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John Burns' Blog

The Apprentice

Published: Friday, June 3, 2011

The programme The Apprentice is a real turn-off for me; I can’t abide the format or the participants, especially Lord Sugar.  I made an exception last night as the teams were set to work on branding and marketing a pet food.  The losing team was crucified for designing a dog food called Everydog (one food suits all) when the marketing focus group including a vet said that foods had to be designed to meet different needs.  In his dissection of the losers, Lord Sugar commented that no pet owner would be happy to think that their dog was similar to all the others.  
The flaw in that analysis is that that is exactly how most of the pet food market is based.  The vast majority of pet food is sold in supermarkets where the market leading brands are marketed to suit all ages and types of dogs.  Everydog would have fitted into that sector.  Niche market products are found mainly in the specialised sector, vets and the pet trade which is a much smaller market.  
With the Burns foods, several adult foods are suitable for all ages, from young adult through to the very elderly.  It’s the formulation that counts.
There is more; the vet member of the focus group stated that different sizes and breeds of dog need different foods.  I couldn’t disagree more. In my view large and small dogs have the same nutritional needs except for the amount of food they need.  As for breed differences; apart from unusual conditions such as copper intolerance in the Bedlington Terrier, nutritional requirements are the same for all breeds.

A legitimate criticism of the Everydog team is that they didn’t study the market before starting.  If they had, they would have been able to refute Lord Sugar’s criticisms, rather than try to stick the blame on each other.  Mind you, I didn’t do any market research either before starting my own food!

I also noticed that no-one on either team gave any serious thought whatever to what actually went into the food, only about how to market it.  Likewise Lord Sugar.

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