Murder, Betrayal, And Unintended Consumer Reactions: Game of Thrones, Week Four

It’s not all just fight scenes, brothels, and dragons: we’re here to unearth the marketing principles lurking in “Game of Thrones,” season five. Here’s what we took away from episode four, “Sons of the Harpy.”

Well, that was certainly a fun episode! Season five of Game of Thrones has been great and we’re almost halfway through without any duds. In “Sons of The Harpy,” we saw our characters struggling with the usual intrigue, and a nice helping of swordplay and excitement. Jamie found an innovative use for his golden right hand, Ser Jorah learned that Tyrion isn’t the best prisoner, Melisandre propositioned Jon Snow, and we saw the demise of Ser Barristan the Bold. 

But, to me, the theme of last night was unintended consequences. Cersei’s alliance with the High Sparrow gave birth to a new group — the Faith Militant — who spent most of the hour brutalizing and beating sinners in King’s Landing. And following Cersei’s intel, they even took the step of incarcerating Ser Loras Tyrell, the Queen’s brother, which put the King of the Andals in the unenviable position of looking like the King of the Grovelers. 



Cersei seems very pleased at the moment, but I have a feeling that she, like Daenerys, will soon see that there are unintended consequences that can arise from even the best intentions. Marketers should heed this lesson as well. How many times have we seen a campaign started with the best of intentions produce an unexpected reaction from consumers? We’ve talked a lot about planning for every outcome, but what happens when one of the outcomes is something totally unexpected (despite being obvious in retrospect)? 

Sometimes, all you can do is ride it out. Fighting a consumer backlash, like the Unsullied battling in close combat on the streets of Meereen, can be costly. Staying the course and taking fire may be the best — although most unpleasant — course of action. 

In some cases, it’s even better to just cut your losses. King Tommen made just such a decision when he called off his men during a confrontation at the Sept. As he later explained to a disappointed Margaery, shedding blood and perpetrating violence for the sake of a meeting doesn’t seem like the best way to ask someone for a favor. In an industry that’s gone meeting crazy, I can appreciate that point of view!

As the season progresses, we’ll keep an eye on how Tommen and the High Sparrow deal with the new dynamics of King’s Landing and how Dany reacts to the death of one of her closest advisors. Luckily for the Mother of Dragons, just as two of her trusted allies have fallen, old friend Ser Jorah will be arriving on her doorstep with Tyrion in tow. 

Of course, unintended consequences aren’t always negative. Sometimes there’s also happy accidents, which everyone welcomes with open arms. That’s what happened this week when Jaime Lannister found a new use for his golden hand — stopping his assailant’s sword long enough to turn the tables on him in Dorne. Marketers can only hope their campaigns include these positive unintended consequences. The truly great ones double down on these opportunities to make even more noise in the marketplace. 

For instance, the Sand Snakes are ready to avenge their father’s murder at the hands of the Mountain. Now they’ve been presented a golden opportunity with the news that Jaime has washed up on the shores of Dorne. I, for one, am excited to see them take advantage of this happy accident to cross swords with Jaime and Bronn — hopefully the results will be worthy of our anticipation.

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