OK, I confess I’m a BIG fan of “Game Of Thrones”. Borderline obsessed. I’ve read all of the books. Watched every episode of the show and eagerly await each new installment. I pore over reviews and the excellent commentary on the fan site Westeros.org.
Now, of course, it’s important as a writer to understand great storytelling. In particular the ability to capture the imagination of the reader and KEEP them reading. And despite some flaws, in the “Game Of Thrones” saga (strictly speaking, “A Song of Ice And Fire” but let’s not quibble) author George Martin has created a rich and fascinating fantasy world and a compelling story. OK, books 4 and 5 have dragged somewhat and been hard-going at times…but I NEED to keep going and find out what happens!
Back to the TV show and in the latest episode (number 6 in series 4 – “The Laws Of Gods And Men”)…there is a GREAT opening scene with powerful lessons in persuasion that copywriters and marketers would do well to note.
Sadly, I can’t embed the scene here but you can watch it at a link that’s coming up…
…and then make sure you come back here.
Some quick scene setting if you’re not familiar with “Game Of Thrones”. It’s a fantasy saga largely about the struggles between a number of competing families to claim the throne of the fictional realm of Westeros. Think the English “Wars Of The Roses” but with added dragons and a touch of magic. Oh and there’s a looming menace to the whole of humanity…but let’s not get sidetracked.
Stannis Baratheon is one of the claimants to the throne…but he has suffered a huge setback and is almost “out of the game”. He’s only got a handful of troops and ships left, with precious little in the way of funds or resources. In desperation he turns to the famed Iron Bank Of Braavos for finance to get his quest for the crown back on track.
So here’s the link to watch the opening scene…
…and welcome back! Hope you enjoyed that.
Let’s go through the key points of the negotiations.
Stannis makes his pitch to the bankers and it’s almost a case study in blunders. It’s all about him, his right to the throne and his (desperate) need for funds.
Not surprisingly, the men from the Iron Bank are not swayed and turn him down.
Ser Davos (the chief adviser and supporter to Stannis) makes another pitch…
…this time zooming in on what’s important to the bankers and what’s-in-it for them. Namely…getting their money back.
Davos goes through all the reasons why Stannis can be relied on to repay the loan and then the real clincher, in my view, is that he zeros in on the big FEAR lurking in the hearts of the men from the Iron Bank.
You see, although it’s not made completely clear in the clip, the Iron Bank is already owed a significant amount by the Kingdom of Westeros. And as Davos very clearly points out, it’s by no means certain that they will get that money back.
There’s an implied threat thrown in for good measure when Davos states that as long as Stannis lives the war for the throne is not over.
(As an aside, readers familiar with “Game Of Thrones” will no doubt realise that an overt threat could easily backfire. In the ruthless and violent world of Westeros, it could easily occur to the men of the Iron Bank that eliminating Stannis would remove a threat to the peace of the realm and hence enhance the security of their loan!)
It’s not shown in the scene but Stannis gets a loan of some sort. If nothing else, the bank is hedging its bets.
A wonderful scene, in my view and it provides a reminder of TWO important lessons for copywriters in particular and marketers in general.
Firstly, it’s a BIG mistake to focus on your own situation, who you are and why you are so great. People don’t care.
Secondly, to get people to take action it’s essential to understand what’s important to THEM. Never forget that your prospect or potential customers wants to know WIIFM – “What’s In It For Me”?
And in many cases FEAR of loss can be the most powerful driver.
Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with people as hard-nosed as the Iron Bank Of Braavos. But if you do, it’s well worth keeping in mind how Ser Davos managed to make the sale!