The Apprentice blog: Episode Eleven

“Jellies are the new big thing, they’re going to be big”

Even in a recession, Lord Sugar says, there’s a market for luxury products. Not actual luxury like a Rolls-Royce or a Spanish villa, but “affordable luxury”, like a nice watch or triple-ply loo roll.

This week, for the semi-final of The Apprentice, Lord Sugar wanted the teams to tap into this market for affordable luxury by creating a new brand for it, along with a range of products and a prototype store. They had to pitch their ideas to Sugar and his industry experts, who would decide which brand was the best.

Ricky and Tom formed Team Sterling, with Ricky boldly stepping forward to lead the team/Tom. After noticing how gosh-darned good-looking they both are, they decided to focus on male grooming. “How you dress is very in style at the moment” Ricky complimented his colleague, “Yeah, I agree” Tom returned modestly.

Team Phoenix, led by Adam, chose luxury chocolate for their brand, but struggled to come up with a name. Adam, who rather than thinking outside the box has taken up permanent residence within it, offered such on-the-nose delights as ‘Lovely Chocolate’ or ‘Chocolate Bar’. Nick, meanwhile, had begun speaking in tongues. Sadly whatever divine power had taken him wasn’t a branding expert either, as he produced such incomprehensible noises as CocoaCo and ChoChoCho. They were unimpressed with Jade’s idea of ‘Sweet Thing’, but could find no alternative.

Tom and Ricky also had a hard time with their name, ending up with ‘Modern Gentleman’ for their range of shaving products. Tom, clearly sensing the need for continuity, matched this grey name with a grey logo and somegrey packaging, ready to be presented in their prototype store. Which he and Ricky painted grey.

For Phoenix, it wasn’t so much their branding that was the problem as the products themselves. There was no cohesion or lead product amongst their chocolates, hot chocolates and jellies. Adam had been quite insistent that they included jellies, describing them as the “next big thing”, like they were 3D TV or One Direction. With the right management, jellies might just crack America.

Sugar and his cohorts picked up on both team’s flaws. Even Ricky, channelling the spirit of Sweeny Todd with his cut-throat razor, wasn’t enough to liven up Sterling’s monochrome store. However, Ricky and Tom impressed with a very good pitch, and had a clear business model. Whilst the individual products of ‘Sweet Thing’ were good, Team Phoenix were let down by their unconvincing figures and their confusing range of products.

This all meant that back in the boardroom, it wasn’t all that surprising when Lord Sugar decided to give Ricky and Tom the win and a place in Sunday’s final. Consequently, either Adam, Nick or Jade would fall at this last hurdle, with Nick and Jade blaming Adam for the failure of the task. Adam wasn’t going down without a fight though, and told Lord Sugar that Nick had “fluked himself” this far, whilst Jade had “no special talents”.

But, as Jade pointed out, despite her apparent lack of discernible talent, Adam had gone with a lot of her decisions on this task. Although I would argue that the name ‘Sweet Thing’ is not quite as remarkably “forward thinking” as Jade kept suggesting, but simply sufficiently less crap than ‘Lovely Chocolate’.

However, Lord Sugar made it clear he was looking beyond just this task. He admired Adam’s ambition, his aggression, his enthusiasm (and presumably his occasional chauvinism); Nick had been a good strategist throughout; and Jade had a lot of passion. At this point I was worried Lord Sugar was going to send them all through, and was readying my shoe to throw at the television in disgust.

Until, at last, Lord Sugar came up with a name. “’re fired” he revealed, causing the Northerner to break out into a slightly deranged smile. Jade and Nick could smile too, with £250,000 closer than ever. “Well, if you ever need a salesman!” Adam joked, quite humble in defeat, only to be met by his Lordship’s stony face. Smiling is clearly one luxury Lord Sugar can’t afford.

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