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How HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Builds Suspense for Season 3

HBO’s Game of Thrones is more than a TV show; it’s an obsession. With two mind-blowing seasons already under its belt, the third is on its way in spring 2013. I think I speak for all fans when I say that March 31st can’t come soon enough.

So, what is HBO doing to hype season 3, and why should you care? I’ll show you. They’re masters at building suspense for the new run!

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Suspense Step 1: Mention the Familiar

Game of Thrones fans aren’t likely to forget what’s already happened in Westeros and Essos, but HBO isn’t shy about reminders. Facebook fans and Twitter followers get to enjoy high-resolution character pictures (sometimes complete with open-ended questions or character quotes, but more on that later). Any time it’s one of the actors’ birthdays or there’s a milestone to be celebrated, you can bet there’s a picture to accompany it.

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Tyrion Lannister quote GoT FB

Whether your favorite character is Jon Snow of House Stark, Tyrion Lannister of House Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen of House Targaryen, or even Hodor the stableboy, you won’t be able to resist falling in love with them all over again.

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Suspense Step 2: Play on the Audience’s Anticipation and Gradually Introduce What’s New

HBO knows better than to show their entire hand too early in the game, and that’s why they’ve been building on our anticipation with season 3 teaser trailers. They’ve released 3 teasers so far — each one a smidge meatier than the last — and none of them are long enough to satisfy. We’re left wanting more, and that’s the idea!

On November 18, 2012, the first teaser trailer was released:

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Then, on January 11, 2013, this one appeared:

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And finally, on February 10, 2013, a trailer actually featuring Game of Thrones characters was added:
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Suspense Step 3: Give Them a Peek Behind the Curtain

A buffet of viewing pleasure awaits any GoT fan online, from the casual viewer to the one who watches every 20-second clip and deleted scene HBO releases. Video diaries, behind-the-scenes footage, and cast interviews are announced nearly every day via social media channels to give us a magical peek.

Want to see what’s happening on-set? Interested in learning more about the characters that’ll be introduced this season? Or, perhaps you’d like to see pretty pictures of the locations where they’re filming? All of that and more is available on HBO’s official site! All of those things boost the anticipation for season 3 because they’re new and exclusive. It makes fans feel like they’re part of the action.

GoT season 3 extra features

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Suspense Step 4: Offer Plenty of Tie-ins to Go with Releases

What do you think HBO did when the season 2 DVD/Blu-Ray set was released on February 19, 2013? Do you think they stuck it on shelves and folded their arms? Nope — they’re going all out with a coinciding Twitter and Facebook promotion. Fans are encouraged to switch their profile pictures and backgrounds to Game of Thrones themes, to use the #TaketheBlack hashtag, and to share their pictures with HBO for the chance to win prizes (like direwolf bookends and an iron throne replica).

Needless to say, people went wild and engagement soared higher than the swiftest raven in the realm. This contest is running until February 26, 2013, so if you hurry you might still be able to catch it!

Take the Black engagement

Prior to the season 2 Blu-Ray release, HBO announced a fan art challenge on their Tumblr account for designers and artists. Participants have the chance to design an original season 3 poster and win an exclusive prize pack, not to mention bragging rights. You can bet I’d submit something if I had one iota of talent for that sort of thing! If you rock at design and want to give it a whirl, then you have until June 2013.

GoT fan art challenge

But wait — that’s not all. An exclusive Game of Thrones beer will tie in to the season 3 premiere on March 31, 2013! Brewery Ommegang has partnered with HBO on a series of beers based on the show, and Iron Throne will be available first. A lot of hard work and planning went into this tart blonde ale; the ingredients were selected with House Lannister in mind, which makes for some wicked taste combinations.

Come on, now. I don’t know a single fan who wouldn’t snatch this up! Some people have already been buzzing about serving this beer at their premiere parties. Way to build the anticipation, HBO.

Ommegang GoT blonde ale beer

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Here are a few quick takeaways so you can justify the time it took to read this article (ROI!):

Don’t fall off your audience’s radar. Send reminders of your worthiness in forms they’ll appreciate. Your adoring fans already know you exist, so maintain the relationship with them with upbeat correspondence.

Keep your audience updated and informed of new things, whether it’s a full backstage pass or a sneak peek. Use your Facebook and Twitter to not only attract new followers but also to retain the ones you had before.

Stagger your efforts so there’s no information overload. People probably won’t want to see updates from you every hour, even if your brand is cooler than Game of Thrones (not bloody likely)!

Use tie-ins to your advantage. Pair your product releases with a fun extra and fans will surely get excited and participate. If you can co-brand with another company to make some extra money in the process, then that’s even better.

Yeah, that's a Game of Thrones and Watchmen meme. Best ever?

Whether you landed on this article to geek out about one of the most epic fantasy series of all time or you’re getting suspenseful ideas for your new product launch, I hope you’ve learned something.

P.S. If you love the series but haven’t read the books, then be careful nosing around in the video/picture comments sections or community forums. Some people like to blurt out spoilers that haven’t occurred in the TV show yet, and believe me — you don’t want to have anything ruined for you. Read the books if you’re curious about upcoming events, because they live up to the hype they get!

What do you think about HBO’s promotion efforts? Do you watch Game of Thrones? Who’s your favorite character? Which house are you loyal to? Am I asking too many questions?

Expand Your Brand!

Images are low-res screenshots from the Game of Thrones Facebook page and the HBO site. All rights reserved.


Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.

Comments

  1. Wash

    Hodor/Rorschach meme ftw!

  2. Jeff Porretto

    I think the best way they could build suspense….. two words….. “Joffrey dies” BAM instant ratings. Other than that, yeah this is a pretty good plan ;)

    I never realized how structured these campaigns are. Maybe because I don’t follow marketing very much for things I’m ALREADY excited about, but now I’ll be lookin’ out! Thanks Jill!

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