’s merits to make a better world (see Tyrion and his eventual switch of allegiance to Daenaryus); and the good soldiers like Jamie, who act in accordance because that is how things are – but when they see how this selfish existence becomes dangerous to the common good, turn their back on it (See end of Season 7, when Jamie, upon learning of Cersei’s betrayal of the peace treaty, goes North to fight the White Walkers and aid in the common good.
House Tyrell – Large firms who no longer exist
House Tyrell was one of my favorite houses. Led by the irreverent Lady Olenna with her grandchildren Margaery and Loras, House Tyrell is a powerful family that controlled much of the food and gold supplies in Westeros. Much like a large corporation that had reached it’s pinnacle and created an abundance of wealth, they did little to push their claim for the throne. A ruling family in Westeros or large marketing firm that does not evolve or stay current will eventually become obsolete and disappear.
Lady Olenna was capable of keeping up with Cersei and could be as devious and treacherous.
The fact that she was behind the murder of Joffery, so that Margaery could marry Tommen, who was much easier to control, shows that she was capable of getting things done. However, the Tyrell army was not a match for the Lannister army. As noted above, like a marketing firm that hadn’t evolved – their power was more in the past than the present. There was no plan to adapt to the new world reality – save through marriage – which backfired. It was a plan that was not fool-proof and wrought with holes.
Furthering this feeling of a company resting on it’s laurels are Margaery and Loras. Loras, a tournament knight, was not interested in ruling or staying in the game. He was a victim of worldly, material pursuits – and cared more for living off his riches rather than being part of the game. This can be likened to a executive who is more concerned with their possessions than running their company.
Margaery was more like Lady Olenna. She knew that if she could control Tommen – she would be the true ruler. However, Cersei was able to successfully sniff out that ploy and waited for the right moment to wipe out her competition – by destroying the High Septum, with all of the Tyrell’s inside.
Eventually, like a large firm that can no longer compete in the market, House Tyrell was removed from existence.
House Targaryan: The Entrepreneurs
At the start of season 1, House Targaryan is exiled from Westeros to the Free Cities. We know of two Targaryans – Daenerys and Viserys. By the end of Season 7, we learn that Jon Snow, the presumed bastard son of Ned Stark is actually Aegon Targaryan.
Being in exile is much akin to being an entrepreneur. Even if your bloodline, like Daenerys and Viserys is that of kings – their claim is void. They are essentially starting from scratch. In the case of Jon Snow, being a bastard gave him no claim to power, much like a start-up company.
The manner in which these three characters evolve mirror start up firms as well.
Viserys is an incompetent fool. He feels that his claim to the throne (or success in business) is his birthright. To that end, he sells off his sister to Khal Drogo in exchange for the support of the Dothraki Armies support. His handling of the entire situation is like an entrepreneur with no plan or vision. When things start to go south, he pouts and confronts Khal Drogo, who conveniently gives him the crown(success) he so covets by covering his head in molten gold. Many entrepreneurs try to take on too much to fast, have no growth strategy and much like Viserys end up failing before they even start.
Daenerys is like a successful entrepreneur, who build up her army and power. However, as a character, she is impetuous and is willing to take risks. Like an overly aggressive entrepreneur, she can snap decisions, but is wise enough to listen to her advisers, like Tyrion. Additionally, a large part of her success is due to her reaction to the slave traders she encountered and how she dealt with them. Instead of just accepting the situation, she freed the slaves and gained a large army of followers. A successful entrepreneur will have their vision and can visualize their end goals – but is also wise enough to know that they need counsel from people who can help them reach that goal. This is like working with partners you trust and having a group of people to bounce your ideas off, before moving forward. Additionally, in 2018, it’s not enough to recognize what is wrong in the marketing industry – like Daenerys, you have to stand up to it and in the process win over new partners and clients.
Daenerys also has things that no other person in Westeros has – namely three dragons.
The three dragons are like a start-up firm with a revolutionary product. No one has seen dragon for years in the show, and a product that sets the world on fire (pun intended) is like her dragons. It gives a firm a leg up and puts them on the map in a very expedient way.
Finally, we get to Jon Snow or Aegon Targaryan. His evolution from bastard son of Ned Stark to leader of the Night Watch on the wall to King of the North after the defeat of Ramsey to Aegon Targaryan – show a slow and methodical rise to success.
Jon Snow is like a start-up firm that does not have a “dragon” product, but a firm that places integrity and hard work above all. As you watch Jon Snow become more and more each season, I imagine a start-up firm that comes from nothing and works its way to the top through sheer will and determination, mixed with an idealistic belief that by doing what is right all the time.
The White Walkers: The Unknown Future
From the start of season 1, the mysterious White Walkers have been lurking in the background. They were so feared that the Wall was build to keep them out and the Night Watch was created to defend the Seven Realms against them. Throughout the show we learn more about the White Walkers and their history, yet we never learn their true intentions. As season 7 came to a close, the White Walkers, with the help of an ice dragon, have broken down the wall and are now marching upon Westeros.
The way each ruling family dealt with the threat so far is much like how marketing firms deal with the future. Jon Snow has enlisted the aide of Daenerys to defeat the army. Two small entrepreneurs coming together (unintentional pun) to face the future. Cersei, after seeing a White Walker in the flesh, was only concerned with consolidating her power and protecting the unborn child.
The metaphor here is the future is scary and unpredictable. Marketing firms can either actively embrace it and evolve like Jon and Daenerys or see it as a threat to their power and try to somehow use it to their advantage.