OPINION9 August 2011

Could corporates really bring brands to market as quickly as The Apprentice?

Talkback Thames, the makers of The Apprentice, are preparing to make two food brands, created for this year’s show, into real-world products. But how easy is it for entrepreneurial ideas to win out in many of our larger organisations?

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about my sense of disappointment at the quality of business ideas offered up by all four of the finalists in the UK’s version of The Apprentice. This was based on their startling lack of originality and the sense that, if this was supposed to be the cream of the UK’s entrepreneurial talent (which it clearly isn’t), it didn’t offer a spectacular return on Lord Sugar’s investment in time and energy.

But now, just a few weeks later, comes the news that Talkback Thames, the makers of the BBC reality show, are preparing to make two food brands created as part of tasks in this year’s series into real-world products.

British pie brand MyPy and biscuit brand Special Stars have been trademarked by the programme’s creators in preparation for bringing them to market. MyPy, which was invented by eventual winner Tom Pellereau and runner up Helen Milligan, focused on British ingredients.

Special Stars, created by Helen and her team in an earlier episode, was a children’s biscuit brand, with the slogan “any time is treat time”. Special Stars received an Apprentice record order of 800,000 units from one supermarket outlet.

The issue this raises in my mind, however, is not whether these businesses will fly by the end of the year, but how easy it is for entrepreneurial ideas to win out in many of our larger organisations.

Save for Talkback Thames and the profile boost it received via The Apprentice, would an idea like Special Stars actually stand a chance of coming to fruition? Or would the forensic examination the idea would receive from every department in a cautious corporate – from marketing to manufacturing – render the idea still-born? I know where my money lies. Either way, the speed with which ideas like this are being brought to market are a world away from the months, even years it can take in a larger corporation.

And that’s a shame. In a market that is already suppressed, we want our brands to be bold and to create stand-out, imaginative and innovative concepts that excite our interests as consumers. We want them to follow the business fundamentals that are needed to successfully bring a brand to market, and we want the brand to embody all of the entrepreneurial qualities that went into its creation. Because if it does capture our imaginations as consumers we are more likely to purchase, which will allow money to flow and will again help drag us all towards more optimistic pastures.