- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 27, 2004

And then there were six. Last week, in Donald Trump’s NBC reality TV show The Apprentice, it was down to 6 candidates with a very subjective assignment. Once again, moving away from profits, the winning teams would be decided by an opinion. Although both teams worked genuinely hard on the project, Mosaic lost and Trump reminded them that success has many fathers while failure is always an orphan. Project Manager, Andy, the 22-year Harvard Debate Champion, got the Trump-A-Dump because he was unable to grasp the magnitude of his role both in the Board Room and out.

Apex started as the bigger team with four (Kevin, Ivana, Jen and Kelly) but instead of bonding there was immediate strife because the ladies. Both Ivana and Jen wanted to be anointed Project Manager. Kelly solved that squabble by putting all of their names in a hat and drawing himself. And, although this ladies pow-wow had no effect on the task (Jen was shoved over to Mosaic when Trump asked Kelly to “give someone up” to even out the teams), ironically, it became the root of the eventual Board Room scene.

Episode Update:

There shouldn’t have been a lot of moving parts in this task but overly-energized and Pepsi-drinking pumped up Andy couldn’t help himself. His team designed a bottle and campaign that required a manual to understand. Their campaign would draw out geography-eager consumers by introducing Pepsi-Edge as the “best of both worlds” with collectable “country” bottle caps that would build continents and a bottle with globe and ocean colored shrink-wrap covering the soda. Not only did they turn the package into a mystery product and design an academic theme that defies the “cool and youthful” image of Pepsi - but they ignored required marketing features like keeping the bottle size in regulation with current cup holders in cars or movie theaters.

Andy, Jen and Sandy created chaos while Kelly, Ivana and Kevin stayed simple pushing the envelope with their contemporary design. Apex wanted this Pepsi bottle to catch the eye of the consumer by being different yet even more practical. The word EDGE was spelled out in plastic on the bottle with a hole running through it that could hold a coupon, movie ticket, personal or promotional item. By carving out the letters but keeping the bottle clear, the Pepsi-Edge product could still be seen and by keeping the bottom regulation size, they would be a contender for autos and movies. After conducting a brief focus group with his own marketing “apprentices”, Pepsi Chief Marketing Officer, David Burwick, called Donald Trump and announced that Apex was the clear winner with their exciting idea. Rewarded on their speed, the winners were flown on Trump’s helicopter to the Poconos Race Track and each one was given a Lamborghini to drive. In the Board Room, there were no broken wheels on this 3-person team, only a broken idea, so Andy took the heat and went from the suite to the street.

Lesson 1.

Know your customer and your customer’s customer. Theoretically, the task was designed to pass the test of Pepsi executives. However, the real test was to design a product that would appeal to the consumer. They ignored the current Pepsi-branding of exciting and hip and ignored the needs of the consumer by creating a useless-sized package and a complicated promotion. Neither layer of customer was satisfied.

Lesson 2

Motivation is in the eyes of the employee. When hungry employees are presented with $100 bills that they cannot immediately spend or hot delicious pizzas that they can immediately eat…they want the food. Andy’s cash attempts to keep the designers happy and excited about the concept were more about motivating him than the staff. Acting like a big-shot by flaunting $100 bills made him feel good but did not motivate the employees which were more focused on lunch than their bank accounts.

Lesson 3.

Stand up for yourself. Sandy knew she was being dumped on because it was a convenient choice for both Andy and Jen. But she didn’t take it. In the Board Room, she make it clear that her firing should be merit-based and if she didn’t deserve it she shouldn’t get it. Andy’s failure to respond to her and stand up for his reasons led to his own firing. In this case, it wasn’t about the losing but how you chose to fight.

In the next episode, we are down to five and it is starting to get very personal. Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles and careers. You can listen to Jay Whitehead on web-radio every Tuesday 5pm to 6pm EST when he hosts Won on Won with Whitehead on www.businessamericaradio.com. This week the guest will be Season 2 Apprentice, Bradford Cohen. Email your questions and comments to [email protected]

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