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Brand lessons from game of thrones

On May 19, 2019, I and millions of other fans were a little displeased with Game of Thrones’ final episode. The series had us on an emotional rollercoaster, only to give us a soft landing. Amid all the 2020 chaos, I had a moment of thought – could it be that we were displeased because we had lost the context of previous seasons, having had to wait for two years to get this final one? So, I embarked on a journey to binge watch 1-8 again, with my current point of view, and OMG, the brand, business, and life lessons embedded in it, were so evident and powerful.

Today, I’ll be sharing 5 of those amazing brand lessons with Thrones.

○ The power of a name and strong brand: Game of Thrones was primarily about families who have built their brand and knew exactly who they were. Think about it, when I call particular names, you know who they were, their style, why people respected them. Lannisters, Starks, Tyrells, The Night’s Watch, etc., the list goes on. Their names open doors for them. Same thing with Harvard, Apple, Google. These names open doors for you. The reason is that these names embody and represent strong brands. These strong brands are guided by principles, identity, and credibility that have been communicated repeatedly.

The owners of these names, new and old, are aware of the principles behind their names and live in line with them. They also make promises and keep the promises behind those names. A Lannister always pays their debt, the heads of the family live and breathe this, and then other members fall into place as well. So, as a business, pick a name, build a brand around it, document your process and principles, and ensure anyone who comes in contact with you experiences your promise. Ensure that anyone who carries that name as a badge (your team, stakeholders, vendors) lives in accordance with the brand and is committed to the vision. Make a promise to your customers and keep it consistently. In an event when you can’t keep it, communicate. Live and breathe your principles. Live and breathe your brand.

○ The power of a track record: It’s not enough to have a great name; you also need a streak that shows you keep your word and you can do what you say you can do. This track record is what your clients look out for when they listen to testimonials. You promised to do X, did you do it? The Lannisters didn’t just say, “A Lannister always pays his debt,” they backed it with action, and so many people experienced the story. So much so that the iron bank gave Cersei money even when it didn’t make sense, and Cersei went through lengths to pay back as well. Testimonials are proof of track record, BTS of you doing the work, your portfolio, etc. Your track record says a lot about your brand. Don’t just say who you are; show us times you have put it in action, so we can trust that you will execute flawlessly.

○ The power of a great story: A great story goes ahead of you and gives publicity to your name and track record. Don’t just do great work; ensure people tell stories about your great work. There’s a reason why at the beginning of the series, season 1, episode 1, the Wights slew everyone except one man of the night’s watch. The Wights spared him to spread the story of what he had just witnessed. At many points in the series, you could see how reports and tales led to actions, alliances, and results. Khaleesi’s détermination to rule the seven kingdoms had its foundation built on stories and her name. Her name even told her story. It’s always a great thing when there is a story behind your name. So, tell stories. Tell us the stories that led to your brand’s existence. Let them sing songs about your track record. Tell us the stories behind your team, your audience, your customers. Tell relatable stories. Tell true stories. Let’s connect with you based on your stories, not just the facts. They are more emotional and memorable. Again, Apple has hacked this!

○ The power of relationship/network: One key lesson that stood out to me while re-watching GOT was the value of building relationships and alliances. People went as far as orchestrating marriages to make these alliances, but you don’t need to go that far, thanks to evolution. You just have to show that you have value to offer. The first time Khaleesi pitched for money to pursue her dreams and goals in Qarth, they laughed at her and taught her valuable lessons. Your intentions and ambitions are pleasant, but it is rare to find people who will support you without a track record. Your name may not be enough. And when seeking partnerships, never go into it empty-handed. What’s in it for the next person? What value can you offer? Don’t “overthink” it. You don’t get to determine what is valuable to people. They’ll tell you what is useful to them. You just have to listen to what is said and unsaid, then do something that triggers a positive emotion, action, or reaction. Take an action that makes someone smile, laugh, interact, take provoked action (positive), think, realize, act, or do something that makes or saves them money. You can build friendships or partnerships but keep the relationship symbiotic. Know when to give and when to take.

○ The power of strategy: Never go into a fight blind. Never go into an industry blind. You’re fighting for your audience’s attention or money. The one time Jon Snow went with his sword and heart without a strategy, he led thousands of men to their deaths. Sansa’s approach saved his life. Every year, ask yourself:

– What are our goals for the year?

– Who do we need to achieve it?

– What do we need to do to achieve it?

– What tools do you need?

– What gives you the advantage?

Be smart. Be wise. Be strategic.

In all, you’ll notice that all five keys have their roots in identity, integrity, and consistency: when you say you will do something. Do it. Trust is the currency of every relationship (buyer to seller, staff to an employer, investor to company, etc.). The trust you built will speak for you and your next generation. Be sensitive to the needs of your people and the people you need to work for you.

Build trust! Be strategic.

Which of these are you going to apply to your brand?

Have any questions or challenges you are facing? Please write me an email telling me your story, stating your challenges and asking me your question – I’ll answer the top 3 every last Monday of the month.

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