Over the last few months I’ve fallen in love with Breaking Bad’s Walter White (aka Heisenberg).
As with most popular culture sensations, there are usually things we can find that relate to the fields we work in.
In the past I’ve written posts about the Ari Gold approach to social media and the Roger Sterling guide to agency life, but I never thought a character that plays a meth cook could remind us a thing or two about business, marketing and PR.
But alas, the great Heisenberg has managed to cook up a business, marketing and PR recipe that is second to none and made his product a genuine category leader.
Eight Business, Marketing and PR Lessons From Walter White
1. Hire the the best legal representation possible…or hire Saul Goodman
Not only do the understand the law and how to operate within applicable boundaries (attorney-client privilege) , but they can advise on financial matters (money laundering), and identify partners for expansion and distribution (Los Pollos Hermanos).
If you are seeking legal representation, then it is important that you take the way your potential lawyer markets themselves as a sign as this will tell you a thing or two about the way they do business.
For a best practice example, visit BetterCallSaul.com.
2. Hire ambitious and talented people…or hire Jesse Pinkman
This is true. But it is also false. It is also true and false. In Walter White’s case this was true, false and everything in between.
Jesse Pinkman was hired on solid grounds. He knew the market (street level dealers), he knew the product (the best in the market at the time), and he knew how to market his product, yo.
But Walter also made his hiring / partnering with Jesse Pinkman in haste. He had set unrealistic profit goals and was forced to make a quick decision without taking Jesse’s recent body of work into consideration.
The lesson Walter taught us here is to always consider more than one applicant for any job.
3. The quality of your product is the best form of marketing there is…and make it blue
Billions of dollars are spent annually to manufacture word-of-mouth about products all over the world.
But Walter White taught us that if you make the very best product and make perfection a priority, you will be rewarded with organic word-of-mouth and customer loyalty.
We were often given the impression during the show that the blue colour Walt’s crystal meth was so famous for was due to it’s chemical properties.
Different colours are associated with different traits when it comes to marketing.
Is it any surprise then that blue is associated with being clean, credibile, professional and powerful?
This is why many brand marks in the medical, health care and scientific sectors adopt blue as a primary colour.
Walt’s blue meth was just a coincidence? I think not.
4. Invest in your facilities and work spaces
While Walt and Jesse began their meth cooking career in the back of an RV, they could only produce small quantities and production was often disrupted due to the portable nature of their lab.
Later on in the series, they upgraded to a facility which enabled more efficient production and at much higher volumes.
While it isn’t always possible, investing in infrastructure earlier rather than later can pay dividends.
It can also provide you with a facility where you can get your laundry done at the same time.
5. Prepare a crisis plan…or several crisis plans…
Consultants are always advising clients to conduct simulated crisis situations to be best prepared if the real thing occurs.
This is something Walt wasn’t particularly good at and it created several production disruptions.
While thinking on your feet is good, being prepared is often a better course of action…no matter how wild the scenarios might seem (to a degree, obviously).
6. Maintain solid relationships with your suppliers…and try not to steal rare ingredients that can be tracked by the authorities
Instead of stealing important ingredients, establish supplier relationships that can be fruitful and long lasting for all parties.
Or, at the very least, structure a revenue-sharing deal in the early stages of your business to enable production to continue while cash flow is a problem. Win / win.
7. Honesty between co-workers is essentially…as is the occasional curse word
Jesse: The battery’s dead.
Walt: Jesse, back when I asked you to put the keys in a safe place, where did you put them?
Jesse: I put them, right here, in the ignition.
Walt: Son of a…
Jesse: This is not my fault, the buzzer didn’t buzz, you know, when they keys are in and the power is on.
Walt: The buzzer didn’t buzz?!? Is the a genetic thing with you, did your Mother drop you on your head when you were a baby…
You get the picture. Honesty, it solves all problems.
8. Have strict operating policies and procedures in place
He adopted this approach as it gave his product every chance possible to be the best quality it could be.
It was taken to an extreme during season four when he spent nearly an entire episode trying to kill one fly.
But, he was committed to his policy and all organisations can learn from that.
So, just when you thought Breaking Bad was making decisions about life, we’ve also learnt that some of the principles Walt applied are relevant to business too.
Or, we could just be having a little fun and Heisenberg is the worst business role model we’ve ever known!