Dear person living under a rock, if you have not heard of or have been watching Breaking Bad, you’re probably missing out on one of the best pieces of work — from writing to acting to directing to soul-crushing — of all time. Over ten million people can’t be wrong, right?
Well, we’re not going to force you to watch the best tv show on earth, but as the curtains drew to a close on this series, this completely unorthodox, cultural phenomenon had us thinking: Why are people crazy for this show?
Not just crazy obsessed with watching, but telling everyone they can about it and actively engaged with it as if it were a brand. A badge of honor.
Over five million Facebook fans, a waterfall of #breakingbad tweets, memes, Tumblr accounts, t-shirts, fan art, fan fiction and more. Of course this is nothing new, just go to Comic Con and you’ll see a similar fervour for these fictional worlds.
Now we’re not saying your startup or business should start a crystal meth lab to generate buzz, but there are five key lessons to be learned from the Breaking Bad craze to inspire your startup.
1. Be like nothing else out there
No, seriously. This is step one. Had you ever heard of a science teacher gone druglord as a premise of a show before Breaking Bad? So twisted.
And almost too far out there. But when it comes to standing out amongst your competition, there is something to be said about true originality. Of course, the notion of being an original is often followed by the reality that the likeliness of an absolutely unique idea is slim to none. We suggest you still try.
Even if your idea isn’t unique, you are. Literally, there is only one you. Ideas can be similar but how you execute and pitch them, can still be original. Also understand what your marketplace is already familiar with and put your differentiators on a pedestal.
What sets you apart is your mystique. No RV meth lab required.
2. Indifference Serves No One
What Breaking Bad does so insanely well is create characters that are so complex they polarize the audience. Whether you are Team Walt or Team Jesse or Team Hank or anti-Skylar or pro-Mike, Breaking Bad compels you to choose, sometimes waffle, but never do you feel indifferent. It’s virtually impossible.
When you launch your startup, iterate on your features, pivot your business model, listen to the feedback. No, better yet, invite feedback. Positive and critical. Indifference is a startup killer and being a victim, sucks.
Some startups make the decision to perfect their product or service in a vacuum before making it available to the public. Just like Breaking Bad doesn’t spoon feed you easy-to-digest characters or storylines, to engage people you should push them to think critically and spark a reaction.
There is no such thing as a perfect product and having people tell you what they think should be considered help, not harm.
3. Compel Conversations
If you have ever met a Breaking Bad fan, you know it almost immediately. Why? Because they will tell you. It’s almost a compulsion, and according to this Family Guy clip, it might even be a hypnotic spell.
Not a practising hypnotherapist? Your startup can still stir conversation by the content it creates and the stories it tells. Take, for instance, e-commerce platform Shopify. They balance their technical content (like SEO, payment systems etc) with very, relatable human-based content. It’s not just about the technology, it’s about the people behind it and the ones using Shopify to create even more stories that inspire others.
This is the stuff people can’t help but share.
4. Be accessible and appreciative
This lesson is not about the actual show but the promotion of the show as well as the cast and creator. If you follow all things Breaking Bad (like us), you won’t be hard pressed to find countless of examples of how the people behind the show pay their respects to their fans.
For instance, actor Aaron Paul (who plays tortured Jesse Pinkman on the show) coming out to say hello to a celebrity tour trolley of fans or thoughtfully answering an AMA on reddit. Or how incredible is Bryan Cranston walking around Comic Con, completely unnoticed, in a Bryan Cranston (or Walter White) mask? Playing the same game as the crowd he is in and causing a hilarious ripple effect that did not go unnoticed. Cool factor: off the charts.
The point is, be approachable and open. Talk to people like you have been listening. Tell your customers and followers you appreciate them and find ways to show them. People tune in for the characters, sure, but the admiration and respect continues beyond the script.
5. Dispel the myth of “magic sauce”
Take one part terminally ill man, add one lost kid from the wrong side of the tracks, mix well until you get the most sought after drug ever to hit the state of New Mexico and presto! You have the formula for the best show to hit the tube.
Sorry friends, if you’re looking for formulas for success, you are already doing it wrong. Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, could never have known its cultural impact until he went for it. Even at the beginning, the show was a critical darling but had not yet snowballed into its current success. He could not have predicted the impact of having the show available on Netflix for the millions who binged on episodes but never tuned in to the original broadcast.
All these milestones in the Breaking Bad journey do not begin with knowing what would work and what wouldn’t. As a startup, or even just as a person, you just have to give up on guarantees and just try.
Anything that is worth it, is probably a risk. It’s trite but true. This is one lesson that won’t fade into the abyss, even when our favourite show does.
Goodbye Breaking Bad, it’s been a slice.
Think we missed some important lessons? Let us know in the comments below!