2005-10-14

Apprentice: Big Doors and Small Hinges


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Trump - Apprentice 4This week's edition of the Apprentice was all about missed opportunities. Those who have not been faring well, the women in general and Toral specifically, had open doors to change things up. Instead, the fourth week made little difference - the men are humming right along, and the women are under-performing and making the Donald not at all happy.

The teams were tasked with creating a new mascot and accompanying ad campaign for Dairy Queen. Two execs from DQ would decide the winner.

On Team Excel, Clay volunteered to be PM and ruled with an iron fist right from the start. I'm really unsure on the outlook for Clay. His taskmaster ways rankled the team, and if things ever go sour for the men, several Excel members will be standing by to whack the guy. On the other hand, this task saw the men gain a distinct edge by doing thorough research and develop a strong presentation for the DQ execs.

Over at Capital Edge the women had unfinished business with Rebecca having unexpectedly survived last week's board room and Toral still hanging around. Toral vowed to step up and contribute, and then proceeded to half-heartedly volunteer to be PM. With her indecisiveness evident to all, Felisha stepped in and took on PM.

During brainstorming Toral offered little of value and the team quickly moved to shut her and Rebecca out. Also during that session we see Jenn M suggest a t-shirt for their "Zip" mascot, with the DQ logo on it. At this key moment the rest of the team decided to go sans the trademark "DQ." En route to the costume designer we see the anti-Toral faction patting themselves on the back for coming up with such a good idea.

The final nail in Toral's coffin came when she was asked to wear the costume for her team's presentation and she refused. She would ultimately oscillate between several excuses; culture, religion, etc. The long and the short of it was that she saw this as something foolish and she wasn't up for it.

The DQ execs found Excel's female Genie a bit risky, but appreciated the way their target market, teens, was addressed and the way the DQ brand and their Blizzard product were tied in. Capital Edge's presentation was weak to begin with, but even a solid idea would not have survived the absence of brand identification. Another big win for the men. Toral adopted an "I told you so," attitude and seemed pleased with the results.

In the board room, after spending a few moments on the current task, the target shifted to Toral whose weak and lame answers to the attacks only dug her in deeper. In the end, even Rebecca had to admit that she'd fire Toral. There was no board room after the board room this week. With all of Capital Edge present, Trump suddenly brought an end to Hurricane Toral, and for the second week in a row, shooshed the team out with a disgusted, "Get out!"

Here's the thing. Had a couple of small decisions gone the other way things would be very different right now.

For Toral, had she just put on the freakin' costume for fifteen minutes, she would have been a board room after thought and one of her detractors would certainly have been sent home. No branding was the critical mistake and that fell squarely on Felisha. Unfortunately, "I told you so," isn't an out when you're a part of the team that went down. Sure, Toral wasn't part of the problem, but she also wasn't part of an effort to identify and fix the problem. Her lame excuses didn't help anything.

For the women ... branding! How do you get through Marketing 201 and not know better? I was trying to think of an example where this has come up before and couldn't come up with any. Probably because this is so basic. If nothing else, you can infer its importance by how staunchly corporate execs defend and promote their brand when they are on the show.

Put the "DQ" on Zip, and the women have a slight chance of winning, although they also fell short when they appealed to kids where teens are the demographic DQ is aiming at. Worst case, this task simply goes down as "both teams did a great job, but someone had to win," episode. Instead, for the second week in a row the women lost big, and this time they did it by running afoul of some very basic business principles. Toral may have bought someone some time, but all of the women have fallen a notch in the Donald's eyes.

Outlook:

Of the women, from what we've seen so far, only Rebecca has the potential to win. Unfortunately, it would also not be surprising to see her fall in the next couple of weeks. She lost some political capital when she stood up for Toral. Plus, the women were shutting her out. That may change now that Toral is gone. If not, it will be hard for Rebecca to shine. On the other hand, unless things change, we'll probably have a team shake-up in the near future. If Rebecca can survive the funk that currently envelops Capital Edge, she'll go far.

Jenn M alone (unsure of Rebecca's input) recognized the need for brand identification. But, this episode demonstrated her key weakness - weakness. She is not good at asserting herself. Before the board room, she privately acknowledged that Toral was not to blame for losing this task. But, when the fighting starts, Jenn M is seldom heard.

Of the men, it's hard to count anyone out at this point. Josh is my favorite simply because of his candor. He's doing a pretty good job of laying low and staying out of the line of fire without appearing to be slacking.

Markus has found his way back to the pack, and is no longer the lightning rod he started out as. Still, he's just back to being "one of the guys." Can he distinguish himself in a positive way without being a buffoon at the same time? Probably not.

Randall continues to be steady and solid. He'll go far.

Clay was the guy we learned a lot more about this week. He posted an impressive win and has potential. He is in a tough spot, however. Even the Donald would find his style too heavy-handed. Plus, he is not well-liked by the team. They are tolerating him while things are going well and they aren't visiting the board room. If the tide turns, Clay and Markus will become public enemies #1 and 2 on the team, simply because none of the other men seems capable of doing or saying something so majorly stupid as to draw their team-mates' ire and the Trump team's unwanted attention.

Man! I am craving a Blizzard!

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