Tywin Lannister, Brand Manager? 'Game of Thrones,' Week 3.

It’s not all just fight scenes, brothels, and dragons: we’re here to unearth the marketing principles lurking in “Game of Thrones,” season five. Here’s what we took away from episode three, “High Sparrow.”

We’re three weeks in and the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” does not disappoint. Highlights from this week’s episode include: another beheading, two sick burns from Margaery Tyrell, a return to Winterfell, a visit to not one — but two! — brothels, and perhaps most shockingly of all — a “Game of Thrones” wedding that didn’t end in tragedy. 

As the action and intrigue ramp up in the Seven Kingdoms, one takeaway for us back in the real world is around the concept of brand identity and heritage. This week, we saw Sansa Stark dealing with the power and prestige that comes with being an heir to the North’s most powerful family — though I think we’re all worried about Sansa; she has no idea what she’s getting into by marrying Ramsay Bolton. 



Brands, both young and old, sometimes struggle with their own identities. Every brand has their own idea of what they stand for, but often a company’s identity is defined by how consumers perceive it rather than how they want to be perceived. We met a new character last night, the High Sparrow, who summed this up nicely when he told Queen Mother Cersei that “we’re often stuck with the names our enemies give us.” What marketers must do is use those perceptions to continue building brand identities for the future. 

Arya Stark struggled with this very issue as she continued on her quest to become “No One.” In an emotional scene, she threw all of her belongings into the sea, save for her sword, Needle, which she just couldn’t part with. I have a feeling we’ll see Needle again before the season is out. Brands can try to shed some of the baggage of their heritage, as difficult as that may be, but some of the most successful advertisers have been speaking to consumers with the same messages for decades. 

Alliances also played a key role this episode, through the machinations of Roose Bolton and Littlefinger to fortify their own control of the North. As Roose explained to Ramsay: “We have become a great house by forging alliances with other great houses.” While it may be difficult for brands to make pacts with other brands, they can still use alliances amongst their various partner agencies to their benefit. The late Tywin Lannister was the Westerosi master at this art; he used deals with the Baratheons, Tyrells, and Boltons to fortify his position of power in King’s Landing. 

Some brands believe that a “jump ball” is the way to get the best possible work — in that scenario, each agency is fighting and clawing for control over execution in various channels and platforms. But, if brands can create a collaborative framework with clear lines of definition across channels, it allows for agencies to truly work together. That way they can focus on what each one does best, rather than using that energy to fight against each other for additional revenue. As Littlefinger intimated later in the episode, his alliance with the Boltons could be a game changer. And that’s how brand managers can feel when their agencies create alliances that the brands can eventually benefit from. 

I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead in the coming weeks on “Game of Thrones,” but turning back to the real world, we also have an exciting week ahead. Forget winter: the Newfronts are coming….

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