How Game of Thrones Indoctrinates Die-hard Fans and Newbies Alike, Every Week

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about HBO’s mega-hit series Game of Thrones. Even if you’ve never seen an episode or read a word of A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of books the show is based on, you’ve probably absorbed some knowledge about it through cultural osmosis.

In a nutshell: A lot of people are fighting to sit on the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms as the one-and-only, all-powerful monarch of the land. Heads have been rolling for seven season now.

There are two elements of the show that use a powerful indoctrination strategy: The opening credits and the “Previously On…” sections that appear before every episode.

The Game of Thrones Opening Credits and Theme Song

The opening credits sequence shows a map of Westeros, the country where most of the show’s action takes place. A bird’s-eye-view takes us from King’s Landing, the capital, around the map to places like Winterfell, The Wall and Pyke.

Observant viewers will notice that this sequence is not the same, static map opening every time. The opening sequence varies, highlighting each castle or region that’s featured in that week’s episode. These small changes tell viewers, dedicated and brand-new alike, where they’ll be visiting in that episode.

In such a sweeping story that covers so many characters and places, this attention to detail helps viewers orient themselves and prepare for the next installment of the story.

Not only do the places change, but the details of the castles themselves change as well. Normally the Direwolf banner of House Stark flies over Winterfell, the seat of the North.

But when the Bolton family ousted the Starks and held the castle, the opening credits showed their banner, the Flayed Man (which in itself is a form of indoctrination—any family with a sigil of a man with the skin cut from his body is not one you want to cross.)

Another element of the Game of Thrones opening credits is the clean design and clear copy. They don’t get overly fancy or clever. They show each element clearly and linger on it long enough for viewers to absorb what they’re being shown.

You can see how different the opening credits of Season 1, Episode 1 varies from Season 7, Episode 1. Not only have the places featured on the map changed, but so have the actors’ names as their characters shift in prominence (or die).

“Previously on Game of Thrones

To catch up viewers on what they might have missed, each episode features a highlight reel of previous episodes, shaped to give viewers context of how what happened before will play into the plot now.

When a particular scene is highlighted from previous episodes, you can expect to see that character again in this week’s episode. This not only serves as a refresher, if the scene had happened a long while back, but prepares viewers’ context for what to expect in the upcoming episode.

So, between the “Previously On…” and the opening credits map, viewers are given a framework in which to put their expectations of the episode. And the showrunners never let us down. Every detail is precise, every set-up knocked down smoothly and without distraction.

How can you use these ideas to improve your indoctrination strategy?

If your business were Game of Thrones, how do you keep your loyal fans engaged, while simultaneously welcoming in new people?

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