The Apprentice Asia

Coffee Can Be A Challenge


Coffee Can Be A Challenge

This week’s task: to come up with a promotional campaign for NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto®. Specifically, teams were tasked with setting up a pop-up café, and with the help of a graphic designer, to design the look of the café, including standees, flyers, and a tagline starting with “Coffee can be…”

Executives from NESCAFÉ®’s parent company, Nestlé, would decide which team had the more successful campaign. Teams were sent to Singapore for this task.

Boys Will Be Boys

Alex volunteered to be The Maverick’s project manager. Sam once again had different ideas from the rest of The Mavericks, but this time he stood his ground and convinced the team to use his tagline: “Coffee can be designer.”

Unfortunately, everyone had different ideas on how to visually represent “designer”. Mark noted, “I think testosterone is going to come across on this one.” And boy, was he right. Against Andrea’s protestations about sexism, the guys insisted on using an image of a sexy woman. Sure enough, Nestlé executives thought the concept would alienate women.

Singaporeans Want To Escape!

Ningku volunteered to be the project manager, because she wanted to prove that she was a threat in this competition. Brainstorming went smoothly, and when Apex turned to Dian for her thoughts on Singaporeans, Dian responded, “People want to escape their homes. Because their homes are like shoeboxes.”

And there they had it – their tagline: Coffee can be an escape.

Not All Coffees Are Equal

Celina came up with the idea of scuba diving as the key visual imagery, and to match the ocean theme, they decided to feature only one capsule in all their materials – the blue-colored Cappuccino Ice capsules. On the day of the roadshow, Apex’s set up went smoothly until they realized that the Cappuccino Ice capsules were only available online! They decided to use the Caramel Latte Macchiato capsules for product sampling instead, and to make it cold instead of hot.

When they later tried to explain how they recovered the situation, Tony dismissed them, saying, “hmmm… Dodgy answer. You’re trying to dig yourself out of a hole.”

And Not All Chocolates Are Equal Either

The Mavericks wanted to introduce chocolate as part of the experience, and so off Andrea went to the supermarket – only to return with a non-Nestlé chocolate! Nestlé Singapore’s MD and Marketing Director noticed it, and told The Mavericks off, much to Andrea’s consternation.

“It’s dog eat dog out there,” Tony later noted in the boardroom, “You could have lost your client forever.”

Apex Stalls, Mavericks Roll

Ningku assigned Celina and Dian to conduct product demonstrations, while Ningku and Nik gave out flyers. But both Celina and Dian struggled with product demonstrations. Dian even told customers that the Genio machine had a manual system, when in fact it was fully automatic! Dian later insisted that the machine had a malfunction, but Kathleen pointed out that Nestlé’s technicians checked it, and it was working perfectly.

They also struggled to cope with the number of customers. As Kathleen noted, Apex’s strategy was wrong. Ningku should have assigned only one person to give out flyers, leaving 3 girls to handle customers.

The Mavericks’ Sam and Jon, on the other hand, were on a roll. Assigned to do the product demonstrations, they were managing the crowd well, and were even customizing the drinks according to how people wanted to feel. As Nestlé Singapore’s Marketing Director noted, they were “quite first class”.

The Result

Nestlé’s assessment was that The Mavericks had excellent delivery, but a rather sexist concept. Apex, on the other hand, had a great concept, but very poor execution. As Tony pointed out, “It’s almost like if we combined the two of you, we’d have had a successful campaign.”

Nestlé chose The Mavericks as the winner.

Another Quitter!

All the girls, except Nik, came under fire by Tony. Dian for her poor product knowledge; Celina for only including one capsule in all materials (Said Tony, “I’d have thought there was only one flavor and only one machine. And that’s a major error in communication.”); and Ningku for not having the sense to check in on Dian and Celina. Demoralized, Ningku offered to quit! “Sir, While I’d love to be your apprentice, maybe I’m not ready for it.”

A shocked Tony pushed back, “No. No, I don’t want quitters at this point, You’ve gotta bring two back. You’ve got to make the hard decisions now.”

Ningku chose to bring Celina and Dian back to the boardroom.

In the end though, Tony fired Ningku, because of Ningku’s offer to quit. “I want fighters,” Tony said later, “And in moments of pressure, is when you see true strength of character.”

It seems Ningku got herself fired after all.


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