The ‘Spoiler Effect’ and How It Can Transform Your Content

I love “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.” At a glance these series seem to have absolutely nothing in common, but they do have one common denominator: they have the “spoiler effect.”

I’ve been seeing the “S” word everywhere lately, especially with the fourth season of “Game of Thrones” now at full speed. Every website you visit, radio station you tune into and tweet you see contains some sort of clause warning: “Spoilers ahead! Do not continue if you have not watched yet!” The fear that someone will stumble upon a juicy online review or overhear a spoiler-filled conversation has become a very real one. We’ve all probably seen irate fans share rants on social media about how people need to respect the fact that others haven’t caught up yet. This still happens even for “Breaking Bad”—whose series finale aired last September.


The world of television works to reduce the “spoiler effect,” but content marketers need to take note of how this phenomenon can be an integral part of a company’s content strategy. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from the “spoiler effect”:

Becoming a Brand with Black and White Loyalty

There are people who like a show and then there are self-proclaimed fans. The line between these tiers of fandom may have room for some blurring (i.e. the “fan” who watches every now and then), but there is no confusion when it comes to a truly committed devotee. This is someone who religiously watches, rewinds again (and again) to enjoy delicate intricacies and habitually checks for reviews after every single episode. There are no gray areas when it comes to this kind of brand loyalty.

As a content marketer, you want to establish content that tells such an amazing story that your readers’ fingertips become welded to their keyboards as they wait for the chance to read your next blog. You want your readers to anxiously check their inboxes for your monthly recap newsletters. And you want your audience to be so engaged with your content that they would throw a fit if it was spoiled for them.

Bottom line: your content should be so enthralling that readers search for new ways to create a lasting experience outside of the pages—just like George R.R. Martin did with A Song of Fire and Ice, the novel that inspired the “Game of Thrones” television series. The question is…how do you do this?

It’s All about Humanizing Your Brand

There is nothing normal about “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead.” One is a fantasy drama taking place in the Middle Ages; another shows the transformation of a science teacher into a meth kingpin; and the other follows the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. What each show excellently does, however, is humanizes itself. By that, I mean each brand meets its fan base at a relatable level by leveraging multiple forms of outreach.

For example, “Breaking Bad’s” Twitter account still tweets daily even though the show is no longer running. And “Game of Thrones” invites fans to create their own banner and house symbol, just like their favorite dynasties. Each show takes its core material and stretches it out to incredibly detailed, three-dimensional levels to make its brand stand out as a living, breathing entity. This strategy will enable “Breaking Bad” to live a long and fulfilled life, and will inspire other shows to do so the same once they reach their end. There are other infamous sitcoms like “Friends” and “Rosanne” that have achieved this level of fandom even though they’ve been in syndication for years.

We see Rosanne Connor as our own mom in some ways; we see Walter White of “Breaking Bad” as our confidante; and we see “Game of Thrones’” Sansa Stark as our little sister whom we want to protect. Thanks to the way in which these brands are cultivated, fans forge genuine relationships with these characters. When our favorite shows are spoiled, we take offense just as we would if a friend accidentally spilled the beans about our surprise birthday party.

It’s absolutely fascinating that a fictional world can be brought to such a realistic and personal level. This is the level that today’s content marketers should be striving to attain with the content that they deliver.

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