This study aims to contribute to research into narrative brands by investigating if the lack of closure in the ambiguous season two’s ending of the Australian television series, Wanted, constituted a brand transgression.
Comments on posts about Wanted from social media accounts associated with the series were downloaded and analysed using thematic analysis informed by non-participatory netnography.
Audiences found the ambiguous ending of Wanted season two disappointing and it did not fulfil implied promises and their expectations, which fits the description of a brand transgression, and so they engaged in behaviours indicative of a brand transgression such as spreading negative word of mouth online. The ambiguous ending could have been a cliff-hanger to lead into a third season that was not guaranteed when the final episode aired, or the ending for the entire series. Although a third season was eventually made and positively received by audiences, viewer numbers declined by nearly a third, illustrating the importance of brand management for narrative brands.
This research has implications for the creators of television series, particularly if they do not know if it will be renewed. Not providing audiences with their expected closure can constitute a brand transgression and damage the narrative brand’s residual brand equity and potential earnings from streaming or a revival at a later date.
Prior research has focused on audiences’ responses to definitive endings, rather than ambiguous endings, which is the focus of this research. Furthermore, narrative brands are still an under-researched context.
The authors want to thank and acknowledge the anonymous reviewers whose helpful comments enhanced this article.
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