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Much Like the Game of Thrones, Marketing Requires Leadership

Much Like the Game of Thrones, Marketing Requires Leadership

The hugely popular series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire - and more pertinent to this blog, HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones - aren’t exactly full of the best role models. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some lessons to be learned about leadership, and presenting yourself as someone to be followed and trusted. One character in particular presents these lessons especially well, and should be emulated (well, to a point) as you embrace your role as leader.

As you might have expected, this article will contain a few mild spoilers. If you aren’t caught up, proceed at your own risk.

Tyrion Lannister, as played by Peter Dinklage to critical acclaim, offers quite a few leadership lessons throughout the saga - primarily related to his social skills and his ability to communicate. 

“I try to know as many people as I can. You never know which one you’ll need.”

By listening carefully to what those around him have to say, and observing their behaviors to boot, Tyrion is able to interpret their motivations and desires. This technique is known as cold reading, and is commonly used by psychics and mentalists to make deductions about the person they are reading. Despite the apparent disadvantage that his short stature leaves him in, Tyrion utilizes these techniques to deduce what people truly want so as to make himself invaluable, if not indispensable. He can then use that indispensable position to change a disadvantage into a benefit. 

For instance, there are a few occasions depicted in the series that provide a fitting example of his cold-reading abilities. At one point, he has been captured by the mercenary Bronn, and after interacting with him for a short time, he knows that the mercenary - like most of his profession - is strongly motivated by wealth and the charms of the opposite sex.

He has also used his knowledge of the desires of others to save his own neck a few times. During an encounter with slavers, he saves himself from murder and mutilation by convincing them that the bit that they planned to cut off (as that part of a dwarf is allegedly valuable, due to its "magic powers") would be rendered worthless, as they’d never be able to sell it without the dwarf that it came from. By doing so, he convinces them of his value to them alive, rather than dead and desecrated.

Season 5 Episode 6 Unbowed Unbent Unbroken

From Season 5, Episode 6 - "Unbowed,Unbent, Unbroken"

You can leverage this tactic by understanding your audience, their goals, and their pain points. Just as Tyrion is able to read Bronn and shape what he says to pique his interest, you will be better able to reach your audience and communicate with them on a much more impactful level.

“I understand the way this game is played.”

In social sciences, there is the concept of a frame - a social construct that sums up the context of any interpersonal interaction. A frame is where a word’s meaning comes from. Tyrion also proves himself to be a master of frames.

In the series, there is a scene in which a mob of unfriendly characters surround Tyrion and his traveling companion, the aforementioned Bronn, in the woods. This group clearly means to do them some kind of harm, but instead of resorting to violence, Tyrion greets them as though they are simply fellow travelers:

“Come, share our fire! Help yourselves to our goat!”

When this strategy is clearly ineffective, Tyrion mirrors the antagonizing leader’s introduction of himself, and when asked how he wants to die, Tyrion takes over the power in the conversation by making a crude joke about his preferred death. In doing so, he makes the gang’s leader laugh, breaking his frame. This will often make someone more receptive to a change of heart.

Season 1 Episode 3 The Pointy End

From Season 1, Episode 3 - "The Pointy End"

Finally, when it becomes clear that the gang’s plans are not about to change, Tyrion resorts to another new frame - promising a reward for their safe passage. Instead of just begging, he offers an incentive for the mob to follow his lead.

This has clear parallels to business discussions, and persuading your prospects to think in your terms, rather than their own. Setting the tone of the conversation, speaking in someone’s language, putting them at ease through humor, and demonstrating the benefits to your way of thinking are all effective means of drawing someone to see things from your perspective. In doing so, you are again able to control the conversation, guiding them in the direction you want them to go.

Despite a rough start, this can also be seen during his initial conversation with the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys. Despite Daenerys holding literally all of the cards, Tyrion is not only able to distance himself from his family’s reputation, he is also able to command the focus of the conversation and prove his value to her. Through a variety of communications tactics, he is able to ascend from his lower position and communicate with her on equal footing.

Season 5 Episode 8 Hardhome

From Season 5, Episode 8 - "Hardhome"

If you can do this in your marketing, you will be able to coax your prospects and recurring clients to see what makes you the best choice for their needs, more than just proving your value, but making you the preferable choice. You want to cultivate a dynamic where your prospect or client wants to work with you, giving you the power, instead of you convincing them.

“What do you want? Tell me.”

Perhaps most key to Tyrion’s strengths is his penchant for finding out precisely what it is that motivates those around him. Not only does he utilize cold reading, as we discussed above, he also listens. By analyzing the discussions of the people around him, he is able to - again - deduce what their true motivations are just based on what they say.

Furthermore, Tyrion is always open to hear the stories of others, using his empathy to understand where others are coming from. When conversing with Jon Snow, Tyrion uses the insight that he has gathered from those around Snow to take the higher ground in the debate, pointing out how self-centered Jon Snow is. Tyrion is also able to change tack on a dime, again, understanding what motivates others and leveraging it in his favor.

Season 1 Episode 3 Lord Snow

From Season 1, Episode 3 - "Lord Snow"

This is key to marketing successfully. Without the knowledge of what your prospects and clients need and want, you will not be able to shape your marketing around the right message to communicate with your audience, and as a result, your marketing will be rendered ineffective. However, with the right knowledge and insight, you can present yourself as a thought leader and trustworthy resource - exactly the impression you want to make.

Of course, there are plenty more examples of how Tyrion demonstrates ways to establish oneself as a leader and influencer - far too many to review here. If you want to discuss how you can develop these skills through your own marketing initiatives, reach out to us!

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