Customer Experience News & Trends

6 customer loyalty lessons from Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad - Customer Loyalty

“I’m not in the meth business. I’m in the empire business.” Walter White of AMC’s Breaking Bad didn’t say that in jest. He knew he wasn’t a two-bit drug peddler, but rather a businessman with a huge base of loyal customers who would do anything to get his product. And his methods can teach businesses a lot about how to develop die-hard fans.

Of course, the big difference between White and your business is that he manufactured and distributed an illegal substance. Don’t do that. It’s not the part of his business model we’re suggesting you follow here. Neither is killing your competition — literally.

But the fact that White (a.k.a., Heisenberg) sold drugs and “whacked” a few people doesn’t mean he was an idiot. He was, in fact, a savvy business man who knew how to create and market a product customers would pay good money for — again and again.

Here are the unforgettable customer loyalty lessons Mr. White and Breaking Bad left us with:

1. Don’t go it alone

Jessie PinkmanIf you looked at White’s LinkedIn profile, you’d probably see a lot of connections in the teaching and scientific community. There probably wasn’t a whole lot of drug dealers in his Rolodex.

So, if he was going to break into the drug game, he needed help.

Enter Jessie Pinkman (a.k.a., Captain Cook), a former-student-turned-dealer who had a lot of connections in the world of crystal methamphetamine distribution.

White’s chemistry knowledge made him the perfect meth cook, and Pinkman’s street smarts and connections (most notably Badger and Skinny Pete) made him the ideal business partner.

The two complemented each other well and taught the business world a valuable lesson: No matter how smart you are, you can’t survive on your own.

Creating a great product means nothing if you don’t know how to sell or market it. Surround yourself with smart people who know how to reach and service the people you’re trying to sell to.

2. Focus on quality

Bad drugsChances are Walter’s worst batch of meth would’ve been better than any competing product on the streets of Albuquerque, NM.

But being good enough was never good enough for White. He never stopped trying to increase the purity of his product. He knew that if he could perfect his product, people would fall over themselves to get it.

His unwavering obsession with quality not only created incredible demand, it had distributors lining up to find ways to increase the market for White’s product — Gus Fring brought it to the Southwest and Lydia Rodarte-Quayle introduced it to Europe.

If White hadn’t focused so much on quality, his product likely wouldn’t have travled much beyond the confines of his and Jessie’s RV.

3. Be unique

Blue methThere needs to be something about your product that sets it apart from the competition.

Find a differentiator. White and Pinkman did: It was the color of their product.

Initially, the two of them didn’t mean for their meth to turn blue — it was the result of using different methylamine to cook it.

But White and Jessie embraced the color of their meth. It made selling their product easier. It became synonymous with the quality of their product and helped them develop a vibrant brand. Plus, it generated buzz and word-of-mouth around their meth.

As Jerry Garcia, lead singer of the Grateful Dead (a band steeped in America’s drug culture), once said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do, you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.”

4. Create intrigue heisenberg_sketch

Another way to build buzz around your company: Find a way to be intriguing.

In Albuquerque, meth heads were used to getting their drugs from dealers employed by locals Fring and Tuco Salamanca.

Then a third choice came along: Heisenberg, a drug maker who sounded like a foreign and exotic Pfizer to Fring and Salamanca’s generics.

Suddenly everyone had to have a taste.

To protect his real identity, White took on the alias “Heisenberg,” presumably in a nod to the famous scientist Werner Heisenberg.

The unusual name created an air of mystery around his product that only made users more desperate to try it.

5. Don’t be afraid to take risks

Lab equipmentThe promise of a new lab and the ability to produce his meth in mass quantities in a safe, secure location was too much to resist and pushed White to do something very risky: go into business with a drug kingpin he didn’t know — Fring.

While the relationship certainly had its rocky moments (Fring trying to kill White, White trying to kill Fring … typical business partner-type squabbles), the risk had its rewards for White: He was getting his product out to more people than would’ve ever been possible with Pinkman’s crew.

The mass appeal of the product eventually caught the eye of Rodarte-Quayle, who agreed to take White’s product worldwide in a partnership that yielded a pallet of cash for White.

6. Don’t make it all about the money

Drug moneyThat pallet of cash sounded nice, until you realized it was going to take his wife Skyler nearly a lifetime to launder it all.

But the quest for that pallet of cash had a profound impact on White: It turned him into a money hungry, megalomaniac who was willing to kill to keep what was his.

His business in the drug game grew too big too fast, and he eventually lost control of everything in his life — his wife, his family and his money.

When all he started to see was green, he forgot what got him to were he was: being smart, being safe and focusing on what he knew best — the product and what customers thought of it.

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