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Old 22nd April 2005, 03:01 AM
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The Apprentice

If you run a business, deal with a business at all, or work for a living, it's a good idea to watch The Apprentice. For example, we are trying to develop a marketing strategy at work for one of our divisions (that is making it sound more than it is, but oh well ) and so I've been thinking about/reading about marketing development and strategies, etc. in articles and then I watched The Apprentice tonight. Classic example of what most of the articles are talking about.

The challenge was to design a new office product for Staples, that would reduce desktop clutter. Here is the blow-by-blow how it went:

Team Net Worth:

Net Worth (They ended up making a sort of desk with a glass top that opened, kind of like a grade-schooler's school desk):

1. Went to the production lab first
2. Called people at random about their needs, and
didn't really reach anyone
3. Did not meet with their client (the Staples
executives, who were judging the product)
4. Based design on what they *thought* the client
needed, focusing on features rather than benefits; instead
of trying to improve an existing product, they tried to invent
something completely new
5. During product demonstration they focused on features
(glass top) rather than benefits. They bragged that their
idea was "completely new." Many people in the
focus group pointed out an obvious flaw in their
design (the in/out box was under glass where you
couldn't get to it if you set things on top of the
desk - slide-out trays would have worked better per the
focus group suggestions)

Team Magna (They basically took 4 "stackers" and put them together on a lazy Susan thing that would sit on the desk top):

1. Had a short brainstorming session (which in the
end didn't accomplish anything for them at this
2. Went to meet with the client (Staples executives)
first, and the clients suggested that instead of trying to invent
something new, the instead improve an existing product
3. Walked around a Staples store and talked to
customers about their needs as they were making
purchases (this is where their idea came from, because
they actually *saw* people buying "stackables" in mass
quantities and then thought they might improve up them)
4. Based their design on what they *saw* the customer
needed/wanted, rather than a guess
5. Product demonstration - brilliant: they set up a
"scenario" where one team member walked the other team
member through how the product worked, rather than
just explaining features. Instead of focusing on
features, they *showed* the benefits


Basically, both teams accomplished the same benefit -
reduced clutter on the desktop. Magna's product was technically
better at achieving this goal, but Net Worth's also did achieve the goal as well. Overall, Net Worth's product was large, and costly to produce, ship, and store inventory-wise. Magna's product, on the other hand, was compact (and they even talked about keeping it compact during their development phase), cheap to produce (all made of plastic), and can be shipped/stored cheaply in quantity. Yet both provided roughly the same benefit to the customer. Clearly, by focusing on customers want and the market demands, team Magna trounced team Net Worth (who focused on production capabilities). The
market development that Magna carried out is exactly the course of action that is in some of the marketing material I've read recently.

So, it was interesting to watch this tonight. Who says TV can't be educational?

"No arsenal, no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."
-- Ronald Reagan
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