What Game of Thrones teaches us about market leadership
Disclaimer: If you are a Game of Thrones fan and are not up to date (if you’re not you’re not really a fan are you?) Please beware and brace yourself, as this article is dark and full of spoilers.
Daenerys Targaryen once said “Lannister, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell, they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top and that one’s on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. We’re not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”
These are strong words. Powerful words. Words that give hope to the common man and break the rule of power.
This sentence stuck with me not because I’m a big Game of Thrones and Danny fan (which I am) but because of the truth in it.
Even out of context this sentence makes sense. Let me explain how.
Let’s consider Westeros as any market or industry.
Every industry in the world has noble houses.
For example, in the smartphone industry: there are the noble houses of Samsung, iPhone, Huawei, OPPO, Nokia, Sony etc.
Amongst these, they each have their own identity, promise, following etc. much like the houses in Westeros.
Every king in Westeros has an ambition.
This ambition varies according to the king - one wants to conquer the world, while the other wants to make his people happy and his society prosperous.
One wants to be the richest king in all the land while another wants to instil fear.
Their goal depends on their strengths.
That is the only way to be the best at what you do because no one else knows your strengths better than you and that is how you can even consider yourself to be one of the spokes of the wheel.  
Just like the different kings of Westeros, every one of these brands is a spoke of the wheel and they are all trying to be on top in one-way or another.  
The question that now arises is what are the different ways to be the top spoke?
The following are just some ways to measure success:
  • Market share
  • Market capitalization / Market value
  • Brand value
  • Profitability
  • Customer satisfaction
Just being good at one thing from the list above will not get you that top spoke position. Let me explain how…
Market share
Much like the houses in Westeros, you could be the King of the North, which is geographically the larger area of Westeros (in this case let’s say the market share leader in USA) but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are the King of the Seven Kingdoms (the world).
You have to be the best in the realm to be the world market share leader.
Market value
In Westeros, House Lannister of Casterly Rock, have the highest market value.
Why you ask?
  • They are one of the richest, most powerful families and oldest dynasties.
  • They are the current royal house of the Seven Kingdoms
  • People believe in them because ‘A Lannister always pays his debt’
But does this make them good rulers?
Not necessarily, having good market value doesn’t mean you’re the best in the market.
Customer satisfaction
Daenerys Targaryen has the highest customer satisfaction in the realm.
She has multiple titles to her name.
However, the title that fascinates me most is ‘Breaker of chains’ and this is because it is a direct promise to her people who were slaves previously that she will be there for them.
She will give them the life they deserve. This is why her people believe in her and follow her.
All other titles are either about her, like ‘Mother of Dragons’ and ‘The Unburnt’ or about the places she has conquered, like ‘Queen of the Andals’, ‘Queen of Meereen’ and ‘Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea’. And these are just a few, trust me.
We can learn the following things from this:
  • You have to genuinely care about your customers
  • Talking at people and not to them doesn’t work
  • Talking only about yourself without understanding what your customers want to hear and see will lead to failure
You could have a better banner (brand), you could be the richest house (most valuable) but if you do not keep your people happy, do not create a prosperous society and give value to your people even if you win the Game of Thrones you will ultimately lose the game itself.
Most people are unaware of this but House Lannister is not the richest House in Westeros.
They used to be at one point but they are currently broke and owe a lot of debt to the Iron banks. They have created an exceptional perception of being the richest House in Westeros. Kudos to that!
The most profitable house in Westeros currently is House Tyrell. At least they used to be before House Lannister stole all of their gold and took over their lands.
They used to own the biggest share of crops in all of Westeros, thanks to their fertile and rich farmlands. They also controlled the most populous region and thus could field the largest army in the entire realm.
But just being profitable means nothing if you do not have a competitive market share, good customer satisfaction and brand value.
Yes, every company needs to be profitable to survive but profitability means nothing without efficiency. How you use your assets and liabilities to generate income and therefore profits is key.
Brand value
One name – Jon Snow. 
In this case I will use the example of a character and not a house because nothing explains brand value better. 
He could be many other things like: Slayer of the Undead, Friend of the Free Folk, The Resurrected and The White Wolf but he is modest, unlike Danny ;)
Anyway, coming back to point, Jon had nothing going for him.
He was a nobody. A bastard. But he was a good product.
Probably, the best in the market.
He had a small start but he was appreciated and his brand value grew.
He was forced to be the Lord of Winterfell. He was declared the King in the North and all without trying to be.
That is what happens when your product is good.
If you stay true to who you are, always make the right decision, have people’s best interest at heart, no one in the Seven Kingdoms can stand in your way.
You will find people who believe in you and will not let you die. They will fight the war with you, for you. 
And let me tell you that Jon’s brand value is only going to increase from now on as he is the son of Fire (Rhaegar Targaryen) and Ice (Lyanna Stark).
He is currently the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne and this will make Jon’s brand value go through the roof.
Now, just like the noble houses of Westeros, you can’t be on top of the wheel by just one of the above virtues. 
For example, currently, the following are the stats for the smartphone industry: 
  • Samsung is the global market share leader at 22.7% in Q1
  • Apple is the World’s most valuable brand at $170 Billion 
  • Apple is also currently the most profitable smartphone company. It garnered an operating profit of $10.18 billion in Q1 2017. This is almost 83.4% of the $12.21 billion total smartphone operating profits globally!

Source: www.telecomlead.com, www.idc.com

You cannot just say any one of those things make you the market leader in smartphones because you need the majority to do that.

Although, I can’t tell you the formula to being the top spoke I can tell you why House Lannister is currently the ruler of the realm because of the following reasons:

  • High market value
  • Profitability
  • Moderate brand value
  • High market share

Four out of five is why they are currently the King of the Seven Kingdoms; let’s see how long it lasts because if you don’t keep hustling to be the top spoke there are many others that will happily take your place.  

This article has been written in August 2017 and all facts of Westeros is as of then. Please do not bash it up once the entire story unfolds as it still holds true as of this timeline. 

Written by Sanchari Ghosh 

A cross-fitter, rock climber and aspiring kite-surfer. Loves blending analysis and creativity to solve problems. Hates losing more than loves winning. Always gets the job done on time. Sanchari is a Brand Consultant at Fludium, a Dubai-based strategic branding agency.

Psssst! We have a newsletter too.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required