Understanding your target market - commentary on this week's Apprentice

2nd November 2018

As featured in businessadvice

This week’s episode lacked the drama of previous episodes but we didn’t see the theatrics that have become the signature of the show replaced with any real improvement to either team’s ability to collaborate or communicate effectively. Tasked with designing, launching and selling a designer shoe, the teams needed to demonstrate a knowledge of their chosen target market, creative flair for the design and marketing of the product and of course, the ability to sell, sell, sell.

As a swimwear designer Sian was the obvious choice for team Typhoon’s project manager, but she failed to take charge of the design team, instead allowing Tom and Camilla to more or less take over. Sian needed to be less democratic in the design process. She wasn’t wrong to state that she needed the team to believe in the product to be able to sell it, but the product design failed to impress the wider team when it was revealed to them. Had the swimwear designer taken charge of the design, she could have won the buy-in of the wider team.

Another irksome moment came when the marketing sub team chose to name the brand ‘nu:switch’ which is more than a little similar to an existing brand that already dominates the sneaker market; New Balance.

It was Sian’s adaptability that eventually saved team Typhoon. Following the consumer research, Sian made the right decision in re-targeting towards a younger market, but they didn’t aim low enough. Their chosen market – teenagers – still felt a little too mature for the product. She also adapted in the sales process, realising the team needed to ditch the rigid pricing structure. However, this was not communicated to other members of the team who lost out on sales without being able to be flexible on the price.

Leading team Collaborative, Jackie chose to target a market that she showed little understanding of. In designing the urban, hip-hop inspired heels, the team signed off the final design without fully agreeing whether they had created a product any of them would want to buy themselves.

While the team had an assumed knowledge of urban culture, none of the team really seemed to be in tune with their target market. Never assume you understand a market you’ve only studied from a distance. This became evident during the consumer research when younger people said the shoes looked like something older ladies would prefer, and older ladies did indeed react well to them. I could certainly imagine Theresa May rocking a pair of Fleekies.

During the selling process Rick seemed intent on stamping out a good sales opportunity, near enough sabotaging a difficult negotiation with bridal shoe stockist. Just like last week, Rick failed to make a single sale so it wasn’t a surprise to see him go. A good sales person should never be afraid to negotiate.

Throughout this week’s task Kurran just tried too hard to show his strengths but just ended up frustrating the team’s efforts to excel. Had he been fully engaged since the beginning of the series, he wouldn’t have to be trying so hard to be noticed.