Dragons vs. Unicorns: Comparing the Game of Thrones World to the Marketing Technology Space
Big, big Game of Thrones fan here. I just love it. I've read the books (well, the first four...), I've watched and re-watched the entire series to date, and I couldn't wait to tear into the eighth and final season which was released this April.
As I anxiously awaited these final episodes, I realized GOT has been a part of my life for almost as long as I’ve worked in the engagement and marketing technology world. That means I’ve spent more than a decade on an emotional roller coaster—filled with suspense, heartbreak, inspiration—and that’s just my job! I kid, I kid—but while the Game of Thrones realm certainly outperforms the martech space in dragon count, I couldn’t help but notice some striking similarities between these two worlds.
Seem like a stretch? Well, much like our friend Jon Snow, I don’t back down from a challenge. Let’s walk through three consistent themes that connect success for the characters in Game of Thrones, to how talented marketing pros tackle the inherent challenges facing them in today's push for growth, retention, and mindshare
Before we jump in…I should mention there are some very light spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
If nothing else, Game of Thrones is all about the competition to sit on the Iron Throne, the pinnacle of power in fictitious Westeros. There are a number of major players, from Jon Snow (the "King of the North"), to Daenerys (the "Mother of Dragons"), Queen Cersei (of House Lannister), and even the White Walkers and their frightening Army of the Dead. Everyone is competing, dying—and in some cases, coming back from the dead—to claim the throne. It's a cutthroat world (literally) and the warring factions can't rest on their laurels for even a minute without fear of another player taking their place in the pecking order.
The same is true in the marketing world (minus all the killing and bloodshed)—people in every industry are competing for customer engagement, mindshare and ultimately, profits, in a dog-eat-dog world. While marketers may not be using swords and fire to outpace the competition, they are using every tool and platform at their disposal to move their agendas forward.
The most savvy marketers are winning the battle for people's attention (and dollars) by rolling out thoughtful strategies, employing the right tools, and analyzing the proper data sets in their respective markets. From a tools perspective, this includes having an intuitive customer engagement platform to record and engage customers; proper analytics and business intelligence suites to aggregate, visualize, and action data; and an arsenal of other technologies to take advantage of things like infrastructure, insights, data flow, and advertising.
2. Diverse Landscapes
The battle for the Iron Throne takes place across numerous (and often, treacherous) landscapes including the blustery cold of the North, the comfortable Mediterranean feel of Casterly Rock, the rough seas of the Iron Islands, up to the frozen wastelands just North of the Wall. It's a perilous geography to navigate, and to survive, Game of Thrones' contenders need an adaptable army and a battle plan that takes into account multiple climates and topographies.
In engaging today's customer, marketers must take into account various landscapes, or channels, to successfully connect with their audiences. For example, those marketers who solely rely on email for engagement may be greatly missing out on customers who are primarily on their mobile apps, mobile and web browsers, or even smart devices (i.e Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Sonos, etc.). If you're only messaging on a single channel, like email, you risk the chance of missing out on the majority of users and buyers who are actively engaged on other digital platforms.
Successful marketers plan for multi-channel messaging and engage with customers when and where they are. They connect with users over email, mobile, web, social, smart devices, and everything in between. And they often employ technologies that combine this cross-channel orchestration in a single user interface to maximize time to value and mitigate latency. (For more info on the effectiveness and ROI of cross-channel engagement, check out this report, here.)
Nothing can ruin your day faster in Game of Thrones than when a fire-breathing dragon appears overhead. It's become commonplace to see these 747-sized beasts wreak havoc, as many characters and armies have been burned to the ground faster than you can say Valar Morghulis.
Marketers face their own customer engagement dragons every day—everything from low acquisition, growth, and retention rates to disparate data sets to complex MarTech ecosystems to heavy reliance on engineering to cash-strapped budgets... on and on and on. In my experience, the best marketers tackle these challenges by:
- Having a clear picture of their company's goals, business objectives, and value propositions
- Understanding the different ways their organization makes money, along with the associated costs in acquiring and retaining customers
- Knowing what data is pertinent to marketing initiatives, and where these datasets physically sit within their tech stack
- Understanding the various tools and platforms available to them, along with what are the most effective tools in line with their exact needs
- Knowing how customers best absorb their content, and over which marketing channels
As any Game of Thrones fan can attest, it's a tough world out there. There's heavy competition, numerous landscapes to traverse, and the occasional dragon to skirt.
The same is true in the world of customer engagement, and by applying the right strategies, employing the proper tools, and engaging customers in ways most relevant to them, marketers can build a Wall between them and the competition, winning the battle for mindshare and attention.