In the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, bus-bench lawyer Saul Goodman, in fear for his life, prepares to change his identity and go into hiding. “If I’m lucky, a month from now, best-case scenario, I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha,” he says, dejectedly.
And that’s exactly what happened, as revealed by last night’s premiere episode of the spin-off, Better Call Saul. Given that this is supposed to be a depressing development for Saul, and is meant to reveal how low he’s sunk (even lower than chasing ambulances), you might think Cinnabon would try to distance itself from the show as much as possible. Instead, it’s doing the opposite.
The chain is giving away one free “mini-bon” per person, packaged in boxes depicting the pathetic Saul, on Monday between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. at all 704 of its stores. Also, starting Monday, customers who tweet in-store selfies with the hashstag #SaulSelfie will have a chance to win a year’s worth of Cinnabon treats. (Who wants to lay odds that the winner will be an Omaha resident?)
Cinnabon had already proved itself more than willing leverage unflattering mentions of itself. Back when Saul first uttered what was a throwaway line on Breaking Bad, sixteen months ago, a Cinnabon manager in Omaha, with the backing of corporate HQ, hung a sign bearing the quote in his store window. And Cinnabon published a tweet directing Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul, to its careers page.
Kate Cole, the president of Focus Brands, the affiliate of Roark Capital Group that owns Cinnabon and several other chains including Schlotzsky’s and Carvel, spent part of her Monday morning retweeting mentions of Cinnabon and Saul. The impressively young Cole (she’s 36), who was elevated in December from her position as Cinnabon president, clearly didn’t care that some of those tweets didn’t necessarily put Cinnabon in the best light. “You really need to screen your employees better” one tweeter advised Cinnabon, attaching a picture of a sinister-looking Saul Goodman manhandling a fistful of dough behind the counter.