4 Killer Marketing Lessons From Breaking Bad

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Warning: If you don’t like spoilers don’t read this.

AMC’s Breaking Bad is a scorched-earth drama about high school chemistry teacher Walter White and his journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface.

Breaking Bad marketing lessons

Chef Heisenberg and assistant Jesse.

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Walter entered the drug business as a meth cook to help pay his medical expenses and ensure his family would be taken care of financially after his death. He channels his bad-ass chemistry skills to create a meth recipe that’s superior to his competition’s.

Breaking Bad is more than riveting entertainment — it has real-world insight about business and marketing that we can take a few lessons from.

Here are four relevant marketing lessons worth learning from Breaking Bad:

1. Go ahead and enter an established market if you’ve got a superior product.

Walter’s partner Jesse was already an established meth cook when they teamed up. Jesse’s signature meth product was flavored with chili peppers and it wasn’t particularly successful. In contrast, Walter’s recipe was marketed as “99.1% pure” and it had a distinctive sky-blue color, more potency and a unique glass-like clarity.

These features were their product’s UCP, Unique Selling Proposition. Walter banked over $80M in bug-infested cash kept in a storage locker from selling his superior meth.

2. Smart Marketers Capitalize on Bad Publicity

Breaking Bad bath salts.

Breaking Bad bath salts.

Breaking Bad doesn’t make the city of Albuquerque, NM look good. Much of the storyline revolves around the lowest rungs of society. The action takes place in the worst areas of town.

Even so, capitalizing on the success of the show has positioned Albuquerque as a go-to destination for fans of the show.

There are BrBa location tours, blue meth candy is available for purchase in Old Town. Stores sell blue bath salt novelties and a popular donut store even sells blue meth novelty donuts. The city had a 2014 Breaking Bad convention. Fun-loving tourists pester the family that lives in the home that was the setting for Walter White’s house.

There’s no sign that Breaking Bad tourism will be slowing down, and the city is now the backdrop for a prequel show, Better Call Saul. Albuquerque rakes in millions in tourist bucks thanks to a show that makes the city look like a hell-hole.

3. The Relentless Drive For More May Compromise You

Michael Corleone

Michael Corleone, the other antihero.

The Godfather’s Michael Corleone promised his intended bride he would drag his crime family’s business to the side of legitimacy. Like Walt, Michael began with good intentions and crossed over to the dark side.

Walter never expected to be assassinating rivals with bullets, poison and explosives and robbing warehouses for raw materials. He said more than once he wanted to cook in peace and leave the dirty work to Jesse.

Walter ended up sacrificing his family, friends, morals and reputation to scale his business. Marketers, especially those starting out just need to get paid, and often end up promoting products and services that aren’t squeaky clean to keep the cash flowing.

No specific confession from me. Just saying that lots of us have gone there.

4. Grow a Pair, Bitch!

Breaking Bad money

Kneel before the Benjamins.

Walt had a chronic habit of strangling, bombing and shooting up his distributors if they got in his way or looked at him funny. Dead distributors always put the kibosh on his profitability.

Even so, Walter constantly bounced back from his (often self-induced) crises. Just being a man with nothing to lose, his time running out, made all the difference.

Remember when Jesse talked to distributor Tuco like a wussy-man, and was promptly beaten to a pulp? Walt went back there with brass balls in place and made a positive impression by blowing out Tuco’s wall. Done deal.

It’s hard to stand out and not be mediocre. Success often doesn’t go to the most intelligent, but to the most daring and creative. In marketing, inventive risk-takers are the ones that succeed because they don’t ask for permission. “May I, sir?” usually gets you turned down.

Lost face? Overdosed on mediocrity? Have $80M in cash sitting in your storage locker?  Contact me now for sales copy that will optimize your campaigns and increase profitability.

And don’t be a cheapskate. Words that sell pay for themselves.

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