What Emmy-Winner 'Breaking Bad' Teaches Us About Brand Management

You do not need to be a meth kingpin to know something about building an empire, but you could definitely learn from one.

learn more about Peter Gasca

By Peter Gasca • Aug 8, 2014 Originally published Aug 8, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I was thrilled to see my favorite show, Breaking Bad, take home five golden trophies, including Outstanding Drama Series, at Monday night's Emmys.

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.

Related: Walter White's 5 Most Badass Business Moves in 'Breaking Bad'

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.

Related: Richard Branson on Building an Empire

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.

Even Walter White understood that.

Are you a Breaking Bad fan? What other business tips do you take from the show? Please share with others below.

Related: You've Built a Startup. Now, Build a Legacy.

Peter Gasca

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Management and Entrepreneur Consultant

Peter Gasca is an author and consultant at Peter Paul Advisors. He also serves as Executive-in-Residence and Director of the Community and Business Engagement Institute at Coastal Carolina University. His book, One Million Frogs', details his early entrepreneurial journey.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This Co-Founder Was Kicked Out of Retailers for Pitching a 'Taboo' Beauty Product. Now, Her Multi-Million-Dollar Company Sells It for More Than $20 an Ounce.
Have You Ever Obsessed Over 'What If'? According to Scientists, You Don't Actually Know What Would Have Fixed Everything.
Most People Don't Know These 2 Things Are Resume Red Flags. A Career Expert Reveals How to Work Around Them.
Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Growing a Business

Determined to Support the Black Community, These Friends Brought 'Fresh Eyes' — and Innovation — to the Food Industry

Carmen Dianne and Kara Still co-founded Prosperity Market in 2020 to battle economic instability and food insecurity in their local communities.

Social Media

You're Not Shadowbanned — Your Content Just Sucks. That's Why It's Time to Change Your Approach.

As an influencer manager, I often hear clients complain about their content or account being shadowbanned. But to be brutally honest, most of the time, it's not the algorithm that's the problem — it's the content itself.

Business News

OpenAI Rolls Out New Feature to Help Teachers Crack Down on ChatGPT Cheating — But Admit the Tool Is 'Imperfect'

Amid increasing concern regarding the use of ChatGPT by students, the tool's creator has announced a new feature that could help teachers spot it in academic context.

Life Hacks

Start Composting with This CES-Featured Device

Help reduce your carbon footprint with this handy composter.