Laura Bedrossian, Vice President, Social Strategy, Hot Paper Lantern
Spoiler alert: there was a to-go coffee cup that made it to the final cut of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Semi-spoiler alert: supposedly it wasn’t intentional.
Not-so-spoiler alert: was it even a Starbucks cup?
Product placements whether intentional or accidental, aren’t exactly new in entertainment. But no one can deny the strong public (and really, social media) reaction which is now resulting in days of free buzz from adoring and witty GoT fans for Starbucks and many wondering what exactly the Mother of Dragons ordered.
So, was this intended? Was it even a Starbucks-branded cup? And, did the brand do enough to capitalize on the amazing jokes and posts that resulted in the eagle-eyed discovery (I watched and 100% did not catch that cup).
No, no, and no.
As someone in the brand/comms/marketing industry, I can’t see this as anything other than truly a gaffe. First, you don’t actually see a Starbucks logo. Second, HBO made a statement about it being tea (and those involved in production also called it a mistake). Sure it was kind of cutesy, but not enough to seem planned. Third, HBO just updated the episode with the cup edited out.
Lastly, see the next point below.
The Wall Street Journal confirmed it was a cup from the production’s craft services and NOT that of the Winterfell Starbucks chain.
The Last of the Starkbucks
With all of this, it was the perfect opportunity for Starbucks to engage with fans and have a bit of fun on social media. But, they had one tweet that really would’ve been better off just not being tweeted. And, I say this as someone who goes to Starbucks often enough, but someone who has no idea what a Dragon Drink is. I see it as a half-hearted attempt to have fun with a pun (I would’ve went with a Wight Chocolate Mocha Latte sized “Tormund”).
If it were a planned cameo from the cup, wouldn’t they have come up with a better tweet or campaign to support?
Can you imagine how many brands are chomping at the bit wishing that there was a rogue bag/cup/whatever with their logo on that table? And, with a brand that has a bit more fun (ahem, Moonpie and Wendy’s), I think we would’ve see a lot more from a single tweet.
With the points above, I’m hard pressed to see this as anything than a lucky mention for a Starbucks cup that wasn’t even there. However, I do wonder how many fake-Starbucks coffee cups were in “The Long Night” episode that we just couldn’t see.