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5 marketing lessons we learned from Game of Thrones

When you play the game of email marketing, you win or you die.

Ok, ok… maybe that's a little bit dramatic. But while the inbox isn’t quite as vicious as the Seven Kingdoms, it’s still an incredibly cutthroat space. In 2015, the number of emails sent and received per day totaled over 205 billion (The Radicati Group). That’s A LOT of email you’re competing against every time you press “send.” And like the Great Houses, every brand wants to rule the inbox, so you have to stay on top of your game if you want to come out on top.

In fact, approaching your email marketing like the battle for the Iron Throne isn’t a terrible idea – there are a lot of useful lessons in Game of Thrones about earning loyalty and rising above the competition. Don’t believe us? In honor of last night’s premiere, here are a few crucial marketing takeaways we’ve learned from the show.

1. Maintaining loyalty is a full-time job.

Winning someone over – whether it’s a subscriber, a customer, or a powerful ally in King’s Landing – is only the beginning. Alliances can shift in the blink of an eye, which means you have to constantly work to maintain loyalty from those who support you. Remind subscribers you care by sending them a token of appreciation: a special discount, VIP invite, or even just a simple “thank you.”

Really, it’s all about making sure they know you’re paying attention and that they matter to your organization. Ignored audiences often become lost ones, and customer retention is much easier (and less expensive) than customer acquisition. So be sure to continually nurture those you’ve already won – not only is it good leadership, it’s great marketing.

2. The best defense is a good offense.

Valar market-houlis (all men must market). No matter what your industry, chances are good that your competitors are working just as hard as you are to win over the same customers. So to truly stand out, you have to go big, brave, and bold. Having a clear voice and a unique story to tell will help you stand out against those who’d love to see you fail – because you had the initiative and courage to do things differently.

3. Flash will only get you so far.

We get it: Dragons are impressive. And Daenerys has used them time and time again to inspire awe, shock, and captivate people. But as we’ve seen throughout the series, playing the dragon card only does so much. Rather than simply using their “wow” factor to climb her way to the top, she's had to supplement their… well, firepower with diplomatic and leadership skills to make real progress.

In a similar way, you can’t rely on flash over substance in your marketing campaigns. Don’t get us wrong… we’re all about beautiful email design and fantastic GIFs (used sparingly, of course). But you also need to offer value, great content, and engaging experiences to your subscribers to truly rule the inbox. Dragons alone won’t cut it.

4. Always deliver on your promises.

The plot of Game of Thrones revolves around promises: Brienne of Tarth’s pledge to protect Catelyn’s daughters, Khaleesi’s freeing of the slaves, and Arya Stark’s mission to avenge her family, to name a few. The takeaway for marketers? If you’re going around making promises to your audience, you should probably keep them.

Like the Lannisters, who know what they stand for – “A Lannister always pays their debts” – so should your brand. Every touchpoint of the buyer’s journey is shaped by the promises you make and whether or not you follow through, and actually delivering is crucial to winning and maintaining customers’ trust. So craft marketing campaigns where messaging is consistent and customers know what to expect.

5. Be adaptable.

Things change quickly. At one moment, you're at a huge feast, all blissed out about your new marriage. The next, your wife is being stabbed to death (RIP Talisa… and Robb… and, well, you get the point). For email marketers, you may be nailing your open rates and converting like never before – but then, all of a sudden, whatever you're doing stops working.

That’s because the marketing landscape is always evolving, and audiences are fickle. To be a strong contender, marketers need to be informed about the latest strategies and have insight into what competitors are doing. Use this knowledge to inform new ways to engage with customers and get ideas on how to tackle challenges from a different perspective. What works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow, so stay up to date on trends, keep testing, and be flexible. To win the game of email marketing, you must constantly adapt.

Any other helpful marketing takeaways you’ve gotten from GOT (or, you know, favorite Jon Snow GIFs you’d like to share)? Leave ‘em in the comments!