What can we learn from The Apprentice?

This week, the contestants were challenged to come up with a brand identity for a new range of antibiotic tissues, and make a 30-second TV ad and poster.

Team 1 designed a subtle green box with hearts on it, named “I love my tissues” (‘love’ was a heart shape), and made an arty ad about ‘building relationships’ that starred Sian Lloyd and some cute school-kids.

They lost because:
- they picked an unrealistic brand name
- their pack design wouldn’t stand out on the shop shelf
- there was no pack shot in the ad
- they didn’t mention the main USP (antibacterial)
- their choice of celebrity made no sense (Sian is known as a weather-girl, and for being the ex of politician Lembit Opek who’s engaged to marry a Cheeky Girl) and most of her scenes were cut

Anyway, who has a relationship with their tissues? (Don’t answer that!)

I meet designers like those all the time. Designers who are keener to have something pretty to put in their portfolio, or to win awards, rather than something that does the job it’s intended to do. Form over function.

Team 2 came up with a great name ‘Atishu’, that works at many levels. Their box was a hideous orange. And their ad was corny but hard-hitting, with two mentions of the USP and two close-up pack shots. Function over form.

So what would I have done differently?

First, I would have gone to the supermarket and analysed existing tissue box designs. Then I would have studied the antibacterial products, to see what techniques they use to communicate their message e.g medical symbols, cartoon bacteria. I would have combined the standard elements from both for my new brand idea.

If I’d thought of the Team 2 name, I’d have written a slogan to match e.g. ‘Can I have Atishu?’ or ‘Atishu? Bless you!’ Or maybe I’d call the tissues ‘Anti-B’ and promote them with ‘Ant & Bee’ characters from the children’s books. In the pitch presentation, I might even suggest stretching the brand to include ‘Ask Anti-B’ with Kind Dog (or was it Friendly Dog?) as an agony aunt, answering questions about hygiene and health!

Next, I’d write a storyboard for the ad, knowing the maximum number of words that can fit per second, and that with film you can have pictures without words but not words without pictures. I’d consider a range of situations where tissues are used – perhaps blotting lipstick, mopping tears at a weepy film, fluttering from a lady’s handbag and being caught and returned to her by a romantic hero (as handkerchiefs used to be), beside the bed (!), wiping a snotty kid’s nose. And if I wanted a celebrity endorsement, I’d write the script to suit them (if it was a comedian, I’d probably pay them to write their own lines).

Finally, I’d play ‘devil’s advocate’, by getting the team to think of all the possible criticisms of the solution, and then fix them.

That’s a process that makes sense to me. But then, it seems common sense is not very common for the Apprentice candidates!

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