Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Guest Post: Murphy Rants About... The Apprentice S11E10

This week, we had a health snack challenge - it’s a lot like every other challenge where the contestants have to make a product and then pitch it, except in this instance, they’re making a product for a niche market. Also, a market that is at least fifty percent tosspots.

Charleine was made project manager of Connexus, while Brett was made project manager of Versatile, and the game was on. In this case, it seemed to be a game of ‘who could screw up what isn’t, actually, a tremendously complicated challenge the most.’

Versatile decided to make energy bars, called ‘Rejuvenate Bars’, which is a solid idea, actually. I’m not even a big health food nut, and I still buy Nakd bars and Trek bars whenever I can, because they are legitimately delicious. They then quickly decided to have a superfoods focus, which is where things got frustrating.

Let us be entirely clear here: Superfoods aren’t a thing. Not a single reputable scientific source backs up the idea of ‘superfoods’ being a meaningful term, because most of the supposed health benefits are total bullshit. Acai berries, for example, are not actually better for you than blackberries, but grocers will market acai berries as a superfood and sell them for three or four times the cost.

And Versatile just never seemed to get this. As various snake oil merchants rambled total nonsense about superfoods, Versatile then went and clumsily repeated that nonsense to other people.

Well, for a time, at least. Due in large part to a failure to measure anything by Charleine, they ended up not having enough of the ‘superfoods’ in their bars to actually market them as that - something which did not get translated over to the packaging, as when relaying information to her team, Charleine just rattled off the data in a rapid-fire staccato that nobody could keep up with. They had to adjust the packaging with felt tip. Felt tip, guys.

(Gary suggested that if anybody asked, they just be up front and honest about it, marking the first and last time an Apprentice candidate has ever advocated honesty.)

In the pitching, none of the retailers were especially impressed, and all of them were dubious about the product.

Connexus, meanwhile, decided to make dehydrated vegetable crisps. If that sounds disgusting to you, then congratulations! You have taste.

They decided to market their product as ‘gluten free, vegan, and raw’, which made me roll my eyes, but if they had pulled it off, might have actually worked: If there’s anything that you can definitely say about vegans and raw food advocates, it’s that they’re wealthy, gullible, and slightly desperate.

Not to mention that Richard was actually pretty good on the branding and marketing side. They fell down when Vana, faced with a recipe that called for a little bit of olive oil, put three times the recommended amount in, something that might not have happened if Brett had bothered to actually lead his team.

The result was something that might be the oiliest, wettest thing ever described as ‘dehydrated’. I actually didn’t realise until we were shown a shot of them in the boardroom: They were dripping with oil. They didn’t look like crisps, they looked like chunks of red onion that had been soaked in a vat of oil. They looked horrible.

None of the retailers liked the product, and in the case of the first retailer, Brett’s absolutely terrible pitch (during which Richard looked like he wanted to garrote the man) didn’t help.

When the two teams got to the boardroom, Lord Sugar hated both products as well, describing the bars as being like ‘soil from Chernobyl’ and the crisps as being ‘impregnated with oil.’ In an Apprentice first, as well, both teams lost, with each team getting exactly zero orders for a sum total of zero pounds.

I wondered if maybe Lord Sugar would fire someone from the team that spent the most, or whether he’d fire someone from both teams, but instead he asked Charleine and Brett to both bring back one person each.

Charleine brought back Gary, and Brett brought back Richard. These were both terrible choices: Gary wasn’t stellar, but he made the best of a bad situation, while Richard was the only competent member of his team.

Brett was fired, but Lord Sugar did say that he was honourable, so there’s that. That means that going into interview week, we have Charleine, Gary, Richard, Vana and Joseph.

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