The Apprentice 2014 Week 7 – Bitter Sweet Drinks

empire-state-building-19109_640The Apprentice 2014 Week 7 – Bitter Sweet Drinks

This year’s foreign trip sees half of each team going to New York to try and “launch” a new soft drink into the US Market. However, although this task bears similarities to last week’s Board Games task, the crucial difference was the possible effect the time difference would have on communication between sub-teams.

In Tenacity, there’s an immediate battle between board room survivors from last week; Mark Wright and Lauren Riley both want need to be PM as both were accused of ducking the task by Lord Sugar. Both use what turns out to be “exaggeration” to try and secure the role, but whereas Lauren’s extensive knowledge of New York is based on only 4 visits, Mark does NOT have a background in advertising. Mark gets the vote and again he has managed to manipulate things to his advantage. Now we will see what he is made of.

Over in Summit,personal branding expert Bianca Miller gets the role of PM for the first time.

The first task of each PM is to decide who stays and who goes…to New York. The UK sub-teams will design a drink based on the brief agreed and the US sub-team will road test the product, shoot an advert and pitch to an advertising agency.

For Tenacity, it is no surprise that Mark puts himself in a different sub-team to Daniel Lassman, given their strained relationship. However, he does offer them “100% support” for any decisions they make. Katie Bulmer-Cooke stays with Daniel. Mark takes lawyers Felipe Aviar-Baquero and Lauren with him to NY.

Summit PM Bianca leaves Sanjay Sood-Smith with the creative Roisin Hogan and takes James Hill and Solomon Akhtar to the Big Apple.

Ultimately, the task will be decided less on the recipe of the drink, and more on its branding and advertising. Tenacity go for a healthy drink and Summit for an energy drink. Both products are British versions of what the teams think Americans will buy. This is followed up by excruciating adverts which are at best stereotypical but border on insulting. Surely, the teams would have been better drawing on their UK heritage and pitching a UK product?

Both PMs are disappointed by the products produced and shipped to New York ,and the brief market testing does not give either any confidence. What is interesting, though, is the  different approach that the 2 PMs take; Mark maintains his “Laissez-Faire” leadership style (more abdicate than delegate) whereas Bianca becomes much more Autocratic and directive.

The time difference always meant that immediate feedback and course correction to the product recipe had to be taken on trust, but this would be true if both teams were based in the UK. What needs to be clear in any situation is that the brief the recipe sub-team is working to is clear and as unambiguous as possible. As the PM can’t be in 2 places at once, the recipe has to be less of an issue in this task. The PM can be more hands on with the UK sub-team around the branding (log, packaging, digital advert etc.) and part of the pitching process. This is the right way to proceed.

At the pitches, Mark’s decision to be accompanied by 2 lawyers is interpreted by the Madison Avenue audience as safe and cautious. Lauren fluffs her lines, just about  the only thing Mark has allowed her to do. Given that she wanted to be PM, perhaps she should have pushed to be sub-team leader in the UK? Their advert, directed by Felipe at least has some energy to it.

The Summit pitch is better, but the advert is boring and does not convey enough energy, given the type of drink and market they are aiming at. The decision not to include music is misplaced.

Both teams design Digital adverts for Times Square. Again, the Big Dawg energy drink of Summit looks better than the insipid yellows of Tenacity’s Aqua Fusion.

Back in the boardroom, Sugar uses all of the available feedback from the Advertising agency and his aides to decide that Summit win the task. Mark has no problem in choosing Lauren to come back. However, how does he choose between Katie and Daniel? Was it ever in doubt that he would choose Daniel?

Mark comes under pressure for the poor product and the decision to take 2 lawyers for the pitch in New York. He gets support from Nick Hewer for his project management, but his “100% support” for Daniel lasts about 1 minute as he blames him for the poor product. This doesn’t hold water (sorry) as his choice of Daniel over Katie is based on personal feelings and no evidence. In a surprise tactic, Daniel points the finger of blame at Lauren. Mark agrees that she did little, and made a mistake in the pitch. Both men survive and Lauren ends up fired.

Lauren Riley was fired this week. No commercial acumen. Courtesy of BBC

Lauren Riley was fired this week. No commercial acumen. Courtesy of BBC

Once again, the firing is based more on Sugar’s instinct that he can’t see Lauren as a viable business partner than on this task in particular. It’s hard to disagree with this. A good tour guide, but no commercial acumen. If the decision was based on this week, then Mark should probably have been fired. He said as much during the programme.

The star of this week’s programme was probably Roisin for her creativity and calmness when Bianca got autocratic . The contrast with the emotional Sanjay was clear to see, but does she have what it takes to win? Remember, in Week 3 (Fragrances) Roisin lost as PM and demonstrated some poor commercial skills. She looks the best of the bunch so far, but has she learned from her past mistakes? Katie is another good, quiet candidate, but it’s hard to see a winner from the boys.

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The Apprentice 2014 Week 6 – Relationship Woes

board-48117_640The Apprentice 2014 Week 6 – Relationship Woes

At the end of last week’s exciting episode of Soap Reality TV show The Apprentice, the hostility between team “mates” Mark Wright and Daniel Lassman was out in the open. It was always going to be interesting to see how it would impact on this week’s task. We weren’t disappointed. Instead we were treated to a clash of 2 different strategies, played out in almost Shakespearean tones. Or Cane and Abel if you prefer a biblical reference. Mark is not alone in team Tenacity in not trusting Daniel, but he is the one stoking the fire. For his part, Daniel is so blunt and direct, it is easy to see how he unites his team against him.

The task this week is to design a board game, and Mark manages to manipulate branding assistant Pamela Uddin to lead a task nobody wants to. Tenacity have their PM. After last week’s narrow escape, multiple business owner James Hill chooses to become PM for Summit and immediately demonstrates his style – decisive and paternalistic – by choosing the type of game – fun and educational for the family.

Meanwhile, back in Tenacity, Mark suggests a game based on relationships. Sub teams are set, with James again showing his decisive, direct style. Half of each team  go off to do at some market research, half start to design the game.

The challenge in marketing here is that if you take one idea – like both teams did –  and it isn’t liked, then you have nowhere else to go and you’ve lost a lot of time – so either go out with an open mind and no fixed idea, or give the focus group some choice and measure preference. Both teams opt to take out a single offering. Summit’s idea about a geography based family game is well received, Tenacity’s idea of a dating game is not. Tenacity PM Pamela, in a fatal error that will ensure no brand assistant manager loses the word “assistant” in their job title, decides to ignore the market research and go with their idea “The Relationship Guru”. This is her first mistake. Her second is to allocate Daniel to write the questions (which are based on subjective, not objective data, so are guaranteed to annoy and cause argument) without checking every single one. In these two decisions, Pamela has almost guaranteed that she will be fired if Tenacity lose the task.

And so it proves to be. In a rare case of everything turning out just as it appears to be unfolding, Summit win the task by almost double the sales to shops and big chains compared to Tenacity. James led the task well, but it helped to have a good idea, well thought out and in line with what the target audience – both retail and public -would buy. In this respect, accountant Roisin Hogan came across well and deserves a lot of credit.

In the boardroom, Pamela chooses to bring Daniel (no surprise) and “glamorous solicitor” (sounds illegal) Lauren Riley back. Despite Pamela trying to push the blame on Daniel, the combination of his direct-in-your-face street fighting defence, and Lauren’s steely cross examination, as well as a poor performance as PM, it is the end for Pamela and she is rightly fired. Both Daniel and Lauren receive warnings about future conduct from the judge Lord Sugar, but they survive. After a poor week as PM last week, and with Sugar’s warnings about his need to take feedback ringing in his ears, Daniel lives to fight another week.

Pamela Uddin, Inept Branding Assistant and PM was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Pamela Uddin, Inept Branding Assistant and PM was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Back in the house, Mark is telling everyone why it is unlikely that Daniel will survive, as the failure of the task and the woes of the world in general are down to last week’s PM. The look on his face is priceless when a humbled Daniel walks into the room. I have been a fan of Mark in this series, and once again this week his salesmanship is outstanding. However, the way he tried to manipulate things this week and his modus operandi in general are now out in the open for all to see. He is as scheming and determined as Daniel, but is pretending to be a team player – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or should that be a dingo? It will be interesting to see what happens when he is PM. And this must be soon, as Sugar has cottoned on to his tactics. Maybe a change in strategy? Cane and Abel Part 3 is next week…