On the 23rd March 2015 was the U.S. premiere of Game of Thrones season five in San Francisco. The television premiere of HBOs most popular series is not so far away, only two more weeks until the 12th April.

Last year, Games of Thrones was by far the most-watched show on premium cable. The show has also officially been entered into the Guinness World Records 2015 book as the most pirated TV program. The hype around this series is enormous due to good marketing and a giant fan base.

Reason 1 – Success through Identification

In contrast to other series, Game of Thrones has five or six stories running parallel to one another at the same time. The stories revolve around the Iron Throne and different characters that try to climb it. There is no protagonist and the audience has the opportunity to choose and support a party to root for. Different houses are introduced with different backstories, characters and behaviour. Watchers choose their favourite and encourage them as best as possible.

Some Characters / Credit:  ridiculed

Some characters of Game of Thrones / Credit: ridiculed

In Game of Thrones are over 30 characters – it is easy to find someone to identify with. These characters themselves even promote rhetorical appeals to the audiences found inside of the story.

The characters become role models and inspirational figures in the series. This evident presence of identifiable characters makes the contribution so successful.

It is typical for the series that characters die in the most unexpected situations. That makes it so thrilling. But why keep people watching the show even some of their favourite characters died? One reason is the pathos appeal ridden throughout the story. Especially in the case of Theon Greyjoy. A character that every audience member wants to see dead. This wish is so big that most audience members keep watching to see him slaughtered.

Reason 2 – The fear of missing out phenomen

There are two different audiences: Those who read the books and want to see how the script is being visualised; and those who didn’t read the books but are fascinated by the TV-series.

Nielsen published an info graph about how Game of Thrones on TV relates to the sales of the book series:

How the book sales move with Game of Thrones // Photo Credit: Nielsen

How the book sales move with Game of Thrones // Photo Credit: Nielsen

The book sales increased after the premiere of each season. It is also identifiable that after the first season finished, the book sale of the first book decreased. In contrast to the currently last published book A Dance with Dragons. The premiere of the first season was in April 2011. The fifth book was published three month later and the sales were enormous.

People who have yet to watch the show are more likely to become more curious after the immense media buzz and all the comments, likes and shares of the many social media campaigns. The fear of missing out phenomenon comes into play.

Reason 3  – The Audience generates the content

The Facebook fan page of Game of Thrones has currently 14,608,468 likes and is increasing by 3,332 more likes daily. The Twitter Account @GameOfThrones has 2,227,678 followers. And the videos on YouTube by HBO have at all 207,453,831 views; over one million subscribers and 575 videos are uploaded yet.

Most of the Facebook fans of Game of Thrones come from the United States (3,857,682). Another big part is from Brazil. Of course it is a result of the population of these countries.

Socialbakers: Facebook Fans Localisation / Credit: Socialbakers

Socialbakers: Facebook fans localisation / Credit: Socialbakers

A Facebook analysis shows that the post engagement is extreme. Only 6.6% of the posts, comments and likes are done by actual fans of the page. As a result we see that many potential watchers are included through different posts and even more: they interact with it.

Total engagement on brand posts / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Total engagement on brand posts / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Most of these engagements are likes. Interesting is that most of all posts around Game of Thrones inlcude videos.

Average response per brand post / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Average response per brand post / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Brand Posts / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Brand posts / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Three of the posts with the highest engagements on Facebook are videos that were shared, liked and commented a lot.

Posts with highest engagements / Credit: SimplyMeasured

Posts with highest engagements / Credit: SimplyMeasured

The YouTube technology company, ZEFR, analysed that the fans uploaded 89.3 per cent of the Game of Thrones videos viewed on YouTube. That means fans are not just watching, but also creating videos about the series.

YouTube Videos of Game of Thrones / Credit: Hughes

YouTube Videos of Game of Thrones / Credit: Hughes

The official Game of Thrones account on YouTube offers brief recaps, short scenes with commentary or behind-­the-­scenes with the cast. Fans on the other side generate parodies and reaction videos. One important element of the series are shocking and unexpected events that take place. The fans are clearly interested in others reactions to these events as they were in the event itself.

Reason 4 – Usage of effective marketing tools on social networks

HBO uses the social networks as a main part of their marketing. Six million people saw a tweet about the show for its April 6th, 2014 premiere, which also brought 1.9 million users to Facebook, and helped the show’s Facebook page reach 10 million fans.

The Game of Thrones account on Facebook publishes for one month everyday a new teaser, trailer, picture or other interesting content about the series until the premiere of the fifth season. These posts attract a lot of attention, like to be seen in this post:

Example of post contribution / Credit: Facebook

Example of post contribution / Credit: Facebook

The short clip of the new series could generate over one million views and over 80,000 likes within three hours.

HBO invented many projects to keep stoking the fire. 30 days before the fourth season started they featured 30 illustrations representing a significant death from every episode. Also fans were asked to submit their own artwork. The television network pushes the conversations on different platforms, while also using creative campaigns to keep stoking the fire during and between seasons.

One of the most successful social efforts was the tweet-­tag #RoastJoffrey. Fans as well as celebrities and the show’s cast itself joked about the context on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine. In only 48 hours it collected one million interactions and 850 million impressions during the show’s off-­season.

Interaction appeal / Credit: Facebook

Interaction appeal / Credit: Facebook

The official Facebook fan page offers a tool to create an own Game of Thrones template. It is easy to use and has a huge contribution and advertising effect as well.

Template Tool / Credit: Facebook

Template Tool / Credit: Facebook

Reason 5 – Coming up with innovative ideas

The decoding between the audience that already read the books and the audience who didn’t is different because of the foreknowledge. To make it also more interesting to the audience that already read the book, writer George R.R. Martin came up with an idea: He said at the Writers Guild West Awards  that “people are going to die who don’t die in the books, so even the book readers will be unhappy.” This shows how only one statement can be used as an efficient marketing instrument.

In the beginning of 2015 Game of Thrones also made history as the first television show ever be presented in IMAX theatres. It was a big success and looking ahead we may not be far from season premieres and finales also watchable in IMAX theatres.