Business and Leadership Lessons From the Apprentice – Biscuits

This week the teams were tasked with bringing another new product to market, this time biscuits, and it was clear that lessons from previous tasks had still not been learnt.

The teams were mixed again this week with Zoe taking charge of Venture and Helen Logic.

Half of the teams were sent to a development centre in Swansea where the other half were left to think about marketing and packaging.

Jim headed off to the development centre with a brief to come up with a biscuit aimed at children. Jim’s idea was to have a biscuit that had a star in the centre that went along the lines of children being rewarded with stars at school. The idea was presented to a focus group of parents and children which they like.

They came up with the name and a slogan which was ‘A Treat for Any time’, but at the same time wanted to pitch it as a treat for after school or reward. This was challenged by Natalie, but Helen over ruled really quickly and went with the idea.

Tom and Melody headed off to the development centre with an idea for a biscuit that people could share. Tom came up with an idea to put a biscuit within a biscuit, something that the focus group loved.

Zoe and Susan stayed back and created some really nice packaging, but this is where it all started to come apart.

Zoe’s packaging was very feminine and aimed as a premium product, however Tom thought he was making a biscuit for the lower market. The product didn’t match the packaging and vice versa.

Zoe wanted to go to the development centre, but the team thought that she would be better placed staying with the packaging. This means that she never saw the product or tasted it.

The team came up with the name Bix Mix with a slogan ‘Snap and Share’.

Melody was adamant throughout that they should have a target market, something which they eventually didn’t come up with.

Lord Sugar set up pitches with 3 supermarkets for their products.

First up was Sainsburys and Venture pitched their star biscuit. Feedback was that they didn’t like the slogan and the fact that the biscuit wasn’t healthy, baring in mind it was pitched at kids.

Logic’s approach was to do a role play at the pitch that left the buyers bewildered. The feedback was that they wanted to aim for the mass market, but the packaging was very feminine. They needed to identify a target market.

Next pitch was Waitrose. Logic changed their pitch to say the product was aimed at a girlie night in. They liked the concept, but didn’t like the taste of the biscuit. Feedback for Venture’s star biscuit was similar to the previous pitch – too much sugar.

Last pitch was Asda. Logic’s feedback was again about the product. They said it wasn’t indulgent enough for the girlie night in market.

For Venture, Jim bamboozled the buyers with jargon an promised the earth in terms of advertising.

In the board room, there was nil orders for Venture’s Bix Mix, but Logic had an order for 800,000 units providing they gave exclusivity to Asda.

In the board room discussion about what was to blame for Venture’s failure, it came back to the product, the disparity between the product and packaging and having no target market.

Zoe got fired this week because she should have been at the design centre to sign off the product.

So, some very similar lessons to previous weeks:-

Pick your target market – Not sure how may times I’ve said this but it is so important. Venture tried to deliver to the mass market, and not to a specific area meaning they had no aim for the product.

The leader needs to clearly communicate the vision and the direction to take – It is the leaders responsibility to communicate the vision to the team ensuring that everyone is heading in the same direction. The leader needs to point out that direction to everyone other wise people will go where they think is right. This happened in this task where there was disparity between the product and the packaging.

The Leader has to admit their mistakes and learn from them – Zoe didn’t give the direction, communicate the vision and ensure that everyone understood it. The leader has to admit this is their error and be accountable for it if it goes wrong.

Ensure your brand is clear – Again a mistake from Venture in that their packaging didn’t clearly sell the concept of their snap and share biscuit. Your brand and packaging must clearly show the concept.

The Leader needs to make the final sign off – This didn’t happen in this task, for both teams. The Leaders stayed with the packaging design. The packaging could look great, but if the product inside is not of the right quality, it won’t sell.

And finally……

Learn lessons from previous projects – In this task, the same mistakes were being made from previous tasks. Everyone should learn from mistakes and ensure that steps are taken so they don’t happen again.

Next week, another selling task. The teams need to sell products from a warehouse, learn which sell best, re-invest their takings in more stock, sell that on so on.

Until next week

David