The Apprentice episode nine: A hard lesson in how people buy brands, not facts

Dan Martin
Former editor
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David Buttress, managing director of online takeaway ordering service, reviews the latest episode of The Apprentice. 
After two weeks of sales oriented tasks it was a relief to see a something that challenged their other business skills. Tasked with creating a new image, website and online marketing campaign to "raise awareness of English sparkling wine" the teams seemed split between experts (wine, online and marketing) and upstarts, with Tom and Ricky leading the teams.
Tom's wine expertise won his team around. It's certainly a sign of the remaining candidates' qualities; four weeks ago this would have caused outrage and arguments, instead their professionalism shines through as they value the experience over selfishness – an important quality to any start-up where skill and knowledge should always be valued over squabbling over who gets to be in charge.
Although there wasn't much time to bask in this impressive display of business skill as Tom, the self-proclaimed wine expert, spent the day with Adam wine-tasting and getting drunk! Unless you're an advertising executive in 1960s America, this is generally frowned upon.
On the other team, Ricky quickly organised and motivated his group, while Stephen continued his 'one step forward and two steps back' technique of one smart point followed by two rubbish ideas. Reminding the team of the importance of brand name ("if there was one word that signified English sparkling wine, what would it be?") he came up with "chink" and "grandeur". Unsurprisingly the first was discarded but the second was popular enough to become their wine brand name: a French word for an English wine, their first of many silly errors.
For all the talk of "online marketing campaign", I was a little disappointed that this amounted to little more than the teams making a video advert designed a website. Where was the talk of Google adwords? Email marketing SEO and keyword targeting? Outreach to food & drink bloggers? It seemed that their "awareness" campaigns didn't actual involve trying to make people aware of the site they'd created.
It's perhaps foolish to point out, after all entertainment will always be the show's first aim and the candidates struggling to make an advert will always be more fun to watch then them sat huddled around a computer screen designing a newsletter, but it's important for entrepreneurs to remember that you can have the smoothest and best looking site in the world but it amounts to nothing if people aren't actually visiting your site.
By the time they presented their website and advert to the judges, both teams had created rather terrible adverts (but terrible in different ways). Ricky repeatedly mentioned "quality" only to show an embarrassing, cringe-worthy and unfunny advert created by Jenna. While on Tom’s team Jade had made the most boring advert possible. (or "" as Lord Sugar joked).
It was ultimately Ricky’s team's poor advert that let them down and lost them the task, despite having excellent packaging (Gabrielle's rose glass was an excellent idea, combined with Stephen's "less fizz, more sparkle" tag) their advert was completely disconnected from their proposed brand image.
Ricky's talk of David versus Goliath was admirable entrepreneurial spirit as being an entrepreneur is often about not being afraid to stand up the big boys and take them on at their own game; however in his case it perhaps masked an actual fear that the other team were likely to win with expertise on their side. Lord Sugar certainly saw it that way and Ricky's "defeatist" attitude nearly lead to his firing.  But it was Jenna that was kicked out of the boardroom, ultimately the terrible advert being the key to their failure.

Despite that I cannot fault Jenna too much. The ad may have been terrible but it was a daring and original idea. Tom's advert didn't stand out from any other sparkling wines and certainly wouldn't get you interested in the product or provide any cut through in the market. If you're selling a product or service that already exists, your advert needs to do more than give a list of awards and mention the word "quality" for people to be interested in it. People buy brands, not facts. 


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