We know how important it is for brands to be reactive on social media, so it’s no wonder that one of the UK’s largest TV events – Game of Thrones – has been inspiring brands to jump on the bandwagon and have their share of voice on the topic.
We’ve seen major global brands get involved, as well as tiny local businesses, celebrities and influencers. But with reactive marketing, there’s a tricky art to getting it right, and just like in the now-concluded HBO show, we’ve seen a real mix of wins and losses…
The first example comes from the National Library of Scotland, who did themselves proud with this simple yet effective tweet about fan-favourite Samwell Tarly. Keeping it relevant to their brand by tweeting about its service in line with the character of the show, they built on the post’s initial success by adding further tweets below as the show was aired, adding to the overall positive impact and generating a two way conversation with the followers. This was a great example of how a Twitter account can bring their marketing up to speed with an ever-changing online audience, and understanding exactly what this audience wants to see and engage with.
This is Samwell
Sam reads books
And investigates Snow genealogy
Sam proves that the mind
Is mightier than wildfire
Sam uses libraries*
Be like Sam #Tuesdaythoughts #GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/ZbGMhvED8n
— National Library of Scotland (@natlibscot) May 7, 2019
It’s no surprise that OREO, the US-based biscuit brand, used the show’s popularity to shout out their Game of Thrones shaped cookies, which have been flying off the shelves since they launched. To support the product, OREO has been tweeting alongside the show but with a perfect balance of subtlety and timing. It’s clear that the OREO social team are avid show watchers – as every reactive tweet perfectly references the events of the show, without giving away a single spoiler. As such, the fans have gathered in the comment section to offer praise for the brand and their products.
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) April 29, 2019
Last but not least, Starbucks. The team had a stroke of marketing luck when eagle eyed viewers responded on Twitter to a stray reusable cup seen in the show and labelled this as a Starbucks beverage – despite this not even being their cup in the end. The brand responded quickly by posting a series of tweets about their brand new ‘Dragon Drink’, a tropical-inspired pick-me-up crafted with a combination of sweet mango and dragon fruit flavours. The team at Starbucks nodded to the mistake in the show on their Twitter feed, but didn’t take it too far; refreshingly, there wasn’t a photoshop image of Daenerys on a dragon holding their drink in site. As such, their tweet was received extremely well, with the audience creating images like the above, and Starbucks were able to reply to people with links to the drink, driving traffic to their site.
TBH we’re surprised she didn’t order a Dragon Drink.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) May 6, 2019
Johnnie Walker, a brand of Scotch whisky, has been less successful in its attempt to link product promotion with Game of Thrones. Unlike Starbucks and Oreo, the brand regularly fail to mention any real reference to the show in their posts about their branded bottle of White Walker, which regularly draw criticism from followers who accused them of ‘desperate marketing’. Everything about their content shouts ‘scheduled in advance’ and it’s unfortunate to see a product with so much promise not capitalise on this by demonstrating their enthusiasm and unique position to properly connect with fans of the show.
Enjoy the latest episode of @GameofThrones together with your favourite people and an ice-cold bottle of White Walker by Johnnie Walker – https://t.co/K5hTEyS7Eo#WinterIsHere #JWWhiteWalker pic.twitter.com/HWh5VZ0tpd
— Johnnie Walker (@johnniewalker_) May 3, 2019
M&M’s UK are perhaps the biggest offenders when it comes to their Game of Thrones related tweets. The brand has at least evolved their strategy since the first episode of season 8, moving on from actively tweeting spoilers, through to now just failing to connect with or even listen to their audience. As such, their tweets – which often miss the mark in terms of humour or relevancy – are now subject to a Red-Wedding style barrage of people leaving negative comments and people expressing their frustration at the brand. The sad part is, as another Monday rolled around and another episode aired, the brand continued to tweet and ignore this feedback, posting right until the show ended in spite of the feedback. A strong lesson for brands wanting to get involved is that reactive marketing at ‘all costs’ can be more harmful than good.
— M&M’s UK (@mmsuk) May 5, 2019
So, who takes our Iron Throne?
All things considered, then, we feel Starbucks deserves to take the Iron Throne. We know that they received a huge helping hand from the team at HBO, but the way in which they pounced on it as a potential marketing opportunity for their ‘Dragon Drink’ and seized their advantage was great whilst not being over-engineered, and we’re sure that it will have had an impact with the online fan community who continue to reference this in their tweets about the show.
So, what can we take from this? The blunders show us that time and time again, attempting to be reactive without thinking properly about this content or the audience receiving this is more harmful than good – and continuing to push this content without listening to the reception will only fare worse in the long run. True reactive marketing genius comes with subtlety, timeliness and true fan connection above all else.