I don't watch Game of Thrones and I never read the books, but even I know King Joffrey is a nasty little shit. That's because everyone, up to and including HBO, keeps telling me. A few weeks ago, HBO did something quite interesting; in anticipation of the upcoming fourth season of the show, the network sponsored a twitter “roast” of Joffrey Baratheon, King of Westeros. The premise is this: fans of the show would tweet horrible things about the horrible king using the hashtag #RoastJoffrey. The best tweets would be compiled by HBO at www.RoastJoffrey.com. Here are some I picked out at random:
If you’re a fan of brand protection (and who isn’t these days?) then you should reserve a space of honor for HBO. See, people hate Joffrey... and hating Joffrey has become something of a national pastime (here’s a Facebook page with the elegant and appropriate title Fuck You, Joffrey Baratheon). The hatred has become so intense that you have to feel bad for actor Jack Gleeson. By all accounts, he’s a nice kid, but the character he plays is such a schmuck that Gleeson can't even watch his own performance. He's even vowed to quit acting when his tenure at GoT ends in order to devote himself to charity work.
Anyway, the Twitter roast proves that HBO knows how to have fun. Furthermore, it shows that HBO understands the fans are going to build a community around the show anyway, so it might as well be a part of that. By joining in the fun of hating Joffrey, HBO is aligning itself with the fans ("we're fans of these characters, just like you!") and in the process, it is building brand loyalty among the audience. Why is that so important? Because if you like HBO you're less likely to steal from them. It's a simple, but effective, truth. If you think HBO cares about your fandom (and word is that they really do care, this isn't just a hollow put on), you're less likely to illegally download the show and more willing to buy the DVDs and all that delicious GoT merchandise.
In reality, there’s no evidence that illegal downloading actually harms large corporate copyright holders (and at least one study shows that illegal downloads actually increase legal sales by 2%), but why take the risk, especially when positioning yourself with the fans is so easy? To me this is a no-brainer. When the fans like you, they’re less likely to steal from you. HBO gets that, and as a result they’re going to let you hate on King Joffrey with the fury of 1,000 suns. I think it’s a good trade-off.