3 Marketing Lessons from The Apprentice Series 8

The BBC’s, highly popular, ‘The Apprentice‘ series involves 16 candidates – divided into two teams – taking part in a series of business tasks, after which typically one person from the losing is fired.  The eventual winner of the show wins £250,000 to set up a business in partnership with Lord Alan Sugar.

Besides being great fun to watch, the show also has some great lessons for marketers.  Here are three that I think stand-out from the most recent series:

1) The importance of getting a brand/product name right

I have been a long believer that a good name of a brand can never be responsible for the success of the said brand, but a bad name is frequently the major cause of an unsuccessful brand. Unfortunately, Stephen Brady learnt this the hard way.

During episode 3, ‘Condiments’, and episode 9, ‘English Bubbles’, Stephen came up with two very poor brand names.  In the former episode, Stephen named an Italian sauce ‘Belissimo’ (below) – rather than ‘Bellissimo’, which is Italian for very beautiful.

The result of this was a product that looked very unprofessional, and was disliked when the team tried to sell the product to Italian restaurants; this meant that they could only target less-knowledgeable consumers, and not sell in both Business-to-Business markets and Business-to-Consumer markets.

In addition to this, in the latter episode ‘English Bubbles’ Stephen decided to call a new English Sparkling wine ‘Grandeur’, which is French for ‘splendor’.  This was a stupid decision, as it obviously contradicts the whole brand position of the English drink – see my post on Provenance Paradox.  A name does not need to describe the product – such as Google or Apple – but it must not be misleading and should be coherent with the other elements of the marketing mix.

2) The importance of interactive marketing

According to the services marketing triangle (below), successful marketing involves three facets.  External marketing involves marketing communications, such as advertising or public relations; internal marketing concerns motivating and training employees; lastly, interactive marketing is how front line employees interact with customers and the purchase/consumption environment.

The fourth episode ‘Junk Shops’ showed how interactive marketing can increase consumers’ perceptions of quality and allow firms to increase profit margins.  In the episode contestants had to source second-hand products that were considered ‘junk’ and sell them for a profit in London’s ‘hip’ East End.

To make these junk products appear to be trendy – besides making minor improvements to them – both teams created a retail space that had ‘hip’ connotations.  Some of the methods used included adding dead leaves to the store, using minimalistic merchandising and, lastly, all contestants had to truly admire and believe in what they were selling.  Showing true passion for the products is often what made consumers part with their money.

3) The importance of having a clear brand image

In episode 12, ‘Affordable Luxury’, the two competing teams had to create a new good-value luxury brand.  One team went for a new male grooming brand, while the other created luxury confectionary – or was it chocolate? – what about the cocktails? – and jelly was also being sold for good measure.  The brand under which these products were sold was ‘Sweet Thing’.

Although the team’s flagship store – which represents the brand – had great atmosphere and entertainment, there was simply too many products being sold.  This meant that no one product stood out and the overall brand was diluted.  Ultimately, the male grooming brand won .  Hence, despite the male grooming brand image was very dull in comparison, it was far more consistent and clear, which is critical when launching a new brand.

In summary the three points to take home are: 1) brand names need not be amazing, but can undermine other elements of the marketing mix; 2) interactive marketing is often more important than internal and external marketing; 3) clarity in brand images is critical.


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  1. Great post! Really like how you’ve related these issues to marketing theory.


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