A Digital Marketer Breaks Bad

I got introduced to the show “Breaking Bad” quite recently and I must say that five seasons later, the show has changed my life and my views on marketing. With 6 million Facebook followers and over 10 million viewers for the final episode, the show has been rated as one of the best TV dramas of all time!

breakingbadThe evolution of “Walter White,” the chief protagonist, from a meek high school chemistry teacher to “Heisenberg,” a ruthless drug lord, is inspiring and full of life and marketing lessons.

The life lessons may be too exhaustive to summarize in a column; therefore I’m going to spend the next five hundred words describing my digital marketing takeaways:

1. Look deeper for opportunities: In a saturated marketing world, it’s hard to find new customers and opportunities. Walt got the idea for the meth business at a drug raid with his brother-in-law. The core insight for him was that there was demand for the product but the existing suppliers were meeting that demand through low quality product and yet making money. The brilliant chemist in Walt was quick to see the gap in the market for a high quality product and a potential money making opportunity. Similarly, the idea for your next online viral campaign can come from the anywhere as long as you look hard enough!

2. Distribution is key: As marketers we think that our products are the best. This spirit keeps us going to find new ways to distinguish ourselves but can also blindside us about the fact that our products are as good as the distribution network. Walt knew that he could use his chemistry skills to make a great product, but had no idea how to distribute it. Therefore, he partnered with a national distributor to penetrate the market in the shortest time.

3. Stay on brand: From the lawyer, Saul reminding everyone about his slogan, “Better Call Saul” to Walt and his wife Skyler pushing the motto of their carwash “Have an A1 Day” the show provides us numerous examples of staying on brand messaging and reinforcing it at every touch point from banners ads to websites.

4. Take risks: On the surface, the show’s storyline and success defies conventional wisdom. A 50-year old high school chemistry teacher in New Mexico gets cancer and starts cooking meth to provide for his family…boring. Well as evidenced by the show’s success, on hindsight is not perfect. Too often, we rely on guaranteed proof of a product/project’s success before investing. Without gut instinct and vision, there would be no Breaking Bad, so don’t focus too much on numbers when your gut feel tells you the opposite. Taking risks is especially important in the digital marketing space where technologies and metrics are still evolving and the next big thing could come from anywhere.

5. Be patient: With average ratings of just over a million viewers, Breaking Bad was likely to be cancelled after the first season. However, it took a few seasons for the show to catch on and get to a cult-like following. All too often, in marketing we want immediate results with our campaigns or else they’re deemed failures. This is especially true for digital and social media campaigns, where companies are quick to blame the lack of sales on the campaign. Breaking Bad teaches us that every good idea or campaign needs time to generate buzz and build an audience to be successful, which has been demonstrated by campaigns like “The Old Spice Man”.

The show might be over but I believe the marketing and life lessons from the show will linger on. In Walt’s words, “Remember my name” will keep reminding us of them, what we choose to do with them is entirely up to us.

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