Every so often, a TV series comes along that defines an audience, a genre, and an entire generation. Friends and The Simpsons did it for sitcoms in the 90s. The Sopranos and Breaking Bad did it for crime dramas in the noughties. But since 2011, another behemoth of TV history has risen. First, it delighted fantasy and fiction fans, before slowly conquering popular culture and mainstream TV-watchers as well. There’s no escaping it… Game of Thrones is coming.
There’s been a wait of nearly 600 days since Season 7’s thrilling finale and the opening credits of Season 8, which debuted on Sunday April 14th – so you might think interest would be at risk of dwindling. But after nearly a decade of blasphemous betrayals, bloody battles, and dastardly deaths, anticipation and excitement among audiences has never been higher. While much of this is down to the show itself (famously billed as ‘the fantasy series for people who don’t like fantasy) HBO has also delivered a masterclass in effective marketing to ensure the climactic return to Westeros is never far from our minds.
“THE KING OF THE BEERS!”
In a show so alive with memorable characters, stunning fantasy environments and cinematic moments, the possibilities for promotions and marketing are limitless. Brand partnerships with suitably big names like Oreo, Bud Light, KFC and Mountain Dew have given us some enjoyable nods to Westeros – from clever wordplay on famous Thrones quotes, to entire adverts in medieval settings, and even a dragon’s lethal fire breath in the form of fried chicken. That unforgettable opening credits scene has been adapted for Major League Baseball too; with the likes of Winterfell and King’s Landing being replaced by a baseball stadium.
And then there’s the work of HBO itself. Utilizing the show’s unprecedented success, the network station has flexed its marketing fingers far across the land; with everything from winnable premiere experiences, to social media interviews, teasers, and even character quizzes; ‘Are you more of a brooding Jon Snow-type or a fiery Cersei Lannister?’ Gone are the days of queuing outside the cinema to glance so much as a trailer… with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at your disposal, world domination really is a mouse-click or phone scroll away…
There are many iconic elements that have made Game of Thrones the cultural phenomenon it is today – from the acting… to the set pieces… to the costumes… to the dragons. But for a lot of us, it’s the music. Even for the seemingly <1% that don’t watch the show, they should instantly recognise the epic opening arrangement of strings and percussion that rouses the senses into a battle cry of power, deceit and impending turmoil – much like the journeys of the show’s memorable characters. Its run-time of nearly two minutes is highly unusual, as is its enchanting ability to keep you ensnared long enough to not press fast-forward… every single episode.
And of course, just as good marketing does, music is such a powerful tool for provoking positive emotion… adrenaline… and that hair-raising euphoria. And Ramin Djawadi’s epic score lends itself perfectly to impactful advertising, even to the level of being the focal point. In a joyous collaboration of British heritage and popular culture, Game of Thrones teamed up with the Coldstream Guards in a military performance of the opening theme, complete with the members of the Night’s Watch.
Music is also a fantastic way to portray character and motive – and Djawadi really gets to test out his creative muscles over the series with a range of individual stories to tell. And Season 8 promises to be no exception – to whet the appetites of Thrones and music fans alike, some of the industry’s biggest names have teamed up on ‘For The Throne’ – a compilation of new and original tracks performed by the likes of Matt Bellamy (Muse), The National, Ellie Goulding, Mumford and Sons and The Weeknd. Also, for that extra collectable touch, there’s vinyl covers with each of the show’s house crests, so you can indulge in some of Westeros’ finest musical collaborations under the colours of your favourite banner. It shows that whether by food and drink, social media, competitions or even music, the potential for an epic fantasy adventure to relate to its 21st century audience is simply enormous.
So regardless of whether Cersei holds onto the throne… Jon and Daenerys triumph against the Night King… or Westeros as we’ve come to know and love it will be consumed by the armies of the Undead… Season 8 promises to be an unpredictable and enjoyable ride of dragon-sized proportions. And with nearly two years of waiting in between seasons, HBO has certainly made sure it’s been the most anticipated television release of our lifetime.