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Don’t they make it look easy?

Well… they do some of the time.

Whether or not you agree that The Apprentice showcases some of the UK’s best entrepreneurs, you have to admit that it is impressive watching Lord Sugar’s minions throwing together some quite decent brands in much less than a day. It’s no small feat.

If you’re doing some DIY branding for your own company at the moment there are some great lessons to learn from the successes and catastrophes over the series.

Let’s take a look at the 4 lessons you can take away from the series so far…


First things first – Think like your customer if you want to sell

It’s a harsh truth, but your customers don’t actually care about you or your business. They only care about what you can do for them, the problems you can help them solve and the benefits you can bring to their lives. This is the knowledge you need to utilise in your brand offering if you want to sell.

Neil is the King of using this technique. He always zeroes in on what the product can do for the customer. In the Caravan task for instance (probably the hardest selling task) he focuses on two main points

  • The product is the perfect balance between a tent and a campervan
  • It only takes 5 minutes to put up

So what does that mean? It means that the product is about removing hassle and saving time. That’s what the customers are interested in, that is what appeals to them. That’s what you need to emphasise – just like Neil does.

Behind every great sales pitch, there's a Neil Clough like attitude to finding benefits for your customers


The heart of a successful brand has to be firmly rooted in what appeals most to your ideal customer to make them want to buy your product or service.

You can see this thinking behind every brand that the candidates put together. For instance, in the stall to shop task last week Myles, Neil and Jordan named their ceramic art gift shop ‘Casa Unique’, because their items appealed to people who want to buy unique, stylish items and be a trendsetter who’s a little different.

Ah, but didn’t they lose that task? Yes they did – and here’s why.

You have to make sure you’ve got the right customer in mind

If you target the wrong person (no matter how well you connect with them) you’re going to fall flat. There is no point in pitching to someone who doesn’t want to buy your product, who has no need for your service, or who simply isn’t in the area you cover.

Case in point: Deadly Dinners

For the parent who wants to poison their child. Ummm.... maybe not the best idea


Myles made a fatal error in the Ready Meals task and he did take the rest of his team down with him. Why? Because he was building his brand around the wrong customer.

Deadly dinners appealed fantastically to the children who were eating it, but not to the parents who were buying it. Now, it is true that the opinions of the children were important, but it was a mistake to focus primarily on what would appeal to them.

In B2B marketing especially it’s common to come across gatekeepers that you need to appeal to before you get to pitch to the decision maker. But it’s killer to target your brand at the gatekeepers when they aren’t the end-buyers.

However, there is one thing that you can say about Deadly Dinners that is a (partly) saving feature: it’s executed very well indeed.

Is that important?

You can bet your bottom dollar that it is.

Make sure you follow through on the details

Professional execution is vital. Without it you’ll instantly lose credibility, and getting those sales will be so much harder.

What’s more, those details have to be coherent throughout your entire business if you want any chance of future sales.

Francesca learnt that lesson the hard way when she lost the ‘Away day’ task. She set the day up as having a ‘schools’ theme but the participants didn’t see the evidence, and it didn’t make sense to them or live up to the hype. The result? No one would ever book another away day with this company again.

So you're saying that flamingos don't remind you of school Nick?

 Lastly: Assumptions – who do they make an ass of?

Yup. You got it right. So make sure you aren’t making any silly assumptions.

In the Online Dating task Jason, Luisa & co were on the right track targeting an older demographic, but they killed all the potential by making silly assumptions about what their target market was like. And they most certainly didn’t like being talked down to.

Ah, I think you have me mixed up with my Grandmother...

(Hint – for a good start don’t be prejudiced, don’t be bigoted and don’t stereotype when profiling your ideal customers. You’re better than that you know!)

So the next time you’re doing a brand brainstorm, just keep in mind what golden branding lessons the brilliant Alan Sugar is etching into the mind of his business partner.

The branding bits they never do properly on The Apprentice

Of course they can never do a proper job in one day. There are a few bits which you often see hashed or missed out including:

  • Nuanced brand values (definitely a must to get strong designs)
  • Mission statement
  • Feedback and testing (unless you count asking people at a bus stop)

If you’re looking to do a proper DIY branding job then it pays off to be as thorough as possible, or at least to exclude them based on sound logic and proven business instinct.

Next time: ‘From brainstorm to brand’ How to develop your brand values [with free worksheet]

This is part 1 of a series ‘Everything you need to know to design your small business logo series’. If you’d like to receive the next article and free worksheet then subscribe to our blog.

At the end of the series we’ll be compiling all the articles, worksheets and free resources into an e-book. If you’d like this to be sent to you when complete please email [email protected] and we’ll send you the download link as soon as it is up.