Where have you been, Copy Bitch? I need a good marketing lesson!
—Amy D, Key West
Well, I haven’t been in Key West, Amy, sipping margaritas with you, that’s for sure. I’ve been surviving the winter from hell with its Polar Vortexes and mile-high snowbanks. I’ve also been busy the last few years getting a fiction career off the ground (ask me how THAT’S going, I dare you).
So you want a marketing lesson? Here’s one that I observed this week after the shocker (spoilers ahead) regarding the hit TV show The Good Wife.
One of the lead actors, Josh Charles, decided he wanted out at the end of his contract last season. The producers and lead actress, Julianna Margulies, convinced him to stay for 15 more episodes so that they could give his character a proper send-off. And by send-off, I mean killed off. Yep, the show pulled a Downton Abbey and killed one of its beloved characters.
The fallout from the send-off has been dominating social media and mainstream media all week. Regardless what you think (if you even think anything) about the decision to kill a main character, there’s a huge marketing lesson here: The Good Wife has been in control of this story since the beginning.
So if you’re going to do something BIG like this in business — change a product or service or (gasp) kill a beloved product or service — be prepared for the backlash and have a plan for handling it and getting the most out of it.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the things the producers and network had lined up before the big reveal last Sunday night:
- Over the last few weeks, the show had been promoting a huge “twist” that would change everything.
- Immediately after the episode aired on the east coast, the producers released a letter they’d written to fans. The letter anticipated people’s understandable reactions and it explained, quite eloquently, the reason behind the decision.
- The PR machine behind The Good Wife lined up promotional appearances for Charles (including an interview on Letterman the day after the big episode) and Margulies (the two actors and the producers were interviewed by Charlie Rose).
- An official video was produced (in advance) that interviewed actors from the show, including Charles, describing the decision, their own reactions, and their thoughts about how the show will move forward. This video was deployed throughout social media right after the show aired, and it helped provide context and allowed fans to get a better understanding of why this happened. (This is a smart strategy and more and more TV shows are doing these videos; I loved the one Jim Parsons did a few weeks ago regarding the big kiss his character had on The Big Bang Theory.)
- There’s been plenty of other stuff (go check out the show’s Facebook page), but those are the highlights.
So what’s the marketing lesson? If you’re going to do something big and potentially disturbing to your customers and fan base, PLAN IT THE HELL OUT. Think of every reaction imaginable and have an answer ready. Have different media (videos, graphics, texts, PDFs) with information that explains the decision, acknowledges people’s disappointment, and so forth. If it’s truly newsworthy beyond your little world, make it an event and see if you can get some press out of it.
But start with the planning. It’s obvious The Good Wife has been planning this since last year…every step they took, every video and interview they shared was perfectly timed. Learn from it.