Clever content marketing: ARC and GOT

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The Australian Red Cross hitched its wagon to Game of Thrones and produced a brilliant piece of content marketing that grabbed attention and strengthened its brand. Here’s how.

Doing good and helping your fellow humans is hard work. If you’re a charity, it’s also a fiercely competitive business. Charities often struggle to differentiate themselves in a market crowded with worthy causes. To get noticed you have to get creative.  And recently the Australian Red Cross totally nailed it.

The week before season eight of Game of Thrones launched, ARC released an analysis of all the war crimes the show’s characters had committed in the first seven seasons.

Here’s how they did it

  1. A group of ARC’s lawyers volunteered to watch every episode over a six-week period.
  2. They reviewed the actions of 24 key characters and noted how often each one violated the rules of war (aka International Humanitarian Law or IHL).
  3. ARC then published the results on a dedicated landing page under the heading, Who is Game of Thrones’ Worst War Criminal?
  4. The page offered a downloadable version of the results.
  5. ARC publicised the analysis via traditional and social media. They  followed up with an email newsletter to everyone on their mailing list.
  6. They then produced a week-by-week analysis of each episode after it aired, focusing on IHL champions and violators.

Genius. And as strategic as any Varys/Tyrion combo could dream up.

Why ARC’s GOT analysis works as a piece of content marketing

If you’re a bit hazy on what content marketing actually is, here’s my quick-and-dirty definition:

Content marketing aims to build trust and brand authority by creating digital content that’s valuable and relevant to its target audience. It’s not about spruiking products or services; content marketing focuses on being consistently useful. Examples include blog posts, email newsletters, videos and podcasts.

So with that out of the way, here are all the content marketing boxes that ARC ticked:

1. Leveraging something that holds huge public interest

GOT has a massive following. The season seven finale in August 2017 attracted 16.5 million viewers. And despite a gap of almost two years, there were still 17.4 million people invested enough to watch the season eight premiere. Get an audience of this size interested in what you’re doing and you can increase your reach exponentially.

Hitching your wagon to a star performer is a great tactic for attracting an audience that wouldn’t necessarily be interested in your site otherwise. Not all the new visitors will stick around but some might. And many will probably share the link with their networks.

2. Relevance

Leveraging only works when there’s a genuine connection. The International Committee of the Red Cross is a guardian and protector of International Humanitarian Law, so increasing awareness of the rules of war is part of the organisation’s core business. The GOT analysis is a means into that. It’s unconventional but it’s related.

Trying to leverage off something when there’s no relevance is a publicity stunt and does your brand no favours.

3. Demonstrating authority

Any brand worth its salt wants to be seen as the “go-to guys” in its area of expertise. ARC has nailed this by:

  1. Introducing IHL to those of us who had no idea it was a thing
  2. Demonstrating expert knowledge of IHL and its application in the real world

It may also have helped to break down certain fixed assumptions regarding lawyers!

4. Differentiating from competitors

It might seem strange to talk about “competitors” in the non-profit arena but the Red Cross is only one of at least 20 charities operating in regions of armed conflict. Others include Amnesty International, Oxfam International and Save the Children.

By employing a novel way of getting its message across, ARC stands out from the crowd—at least for now. And as the story was widely reported outside of Australia, ARC has also helped the Red Cross brand internationally.

5. Creativity and the right touch

How do you get your message across when people don’t want to hear it? Charities face a tremendous challenge with this because they’re drawing attention to disturbing realities we’d rather not think about. Starving children, grieving parents, war, pollution, death . . . it’s confronting and uncomfortable.

Then there’s the “compassion fatigue” issue. The 24-hour news cycle constantly bombards us with images and reports of bad news. Even the most caring of us will eventually start suffering from overkill.

This is where ARC’s campaign shines most brightly. They’ve used a light touch to introduce a serious subject and by doing this, made it more memorable. And because the method is highly original, their message is more likely to be shared on both mainstream and social media.

You have to be careful with something like this; go too light-hearted and you run the risk of trivialising the message you’re trying to promote. But ARC balanced it perfectly.

6. Spot-on timing

By launching this campaign just days before season eight began, ARC took advantage of the pre-season hysteria and guaranteed their story maximum coverage.

7. Meticulously planned

Custom-built landing pages, a comprehensive white paper and a set of original graphics don’t just create themselves overnight. ARC’s entire campaign has been really well planned. I had a brief conversation with one of their media people in Sydney, who told me the organisation had floated the concept in 2018, focusing on just one character. The result generated so much interest that they decided to repeat the exercise on a larger scale. Testing the waters first is always a good idea.

Has the campaign worked for ARC?

That’s hard to say without knowing more about the charity’s motivation. If it was purely to educate people about International Humanitarian Law, then probably yes. But maybe ARC was also trying to attract more members and/or donations. If so, only they will know how well that’s succeeded.

It would be interesting to know how many people visited the website and actually downloaded the white paper, and if the initial surge of interest and traffic was maintained through each week’s analysis. Regardless, ARC has generated a lot of the right sort of attention with this campaign and strengthened its brand as a result.

Takeaways

ARC wasn’t the only organisation to align itself with GOT. The American Red Cross teamed up with GOT’s producer HBO to run a blood donation drive (evocatively called Bleed for the Throne). Other big-name brands including Foxtel, Columbia Records, Adidas, KFC and Johnnie Walker got in on the act with campaigns of their own. Their efforts might not qualify as content marketing but it shows even the big guys will jump on the bandwagon when they know they’re onto a winner. With a bit of creativity and a sound strategy, there’s no reason why small brands can’t do the same.

If you want to be more strategic with your own content, or if you’ve got a great content marketing idea that you’d like some help with organising, get in touch. We love working on creative projects!

Niki Morrell

Niki is the creative director of Bold Communications and co-founder of Good Honest Content. A former radio host with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, she's been helping Kiwi and Aussie businesses with content marketing and strategy since 2012.

1 thought on “Clever content marketing: ARC and GOT”

  1. I love this approach to content marketing. The creator (Australian Red Cross) has found a way to relate a complicated mission that is beyond the interest of the average person and put it in terms that everyone will understand and sympathise with. Brilliant.

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