Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The One With The Sweets And The Grooming (or The Apprentice Candidates Get Drunk On Jelly)


We’re down to the final five. 

Lord Sugar says at the start of each episode that he doesn’t want a friend.  “If I want a friend, I’ll get a dog,” but which of our candidates will demonstrate they have the pedigree to be the 50/50 business partner with Shuggs?

We’re offered a fleeting glimpse of him in the round-up of the previous episode, but, for the most part, we’re without the Alien Face of Stephen this week.  And I do miss him, tis true.

As this episode opens, we’re not offered the traditional timecheck, but we see Tom, Nick and Adam still a-bed with Ricky and Jade both up and dressed, so we can presume it is “early” when the call comes.  And come it does, telling the candidates to be at Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, in 30 minutes.  Home to the finest in luxury retail for almost 200 years.  And now the scene of the next challenge for our intrepid final five.

The task

To create an affordable luxury product range, to present to industry experts and Lord Sugar.

The teams…

Tom gets put with Ricky, the sole remaining member of Sterling and they need to decide between them who is the project manager (they both want to do it, but Ricky wins).  No such choice for Phoenix - Adam is made project manager by Lord Sugar.

What luxury products will they go for?  Will Phoenix leave the decision to Adam, the market trader who thought takeaway was a good luxury option in the voucher challenge last week…  Please, no.

Sterling opt for grooming (not the sort that paedophiles favour, the sort that sees men looking and smelling like ladies).

Phoenix aren’t quite sure what they’re going to do.  Adam suggests they go for the name, identity, packaging and logo first.  Unfortunately, they haven’t chosen on a product.  They decide to go for chocolate.  Nick runs a coffee business which sells hot chocolate and says they need a clear brand and product, but Adam wants a bit of everything.  Adam decides that it will be Nick and Adam creating the brand, with Jade creating the product range.

It’s all in the name…

Ricky thinks the name could be make or break for their product.  I expect they’ll come up with something sensible, don’t you?  Ooh.  They say words like Dapper, Debonair, After Club, The Grooming Guild, Men’s Choice (eek, maybe like an adult magazine.  And I don’t think they mean one about sensible shoes or gardening, do you?).

“Choc-o-lite” suggests Adam, saying it is “quite clever”.  Nick winces his face inside-out.  “Choco-o-local” suggests Adam.  “Lovely Chocolate” suggests Adam.  “Choc Stop” suggests Adam.  Possibly he is thinking with his market trader head on – I’m expecting “Get-yer-chockerlate-here” to be the next suggestion, but, fortunately, Nick stops cringing and starts talking.  Well, I say “fortunately” because then we hear what his suggestions are, “Co-co-co”, “Co-co-cho”, “Cho-cho-cho”.  Adam (wisely) dismisses those as being “like a train” and then turns into a sheep, saying, “Chocolate Baa” over and over.  Or it may be that he’s saying “Chocolate Bar” (because he is) but I prefer to be wilfully whimsical as I rather enjoy the sheep imagery conjured up by his constant bleating of “Baa”.

They (wisely) enlist Jade’s help and she suggests “Sweet Thing” (like “Wild Thing”, she says).

The products, the branding…

The Phoenix boys head for a chocolatier and talk flavours.  Ginger, lavender, mint, lemon.  Yes, they’re definitely flavours.  Salted caramel is the best seller for him.  Karren is SCATHING of their time wasting though – they were meant to be grilling this man on his business model, not stuffing their faces.  Adam starts talking again – can he bring the conversation round to business strategy?  “Jellies?” he asks.  Hmm, no, no, he can’t.  But he does love the jellies.  Will they dilute the chocolate brand though?

On the second day of the task, they’re going to be able to test their products on a cross-section of consumers.  But, today, they’re in the empty space in the warehouse with their interior designer.

Sterling want to go for a heritage feel, using the very eye-catching colour “charcoal”.

Phoenix want to use bright colours, like baby blue (I’m unsure this is a bright colour, but, hey, we’ll see).  Jade rings when the boys are mid-conversation with their designer to confirm the product range: marshmallows, hot chocolate and chocolate discs.  Adam says “jellies” again, Nick wants to leave them out.  Adam thinks jellies are going to be the next big thing (possibly because he wants something to match his massive pink face?).  He decides that they all tie in together because they are “all sweet”.  As are honey-dipped sheep brains, but I think Adam may find eating one of them akin to cannibalism.

Jade’s at the chocolate factory, where she confides that, like any pudgy little girl, she’s always wanted to have a sweet shop.  She sets fire to some marshmallows in the chocolate factory (Willy Wonka has NOTHING to worry about).

Ricky’s at the perfume factory, where they’ve decided upon a lathering shave cream, an aftershave balm and a face moisturiser WITH anti-inflammatory properties.  Oh, yes.  As he rubs in one of the potions, Ricky says he feels like his hand is getting a bit more youthful (this, remember, is the man who came up with the strapline for fake tan “it makes your hand a bit browner”).

No brand name as yet, so Tom suggests Gentry, but Ricky says he doesn’t get it, so says maybe New Tradition (which sounds like a boy band), but they finally settle upon Modern Gentleman.  So to speak.

Phoenix are going with “Sweet Thing” as their brand name.  Jade suggests putting booze in the jellies and calling them Drunken Jellies.  The boys don’t like it, but Adam decides to go with it for the reason “we might as well”.  Because that is clearly how to make the best business decision EVER.

Tom, meanwhile, is doing some yawn-tastic branding designs – Nick Hewer isn’t impressed that Ricky’s titting about in the perfume factory whilst leaving what are the major business decisions to Tom.

Day two…

The next day dawns bright, early and drenching as the candidates leave the house in a downpour.

Phoenix: Nick says their brand is “Indulgence, luxury, ethical and fun.”  Targeting it at females, aged “15 to…old”.

Sterling: the boys are painting everything they can see charcoal grey, bookcases, backdrops, etc.  It looks a bit…well, grey.  And we all know how vibrant and fascinating a colour grey isn’t.  Will the industry leaders like it?

Phoenix: Karren is grilling the boys on their pricing strategy (careful near that chocolate with your grilling, Karren, you’ll melt it).  They’ve decided, quite firmly, to sell a cellophane bag of half a dozen or so of the chocolate discs with salted caramel and honeycomb sprinkles for £2.99.  Or £4.99.  One of those prices, anyway.  Karren does her “I’m disgusted with your answer” face.

Sterling are having shaves from a trained barber.  *Bum-fluff klaxon*  A clean-shaven Tom talks about showing people “the traditional way of grooming yourself”.  For Adam, presumably that would be at shearing time.  Ricky feels Tom’s smooth face and pronounces it “exactly what we want”.

Karren’s eyes look like shrivelled raisins of scepticism as she watches a cocktail expert help Jade to add yet more booze to the Sweet Thing experience.  It seems they’ve lost their grip on the brand thing entirely.

Punter time…

Industry experts are scattered through the would-be customers, unbeknownst to the Apprentice candidates.  Will they screw up as badly as Stephen’s masterclass in “how not to treat a corporate client” at the street art task?

Nick tells his customers that he hopes they are “the most chocolatey chocolates you’ve ever tried”.  A career in writing straplines for adverts surely beckons, post-Apprentice?  Jade, meanwhile, is getting her punters pissed on the Drunken Jellies and cocktails.

Over at Modern Gentleman, Tom’s proffering his hand to women to sniff.  Hopefully, he has some of their product on it, but that isn’t completely clear.

Ricky’s talking himself out of building the brand by telling his punters they are aspiring to be “a small shop”.  Nick Hewer calls the boys “pedestrian”.  Nice.  He also says their display is like “a closing down sale” and pronounces it “too minimalist”.

Back at the sweet shop, it’s warm and friendly, classy, bespoke, lovely.  And that’s just Adam’s massive pink face.  But the punters appear to like the sweets and drinks too.  Adam is planning world domination with products in shops, hotels, possibly the International Space Station.

Back at the barber’s, Ricky’s shaving a man who appears to have only eyebrows anyway, no other hair at all, presumably an industry expert.  Their brand is pronounced “dull”, “conservative”, the branding isn’t distinctive enough, a bit bland.

Back at the house…

The Sweet Thing team are looking at an unsaved spreadsheet of product costings for their Chocolate Puddles, Melting Spoons, Mallow Moments and Drunken Jellies.  It probably won’t mean anything that they haven’t saved it; indeed, they may be just about to, but it’s good practice to save your work BEFORE you start doing complicated sums in it, isn’t it, children?

Ricky’s trying to avoid saying anything negative at all, even the word “negative” - so he talks about receiving lots of feedback, “both positive and some very constructive”.  Come on, dear heart, they said it was frantically dull, didn’t they?

The next day…

7am dawns at seven o’clock in the morning, same as ever, and we see the candidates preparing themselves for their pitches.  Tom’s tying his tie, Adam’s shoving a toothbrush at his teeth in a strange, accusatory fashion, Jade’s eating her breakfast, Ricky’s banging on about how he didn’t sleep for worrying about the pitch and Nick’s drinking something hot and eating what may or may not be an Eccles cake (surely not).  As the camera pans out, we see that he’s sitting in what appears to be a wooden ball in the garden, surrounded by autumn leaves.  Seasonal, given that we’re watching this at the end of May.  He’s fretting about the “confused” brand and expecting some difficult questions today (perhaps “Why do you favour sitting in wooden balls?  Are you a hamster?”).

Ablutions, ruminations and mastications finished, the teams head for the warehouse in East London where they are to give their pitches.

Lord Sugar, a man who is smaller in real life than he appears on television (and he appears small on television – we’re talking BORROWER in real life), hops down from his personal number-plated Rolls Royce (AMS 1)and scampers inside, where the industry experts are already stuffing their faces with chocolate.  Representatives are there from Green & Black’s, retailers Debenhams and House of Fraser and male grooming range, Bulldog.  No Willy Wonka, though, sadly.

The teams wait nervously to do their pitches, pacing, mumbling, Phoenix not practising, Sterling doing full run-throughs.

Tom says, “to fall at this final hurdle, it would crush me”.  Perhaps like Verruca Salt and the squirrels.

Sterling are up first…

Ricky says he and Tom would both classify themselves as “a modern gentleman”.  Just the one.  Perhaps one stands on the other’s shoulders and they wear a big mackintosh over the top?  They both like to groom (OH, DEAR!), but they don’t necessarily talk much with their friends and family about their grooming methods (OH, DEAR AGAIN!).  The audience looks amused.  Or perhaps it is nervous horror?  They talk figures as they say the UK’s grooming market is worth £862 million and growing.  They want to start in Europe, which gets a nod from a colossal-nostrilled blonde in the audience.

Tom runs through their prices (£8-£10 for their products).  As he talks about their boutique shop where the shaving experience can be had, we notice the hairless man who partook of a Ricky special the previous day looking dubious.  Perhaps he was offered something for the weekend and it never materialised?

The “dull” branding is criticised, so Ricky suggests that putting it in a box may make it a luxury product.  Anybody smiles at the phrase “dick in a box” will agree that putting things in boxes makes them instantly more appealing, so he may be onto something here.

The industry experts say they liked their business strategy and thought they worked well together, but questioned the actual product, calling it “forgettable”.  I think.  I forget.

Next up, the Wonka-tastic Sweet Thing…

Jade talks about adding booze to the confectionery experience, making it a more special thing.  Adam is astonishingly nervous and his massive pink face coughs and blusters its way through different opportunities for people to purchase confectionery (he came up with birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, so he didn’t do too badly).  Jade gets asked about the cocktails they’ll be selling in their flagship London shop – will they be complementary and will that affect profitability?  No, because they’ll be one or two pounds.

Nick goes through the pricing structure (more expensive than el cheapo supermarket, but not as expensive as el posho chocolatier chocolate).  Shuggs says the flagship shops (try saying that after a Drunken Jelly or three) will clearly be loss-making and then the range is criticised for being confused.  Nick says it’s not just a chocolatier or a sweet shop, it’s both.  The industry experts are confused.

*BOARDROOM ALERT*

Lord Sugar hops up onto his chair and, swinging his legs, he asks the teams how they felt the task went.

The Bumfluff Returns
Ricky wanted to be team leader because he’s lost twice already.  But I’m distracted by Tom’s face.  His bumfluff has grown back again.  He drones on about putting product in boxes and Lord Sugar criticises their minimalistic shop front.

Phoenix are blasted for their lack of business discussion with the chocolatier by Karren.  Jade bangs on about how she came up with the name, the products, the theme tune (well, maybe not quite, but gawd, she banged on).  Karren, her voice fair dripping with scorn, criticises the boys’ names – “Choco-Holster, Chocolate Heaven, Cho-Cho-Choc”. 

The Analysis

Sterling – praised for their presentation, their research, very thorough.  Shop a bit sparse.

Phoenix – bit of a wow factor.  But as soon as they all opened their mouths, it started to go downhill a bit.

In the end, Sterling was the better business proposition, far more professional and thought out and good, justifiable winners.  No treat, because they’re going to be very, very busy, but they’re in the final.

Phoenix – lack of cohesion, no real plan, no attention to detail.  It’s late, so they get overnight to think about where it went wrong.  Oh, and a trip to the greasy spoon café too, where they realise that Adam’s lost as PM twice now.

Nick called Adam “a detriment to the whole task”.

Jade’s looking forward to going into the boardroom, because she feels she did all the good stuff in the task.

Adam…what will be will be.  He effectively (surely) signs his own death warrant by saying “It will be no way it’ll be me that goes tomorrow, no way”.  Has he never watched this show?!

*FIRING RANGE*

Where was the pricing strategy?  Above supermarket, below luxury chocolatiers.  Shuggs, “Why are you selling cheap chocolates in a luxury place and hoping they’ll end up on the mass market, when they’re too expensive for that?”  Whoops.

“The honest truth was we had very little pricing strategy,” Nick confesses.

Adam highlights what we know from Azhar (don’t think of the shorts.  Oh, too late, sorry *brain bleach*) – that people say strategy a lot when it all goes wrong, but nobody knows what it means.

Lord Sugar says the industry experts felt too many ideas diluted the brand.

Nick Hewer says Tom and Ricky drilled each other before their presentation (ahem.  Grooming, drilling – get your minds out of the gutter, you lot).  But, with Sweet Thing, there was no brand strategy, no lead product.

Nick blasts Adam.  Jade then blasts Adam.

Karren says Adam said, patronisingly, “You go off, Jade, and make us some really nice chocolates.”

Nick’s got a coffee shop, selling high-quality, ethical coffee.  So why didn’t they do high-quality hot chocolate?  Was Nick not persuasive enough?  “I did try, but I failed.”  Karren says he didn’t try that hard.

Jade made good products and came up with good ideas.  Adam hasn’t got a particular skill other than selling, but he’s very enthusiastic.  However, to see Adam’s leadership skills, Shuggs had to appoint him as the team leader.  Is Nick playing a clever game?  Why didn’t he push his ideas more?  WHY indeed.

Back to the boardroom…

Adam uses his massive pink face to say that he thinks he’s the best candidate overall (well, he would).  He says Nick’s fluked his way to the final; there are plenty of other people in the UK that are good on computers and good at logos and stuff.  Seen no special talents from Jade.

Jade says Adam’s probably the best face-to-face salesman here, but is that what Lord Sugar needs?  What about creativity, coming up with ideas?

Nick says it should be Jade who leaves, if it’s across all the tasks.

Jade defends her corner – why would these two have listened to everything she said on this last task, if they thought she was such a listless no-hoper?  GOOD POINT, spiky-eyelashed one!

Will Lord Sugar be able to fire someone who’s got the same market trader background as him?  Will he?

Yes.  Yes, he will.  He fires Adam’s massive pink face, and the rest of him too.

And I, for one, won’t miss him (well, maybe a bit).

Next week, the final.  THE FINAL.  Are we excited?  Yes, yes, we are.  It’s business plan time and Margaret Mountford’s back!  Woohoo!



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