Lord of the Rings vs Game of Thrones – Episode 2:
Content & Community – Understanding and Making the Most of your Assets

This article was also published in AMI Magazine

By Colm Clarke

Episode 2: Content & Community – Understanding and Making the Most of your Assets.

In Episode One (if you missed it, better start here), we looked at battling business models, how important content driven engagement is for all kinds of businesses, and how this creates an increasingly competitive environment for associations.

Taking inspiration from the fantasy realms in Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, let’s now take a fresh look at the competitive advantages associations can gain by getting the most out of their content and communities.

The reality for associations is that their community can be a double-edged sword (do I get bonus likes for the topical pun? 😉) when it comes to content.
The same community will host your expert content producers, biggest and most loyal fans – and – your harshest critics. They will be connected personally and virtually, with the ability to propel you to great success or costly failure only a few clicks and comments away.

Again we can draw parallels with popular series who having generated a “community” of fans or followers risk become victims of their own success. Just like associations, that community feels invested and develops a sense of ownership. Eventually, everyone will have an opinion on who should win or lose or whether the season finale was a flop.

The Double Edged Sword in Action

A positive example comes from the Peter Jackson directed Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book was published decades before the movies and was hugely popular thanks to the books long before it was famous onscreen.

One of those movies’ great accomplishments was not upsetting people who were fans of the book by not ruining their mental image of the worlds and characters from the books. I remember leaving the cinema (feeling old now…) and talking to friends afterwards – everyone satisfied and no grumbling about “no way did the orcs look like that” or “I can’t believe that’s Mordor”…

The other thing to remember is that people loved the Lord of the Rings movies even though they knew EXACTLY what was going to happen!

There was the odd onscreen scare but basically no surprises, no room for new twists and turns – in the end it didn’t matter because it was beautifully executed and offered a great experience.

In contrast, Game of Thrones largely came to fame once HBO adapted it for the TV screen. It was also notable for (repeatedly) killing off lots of popular characters with little or no warning. This made for great if gruesome TV and frequent “no way!” moments – the viewer was always kept guessing.
But even if shocks were a major driver of the show’s appeal, at the end of in the final season when Daenerys showed her dark side in a particularly brutal manner, much of the fan community freaked out, even going as far as demanding the entire season was rewritten and re-shot.

So, what are the lessons for associations in all of this?
We need to balance both needs to keep communities happy and engaged.

Consistency and reliability are good, they guarantee value (if not excitement) for professionals investing time and money. Associations who are able to gather their members year after year shouldn’t undervalue that – especially if they are successfully engaging the intended community.

On the other hand, shocks and surprises are fun – and critically – they are memorable.

Events, especially in person gatherings, provide associations an ideal arena to showcase their ability to deliver all of this.

If you’ve got the right elements of both consistency and surprise at your association events, you’ll be on the right track – however – it doesn’t happen by accident.

In the final episode we’ll look at how to position your characters and design sessions to drive attendee value and engagement.

If you’d like to discuss how this impacts your association strategy, feel free to contact the author.


Colm Clarke

Partner, Consultancy


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