What Emmy-Winner 'Breaking Bad' Teaches Us About Brand Management
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Not surprisingly, Bryan Cranston took home Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series (again) for his portrayal of the show's main character, Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who, after learning he has lung cancer, begins producing methamphetamine to cover his medical expenses and support his family.
The story is incredibly unique and as addicting as the drugs peddled in the show, and Cranston does a remarkable job evolving Walter's heartbreaking character over five grueling seasons into an international drug kingpin.
Pardon my digression into television show critic.
We can also learn a great deal about business from Walter White. As a scientist, he approached the "business" of producing meth as any other entrepreneur might approach producing a consumable good. He was incredibly detail oriented, stuck to schedules and processes, and treated his team like family.
More importantly, Walter White was a branding genius. So, while his medium was illicit drugs, allow yourself the guilty pleasure of admiring his branding expertise with these three lessons.
1. Be recognizable. Having a recognizable image might be the most important part of building a brand, and Walter understood this. His methods for producing meth with very specific ingredients resulted in a product with a blue tint, the only meth on the market as such, which earned it the street name "Blue." Walter leveraged the blue tint to differentiate his product, but he also understood that blue meth alone was not enough to establish his brand.
He therefore focused on his personal brand, establishing a personal image and persona. Identifying himself as “Heisenberg,” after the renowned 20th century chemist Werner Heisenberg, he adopted the name as a strong pseudonym that clearly describes him and his product. He also kept his cleanly shaven head (from his cancer treatments), grew a recognizable goatee and adorned a pork pie hat. This combination of product and personal branding is what made him instantly recognizable throughout the series.
2. Be consistent. Offering and consistently delivering to your customers a value proposition that is unique is what produced a strong brand. Walter White built his reputation on the fact that he produced the highest quality meth on the market. As a chemist, he understood the manufacturing process and precision the way only a real chemist could.
And unlike his competition, he never cut corners and sacrificed quality, even in the light of incredible "peer" pressure to do so. This high quality, blue meth was his unique selling proposition.
3. Be everywhere. Building a recognizable brand with a consistent value proposition is useless if you cannot deliver. Walter understood this, which is why (spoiler alert) he slowly transitioned from producing meth to distributing it, taking out all of his competition in order to control the flow of his product. He also found partners who distributed the product overseas. To build a loyal customer base and establish your brand, you need to be in front of people.
You do not need to feel guilty for taking business tips from a character as twisted and complicated as Walter White. Branding lessons are everywhere in Hollywood. Just remember, regardless of how you decide to build your brand or what others think, staying true to your brand is the most important thing you can do.
Are you a Breaking Bad fan? What other business tips do you take from the show? Please share with others below.