The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

This week saw the semi final of The BBC Apprentice, and it proved to be the most insightful programme of the series so far. Most, if not all, of our suspicions about the candidates came true and for the first time I feel we truly saw the potential (or lack of it) on show.

There were five candidates at the start of the programme, with three of them in Phoenix. Adam was appointed PM (why?) with Jade and Nick. That left Tom and Ricky in Phoenix. Both wanted to be PM, but Ricky wanted it more. The task? to design a new “affordable” range of luxury products and pitch it to a group of experts, and Lord Sugar.

Adam, with his clear dislike of Jade, and reinforcing his mysogenist outlook, consigned Jade to the subteam so that he could work with Nick. They would do the business model and branding, Jade would be on product design. Phoenix (actually Adam, who listened to nobody) decided they would focus on luxury chocolates and target a female audience. Nick did make a (half hearted) attempt to sell the idea of luxury hot chocolate (remember, he has previously had a very successful coffee business) but Adam had already made up his mind. Adam later admittted he doesn’t even like chocolates. What was Nick’s strategy?

Ricky and Tom agreed to go for the male grooming products market. Tom agreed to look at the business model, with Ricky keep to research the products. In the end they decided on a series of linked products around shaving (foam, balm and moisturiser).

Most of Day 1 invovlved product research and design. The differences in the 2 teams was immediately apparent. For Sterling, everything was planned, analysed and researched (yes, three versions of the same thing). For Phoenix, there was little coherent strategy or branding. Adam decided to add in jellies on a whim, and Nick expressed concerns about brand dilution (very quietly). However, Phoenix did have Jade and her enthusiasm & creativity at least gave the team some energy. In Sterling, Tom was repeatedly heard to complain about his own branding ideas being “boring”. If only Gabrielle had survived another week, she would have added real value to this task!

Day 2 was about designing a simulated “retail” experience. Again, there was a contrast between the 2 teams. Sterling was minimalist and in line with the “boring” feel. Described by one shopper as looking like a “closing down sale”. Phoenix on the other hand was brash, colourful, “warm” and “friendly”. Jade again shone here, with here enthusiasm. Offering cocktails to complement the chocolates was popular, and her  “Drunken Jellies” went down a storm. Jade even came up with the brand name (Sweet Thing). Wasn’t that meant to be the job of the boys?

Both teams took the feedback on board and that evening put together their brand strategies tog and prepared to pitch to the experts the following day. I say prepared; Sterling preparared thoroughly, as was their modus operandi, Phoenix muddled through. Phoenix had no clear pricing strategy. When asked, by Karen, if the prices were going to be £2.99 or £4.99, Nick answered “yes”!

Day 3 was about the pitches. Sterling were thoroughly prepared, slick and professional. Unfortunately, their range of “Modern Gentleman” was also dull and uninspiring. On the other hand, Phoenix had interesting products, with no clear strategy and appalling presentation. Witness Adam leading the pitch and reading notes written on the palm of his hand.

At the end of the day, the teams ended up in the Boardroom and it was no surprise that dull professionalism won over amateur enthusiasm. However, the process had shown up the flaws in each candidate, which will no doubt be explored in next week’s Final interviews. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Phoenix lost, and fingers started pointing. Adam (of course) focused on Jade, even though all of the good ideas came from her, and Nick sat on the fence. In fact, Nick was very quiet and disappointing this week, and this was pointed out by Sugar. Even in the boardroom he tried to hedge his bets and was indecisive about who should be fired. Looking back, this seems to be a bit of a trait in Nick. He may be too cautious for his own good. Jade is the exact opposite, all passion and enthusiasm, but sometimes too much so. Adam, of course was finally found out. No leadership, no strategy, not only out of his comfort zone, but out of his depth. He had to go and did. A nation cheered.

What about the winners? Ricky and Tom are like 2 peas in a pod. Both excellent planners and strategists, but lacking any real creativity.

So, four remain. Cautious Nick, Safe-but-dull Ricky and Tom and fiery, unpredictable Jade. It will be interesting to see who has the best business idea for Sugar. Based on her enthusiasm it could be Jade, but Nick, Tom and Ricky are likely to have well thought out, if less imaginative ideas. Which way will Lord Sugar go? We will find out next week.

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2 Responses to The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

  1. Tim says:

    I think Adam was made PM because he was the only one of the five not have PM’d twice already, which was fair enough. He had done so much leading from the back that it was right to put him in the hot seat.

    I thought it was a bit unfair of Sugar and the experts to bash Modern Gentleman for being dull. The brand’s positioining was always intended to be niche, so how it looks on a supermarket’s shelves is irrelevant because that’s not where it was intended to be. At least to begin with, sales were going to be based around the flagship salon and then exclusive deals with selected resellers. Packaging is less important than brand credibility then. Equally, I thought they received a bit too much stick for their minimalist store – if you’re trying to project luxury then you don’t pile high and sell cheap, which is why high-end fashion boutiques contain virtually no stock. I’m not saying the criticisms weren’t valid, but they felt unbalanced to me.

    Anyhow, I’m sticking with Tom for the win. Jade’s enthusiasm and recent performances have transformed ger into a contender – and all credit to her for that – but passion will only take you so far in the interviews. It’s all about substance over style now.

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2012/05/31/the-apprentice-season-8-episode-11-affordable-luxury/

  2. chocbutton says:

    Good review Mark! I thought Nick has been a bit cautious as you put it through the series, but found his time in the boardroom to be weird as he said that on the whole, Jade was considerably weaker than Adam (of all people!) which I am hoping is for tactical reasons. The way in which he tried to claim credit for the fantastic deal that Jade negotiated at The Sanctuary the previous week was a bit odd, and it seems to be a new side to Nick that we have never seen before.

    I am still backing Ricky Martin for the win as he is a strong contestant (who could have predicted 11 weeks ago that we could be saying Ricky Martin will win The Apprentice?) and whilst Jade hasn’t also proven as good a contestant, there seems to be a certain spark within her that could propel her to the win, so I have earmarked her my second favourite.

    http://chocbutton.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/the-apprentice-series-8-episode-11/

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