Best of Branded Content: Shutterstock’s Game of Brands

Every week, we want to highlight an example of a brand that’s telling amazing stories through content. This week, it’s stock image company Shutterstock, which recently had a huge viral success with a series of images that reimagined the families from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as modern corporations — using only its own image assets in the process.


“Lannister Investment Group,” one of Shutterstock’s reimagined “Game of Thrones” families as a modern corporation.

With a passion for pop culture, the creative blogging team at Shutterstock hit the jackpot creating creative “what if” campaigns to highlight what can be done with their stock photos and illustrations. The blog’s “Game of Brands” take on what the families of Westeros would be if they were modern corporations is now Shutterstock’s most viewed, liked, tweeted, shared, and pinned post — ever.

Sparking conversation on stock imagery through pop culture, the blog’s quarterly, work-intensive “zeitgeist” feature launched last year with Spider-Man’s alter-ego photographer Peter Parker and was followed up by the viral success Hipsters of Oz and Mod Men.

“All we have to do is showcase the infinite possibilities for beautiful designs you can create and the powerful ideas you can communicate,” said Dan Reiss, Shutterstock’s branded content producer.

With Game of Thrones, Reiss’s team was torn between the corporate “Game of Brands” and more poppy “The Real Housewives of Winterfell.”

“[The latter was] a funny concept, but the powerful sci-fi appeal of seeing our favorite Westeros houses in today’s world, as well as our internal fascination with branding, seemed right for our brand and won out in the end,” Reiss said in an interview.

With “Easter eggs” in hand for the hardcore Game of Thrones fans out there, the most obvious starting point, Reiss said, was the Lannisters as a large finance firm.

“That pairing got the ball rolling, and got us thinking about other houses,” he said. “The Starks were next … ‘Winter is Coming’ was the buzziest piece of HBO’s Game of Thrones marketing campaign. Even team members who hadn’t watched the show had heard this phrase.”

The greatest success is that stock imagery has become the story, validating the blog’s content strategy.

The momentum continued, with the team posting a new addition, “Wedding Season Is Here” — imagining the Frey family as a high-end event planning company — within 48 hours of the airing of the infamous “Red Wedding” episode.

Beyond boosted blog traffic, hundreds of pickups on countless sites, being seen by hundreds of thousands of people, shared tens of thousands of time, and solid customer conversions, the greatest success is that stock imagery has become the story, validating the blog’s content strategy.

“Stock has, in the past, had a stigma of being plain-Jane shots of business people shaking hands, when in actuality, the sky’s the limit as far as what you can create with our library,” Reiss said. “This is exactly what we’re aiming to do with our branded content: to change the conversation about stock and drive brand awareness in the process.”

Image by conrado /
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