Why ‘The Apprentice’ is bad for business

Lord Alan Sugar of The Apprentice
Lord Alan Sugar of The Apprentice

For years I’ve been avoiding avidly watching ‘The Apprentice’. Last time I watched it, I saw them attempt a dreadful rebrand of Margate. But this week, I was asked to give it another go and I found myself hating it even more.

The group had the task of creating a new dessert product to sell into the major supermarket groups and the team who did worse only managed to create and sell 15,000 units in their allotted few days, whereas the winners sold 23,500. So why do I think this is so wrong?

1. The competitors behaviour in the boardroom was horrific. Initially they worked as teams but were encouraged and delighted by the fact that they should back stab their other team members in front of “Lord’ Sugar. I’ve been in business for a long time and maybe I’m the naive one, but a situation where the other person has to lose for you to be able to win is not a situation I recognise or respect. I don’t believe it sustains good business.

2. ‘Lord Sugar’s’ feigned ignorance was appalling. He sneered at one of the competitors for referring to their target audience as ‘grazers’ If he genuinely didn’t understand this term, is he qualified to judge such a programme?

3. The situation itself was completely ridiculous. For young people to believe that it’s the norm to pop into a development kitchen and create a new dessert without even a nod towards costing it up properly (more Saffron anyone?) is bad enough, but for them to carry on the myth by pretending they had secured pitches in front of Tesco and Waitrose is even more ridiculous. For them to pretend that they then ordered units without any production ability or drawn out negotiation just perpetuates the stupidity.

4. And then it came to the judging. The esteemed ‘Lord’ Sugar decided who he wanted to belittle first. A young lady with an idea about a healthy eating restaurant chain emanating from Sunderland was literally laughed out of the boardroom. But what had changed? That was the business idea she had pitched to get onto the programme, so when did it suddenly become something worth ridicule? It was nasty and spiteful and all to do with bullying on TV. She had been set up for that fall since she agreed to join the programme.

For me, business is built on the old fashioned values of mutual respect, trust and hard work. Throw in some luck and grasping the good opportunities that present themselves, whilst knowing which ones to pass over, is the difference between success and failure.

The Apprentice is X Factor business. Nothing to do with ANY of these business values and everything to do with creating shocking TV and making money at any cost, despite how many people you harm on the way. If this is the impression we give young people about how business behaves, in my opinion, very few of them will choose to join us. Those that do will be horrendous colleagues trained in the very worst of business behaviour.

This isn’t an apprenticeship, It’s an ugly beauty parade that’s causing harm to the future of business.

Thanks to TV Choice magazine for the picture of the pin up boy for business, Lord Sugar.

Abercrombie and Fitch is Rethinking its Brand

Mike Jeffries A&F Messed up his own company - Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke

Mike Jeffries A&F Messed up his own company – Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke

I love an article like this. Total Customer are reporting that Abercrombie & Fitch are having to remove their branding from their branded products, because it has become a turn-off for customers.

Last year, I wrote a post about their CEO Mike Jeffries treating their potential customers with huge disrespect, so I have to say whilst I’m laughing at their misfortune, I’m also reminding myself that you simply cannot ridicule your own customers.

Seven quarterly losses in a row tell quite how bad it is for them. This will eventually kill the brand, just like it did for Gerald Ratner.

Oops.

Vines – Maybe not just for the funny things in life

Vines aren't just for fun they could be for education too
Vines aren’t just for fun they could be for education too

My colleague from Notts TV Hollie Brookes sent this over to me and whilst on the surface there are no real surprises – young people prefer Vines and dominate the user stats, it does start to show that there’s an indication of more significant changes ahead.

There are a few key points in this for me.

1. It’s not just a great way for marketeers to target teens, it’s also indicative of their falling attention spans and that means we need to consider where else this impacts.

For example, does this imply that the education system needs to  consider a move towards teaching through very short video clips?

2. Does it mean that there is a general move away from long copy text? I know from my own stats on here that if I write more than 200 words, the readership drops off very quickly.

3. But look at the opportunities it presents too. The big one for me, is the question as to whether Vines could become the new mnemonics as a potential way to teach? Could the looping, repetitive nature of Vines be a great way to reinforce simple messages?

The risks in Social Media – Direct Line style

It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with social media.

We’ve lured a world famous actor to come and be our ‘face’ and recreate the look of Pulp Fiction’s Winston Wolfe.

We’ve produced a great series of TV ads with our new character ‘Mr Wolf’. They are genuinely different ads for the space in which Direct Line operate.

And then they throw it to the real wolves by using sponsored posts all over Facebook and their existing customers get hold of it.

Direct Line Harvey Keitel Mr Wolf. Social Media is more difficult to handle than you think

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are have been 224 comments in the first 14 hours and as far as I can see, every single one of them retells a story of how they have been badly treated by Direct Line or commenting on Harvey Keitel’s decision to work in the insurance market.

For me, this can be nothing but bad for the Direct Line brand. Assuming most people have 250 friends on Facebook, these negative comments have already been seen by at least 50,000 people with a negative endorsement. If you add the 223 shares, this problem could be much worse than it first looks.

Compare this to the number of views on YouTube (only 3,573 after eight days) and you can see that the negative power has been at least FIFTEEN times more effective at reaching people. It may have gone viral, but hardly the type of viral they were hoping for.

One week on and only 3,573 views for the Harvey Keitel ad on YouTube for Direct Line
One week on and only 3,573 views for the Harvey Keitel ad on YouTube for Direct Line

Social media is both friend and foe. If you open yourself up to comments and feedback on such a public platform you need to be 100% sure you can cope with the responses. The old adage of ‘never asking a question you don’t already know the answer to’ may have been a prudent way of thinking before they ran this campaign.

I suspect a few people in the team at Saatchi (who produced the campaign) will be getting an ear bashing for their decision to try and amplify the positive effect of their advertising spend by engaging with Facebook and REAL customers.

 

The truth about Paypal – Can you really trust them?

We all love Paypal don’t we? They are friendly, quirky, simple and make all of our lives easier. The ad says so.

Or so they claim.

As a seller they have a brilliant seller protection programme, that protects you from chargebacks. So far so good.Paypal Seller protection Programme

But it happened to me on my data business that I recently sold. A person in the US paid £799 for a copy of my full business database, added all of the checks and balances required to pay with a credit card online. My system sent them the email with the download code and they duly downloaded it – even to the area of the city the card was registered in.

And two hours later they started a claim for a chargeback.

It’s okay i’m protected by Paypal’s first class cheeky, chirpy seller protection programme aren’t I?

But no. I’m not. Because I didn’t POST them a disk with the data on it.

So Paypal, a business that has grown entirely to serve the digital economy in which we trade, does not protect sales of items that can be paid for and transferred digitally.

It’s all clearly explained in paragraph 11.6 on page 12 of their 31 page terms and conditions that we’ve all read. Right?

Paypal Seller protection is worthless shit

 

How can they get away with it?

Well, apparently as the goods I sold weren’t ‘tangible’ they had no value.

Any brand that has a truth which is that far from a users reality will soon get found out. It’s an untrustworthy, rotten way to do business.

So be warned. If you are selling a service, a download a digital file or anything that won’t go in a good old fashioned letter box, then maybe Paypal isn’t for you. I’m not using them for my next business, I think i’ll give Sage Pay a try instead.

 

Speaking at Blooloop Live

This was a little talk that my good friend Simon Egan and myself delivered at Blooloop Live – the best Industry event for themed attractions across the world. Whilst there is a bit of messing about in it, there’s lots of sensible points hidden in there too.

The launch of Notts TV

Notts TV Blue Duck

Today’s the day. Months of hard work, planning and prepping. Blue Ducks all over Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. Everyone clamouring to own one and be seen with the symbol of a whole new era in TV broadcasting. Millions of people reached and hours of TV produced and in the bag.

So, retune your TV’s to make sure you can see Freeview Channel Eight, sit back and enjoy the ride from 16.00 today.

It’s going to be astonishing and show what our city and the enormous bank of talent that choose to live and work here can achieve when we all work together.

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