Breaking Bad: Clever marketing techniques break the bank

Junior Dylan Phu is casually browsing the Urban Outfitters website when among the screaming neon typography and ironically childish (in a good way) graphic design, he sees an ad for a “UO X BREAKING BAD QUICK FIX SWEEPSTAKES.” The sweepstakes ad features the show’s iconic periodic table-integrated font and white hazmat-clad lead characters and promises him the chance to win $15,000 along with a $1,000 Urban Outfitters gift card.

As devoted a fan as he is to the popular AMC drama about a high school chemistry teacher-turned narcotics cook (Yeah, science!), he sees no other option than to immediately click it. And with the simple strike of the mouse, he is carried into the world of Breaking Bad’s marketing and promotion techniques and the ability of pop culture to pry open even the stingiest (and thinnest) of American wallets.

Following the recent announcement of the drama’s final season, there has been an explosion of merchandise and promotions for the show all across the country and the web.

“I’ve seen stores selling blue rock candy that’s like the stuff in the show and stores selling T-shirts with Walt’s face on it,” Phu said, referring the show’s main character and his signature blue-colored product. “There’s Breaking Bad merchandise literally, like, everywhere.”

From the earliest seasons of the show, sites like and, which are wholly dedicated to selling nothing but Breaking Bad merchandise, were introduced to the online marketplace. In addition, more commonly known geek-trap sites like,, and even Urban Outfitters have stocked up on show merchandise. With the start of the show’s final season, though, these sites and stores across the U.S. have quickly seized a wonderful business opportunity to rack up some big bucks, stocking up and promoting their Breaking Bad merchandise like never before.

“I think leading up to the final season and during this final [fifth] season, it’s like, the advertisements, everything towards it is a lot bigger than from when the show first started,” senior Marc Parra said, “I’d say [the show’s publicity] has gone up quite a bit.”

The results are palpable: according to, Breaking Bad’s audience grew 42% among adults 18-49 and 24% among adults 18-34 over Season 3 which is “the most growth for any drama on basic cable ever.” In total, the show has had 1.9 million viewers across Season 4 alone. The Season 4 finale, though, aired three times and had a total of 2.9 million viewers.

It’s not just stores that are in on the ever-growing Breaking Bad culture; the geniuses behind the show have been using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to push their promos. Since the first episode of the show’s final season, the AMC drama has been encouraging fans to use different hashtags to share their comments on episodes.

In addition, AMC has introduced “story-sync,” an interactive co-viewing feature that, according to their website, “allows users to interact with related content while viewing the program.” So while you’re trudging through commercial breaks while catching up on the latest episodes, you’ll be entertained with snap polls, cool trivia, and exclusive video.

Meanwhile, friends of fans are being bombarded with status updates and pictures screaming about the final season littering their social media newsfeeds.

“I know people who watch the show frequently,” Phu said. “They’re watching the final season right now and with all their status updates they’re spoiling it for me.”

But not everyone is excited about the show’s sudden outburst of promotions and merchandise.

“It’s like stores are just trying to make money off the show now,” junior Hasan Nguyen said. “I don’t think that all the clothing and merchandise is worth the high price.”

Some huge fans of the show actually want the merchandise but just aren’t sure if they’re willing to shell out the mad cash for their favorite television production.

““[I’m] a very big fan,” Parra said, “but I saw one Breaking Bad T-shirt at the mall and it was like $20. That shirt is expensive, really.”

While the shirts, mugs, wallets, and other merchandise promoting the show can be a little pricey, the truth is that, just like any other merchandise for shows and movies with a large fan base, they still sell. Although Parra believes that the prices for the show’s merchandise are often too high for him to consider purchasing, there can be a few exceptions.

“I think it depends on the shirt. [The one I saw] was a really nice shirt! So I think it depends on how it looks,” he said. “I think if it’s a nice one, then yeah it’s worth it.”

For some other Breaking Bad fans out there, though, whether the shirt is 100 percent Egyptian cotton or 100 percent rags, $1 or $100, it really doesn’t matter. As long as it screams their dedication to their favorite AMC drama, their wallets, whether overflowing or paper-thin, will be open.