Watch #DemThrones

May 17, 2019

At this time in human history, there are two types of people in this world. Those who religiously watch Game of Thrones. And, those who have never seen it. While we are as much at odds as the humans and White Walkers, we somehow coexist in a world in which the former group is talking on social media and in real life on Sunday nights through the next week, impatiently awaiting the next episode. We debate theories. We have watch parties. We text all week about it. The latter group, often finds themselves wondering what the hell half of their News Feed and office is even talking about, and doesn’t understand the hype.

demthrones - black twitter - multicultural marketing - game of thrones

With the highly anticipated series finale coming this Sunday, Game of Thrones is easily one of HBO’s most popular series of all time, and the show has amassed a global following of super fans. But, one group of fans has emerged as a leading voice on social media. A huge and relevant subculture of Game of Thrones fans are having a completely separate (and the best) conversation during the show. Black Twitter, a subculture of Twitter power users that is an extension of the Black experience, is driving this conversation, and major media is taking notice.

On Sundays, while some are following #GameOfThrones, Black Twitter started its own hashtag – #DemThrones. And when it comes to reacting to a situation in real time, there is no group of social media influencers who can turn a topic into a viral trend like Black Twitter. We’ve seen this happen with every topic of conversation from social issues like #BlackLivesMatter, to brand fails, and pop culture moments.

For this particular pop culture moment, Black Game of Thrones fans have repurposed culturally relevant memes, and flipped them for this season using #DemThrones. This hilarious content includes a recent JAY-Z and Beyoncé meme, and a trending NBA Playoffs meme, demonstrating the cultural relevance and timeliness of Black Twitter. The conversation has carried over from social media and Black media to mainstream media, including MashableBuzzFeed, and Elle, highlighting this timely trending topic.

#DemThrones is a trending conversation that started years ago and will drive social media chatter, with only one episode left until the show closes the curtain. The tweets and memes are generating tens of thousands of likes and RTs.

While GoT will come to a close in a few short days, here are five ways that brands can prepare to respond/react in real time to the show’s finale, or next big cultural phenomenon (shout out The Legendary Roots Crew).

  1. Social listening. While there’s no way to really predict upcoming episodes, brands can stay ready to respond to major show moments with a series of culturally relevant tweets that use #DemThrones as way to engage a whole other audience of key consumers. In order to do so, brands must listen to social conversations outside of the mainstream to uncover and act on these opportunities in an authentic way.
  2. Less traffic, more bandwidth. While many brands tweeting about #GameOfThrones are looking for a way into the conversation, the #DemThrones lane is much less congested with brand traffic, and gives brands the opportunity to show cultural relevance with strategically planned content that will build brand street cred and create engagement. To ensure this is authentic to the audience, brands must work closely with their multicultural partners in crafting the messaging and content – or Black Twitter will eat your brand up, and spit it out.
  3. Writers, not biters. To effectively engage with Black Twitter and its influential voices, brands need multicultural minds to shape their social media strategy. With brands awkwardly hijacking Black slang, or trying to create colorblind ads that instead come off as totally tone deaf, brands need to realize that they must have diverse voices at the table to inform, guide and shape their marketing strategies. If brands and companies don’t provide that seat, they will have people writing tweets in a voice that is not their own, and will then have to deal with the backlash from cultural appropriation, as well as getting dragged all across the Interwebs.
  4. Cultural calendar. Brands should develop and regularly update a cultural calendar, outlining trending moments in time that can  be anticipated, like the Super Bowl, the GRAMMYs, and March Madness. This pre-planning allows brands to be agile when monitoring social chatter, and gives brands an arsenal of culturally relevant content that can be adjusted in real time to unleash at peak pop culture moments – kind of like an arsenal that Daenerys could’ve used in Episode 4.
  5. The takeaway. The key learning here is that brands have to be culturally aware, and strategically prepared. This readies your brand proactively, so when an opportunity presents itself your brand isn’t scrambling like Randall with his to respond reactively. Preparation is a major key, and that starts with having diverse team members on deck who can inform and educate your brand on multicultural trends and diverse issues, to set you up for success vs. social media clapbacks. So, be that brand that’s ready for whatever. A wise man once said “If you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.” That wise man was Suga Free. Listen to Suga Free.

Tony Balasandiran is not your traditional marketing strategist. With 10+ years of experience developing and leading some of the top multicultural campaigns worldwide, he is a culture expert and lifestyle specialist. With a network of strong influencer relationships, an ear to the street, and a finger on the pulse of pop culture, Tony brings a rare and unique perspective to brands by developing strategies that are led by multicultural insights and resonate with general market audiences, to help brands reach a total market consumer and media audience. Tony’s leadership in multicultural marketing has been recognized and honored by the industry, winning the 2014 PR News Multicultural Campaign of the Year, and as a national finalist for PR News’ Social Networking Campaign of the Year in 2015, and Social Media Professional of the Year in 2012. Since joining Ketchum in 2017, Tony has continued to lead with multicultural insights to develop marketing campaigns and strategies for Wendy’s, U.S. Cellular, and new business, working with multicultural influencers to build brand awareness and affinity with diverse, target audiences. In 2018, Tony developed a fashion collaboration with top luxury sportwear designer, Don C, for Wendy’s to launch its first ever streetwear collection during March Madness, drawing praise from the lead creative director for Louis Vuitton menswear, professional athletes, fashion influencers, hip-hop artists and producers. The streetwear collaboration was immediately followed by the surprise release of the Wendy’s We Beefin? hip-hop mixtape, which has earned top international creative honors at the 2018 Cannes Lions Awards, winning the Gold Lion Award for Entertainment, Audio & Radio, Retail, and the 2018 Clio Awards, winning the Grand Clio Music Award for Use of Music. Connect with Tony on LinkedIn.