Even people who have never read or watched Game of Thrones have heard of the Red Wedding. If you haven’t, take a second to do a quick search — you’ll get the idea pretty quick. Anyways, in the epic power struggle between the Starks and the Lannisters, the Starks get taken out in one fell swoop by the repellant Walder Frey and Roose Bolton. In one episode, as Sean T. Collins writes, the show changes what it’s about.
Turn the Tables
This is a bold, bold move. As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important fearlessness is in marketing, and how businesses can act fearlessly without endangering their revenue or customer loyalty. I’m not here to praise Frey or Bolton — they’re awful. But as writers, Martin and the writers made an impressive move.
Unlike most marketers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had a book series to guide their way, but as loyal readers know that hadn’t stopped them from veering off course before. Before that, Martin had loyal readers by the time A Storm of Swords was published, so he had all the more reason to be cautious and keep his audience. Readers and viewers were intensely invested in Stark versus Lannister. The North versus the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Instead, the story changed entirely, forcing fans to rethink the significance of each string in the un-holy web of Game of Thrones.
Change the Game
The lesson to be learned here is not to make big, bold, moves for the sake of it at the risk of alienating your customers. Instead, see it as an example of a bold move gone right. This game changing scene makes the reader and viewer rethink their entire conception of the universe in a matter of minutes. The outcome is greater understanding of the story, love for the characters, and curiosity for the future.
Had Robb hung around and battled the Lannisters for four more seasons, everyone would be bored. Sometimes you need to take the harder or less expected route to yield huge rewards. In marketing — if you’re testing — you see this all the time. The variation you expect to perform the worst sometimes outperforms even your wildest expectations. Look, I’m not saying the Red Wedding was good or fun or happy. But, it did complicate the field and make me that much more invested in Game of Thrones. Imagine if you could do that for you brand without any bloodshed or tragedy or fear. The big move just might give your customers a new and more intricate understand of your brand, and you might drive some impressive loyalty.