Gene Simmons got fired from The Apprentice tonight. (Ah, will I ever get tired of seeing those lovely words?) In addition to the deep personal satisfaction it gives me to watch Gene Simmons get fired, there are some things to learn.
Gene Simmons Got Fired Because He Didn't Know His Customer
(My sincere apologies to those who don't watch the show, I know there is nothing more tedious than listening to someone talking about some asinine TV program you don't watch. I solemnly promise that television references will remain very, very rare on this blog.)
Winning and losing on The Apprentice always boils down to three things, either singly or in combination. To win, you have to 1) know what your real product is, 2) know who your real customer is, and 3) not overcomplicate your story.
The customer tonight was Kodak's executive team. They were the ones who gave the thumbs up or thumbs down, so that's who the winning team needed to listen to.
But since Kodak is not run by dummies, the real customer is a consumer who gets pissed off every time he calculates how much a gallon of printer ink would cost.
I was not at all surprised that Simmons considered himself too important to go to the client meeting and find out what they needed. I was a little surprised that Simmons, who is unquestionably an effective marketer, would make the rookie error of falling in love with a bland, meaningless tag line ("It's a Kodak World. Welcome.") instead of a message that conveyed a tangible benefit to the consumer (our ink is half the price).
If you don't get into the head of your customer, you lose
Simmons had a big win in the season's first episode, where the teams were vying to sell hot dogs for charity.
You won't raise much selling hot dogs for anything like what they're worth. Simmons uncovered the real product underneath the distraction, and if the editing can be trusted, he did it admirably quickly.
The real product in that competition was feeling like a bigshot. (The product was not celebrity, and celebrity in itself isn't a product. Yes, many people like to identify with celebrities or have their photo taken with one, but that's because they want to feel like bigshots.)
Simmons understood this instantly and he took it to a higher level. He knew exactly what to say to the consumers of that product. And he knew where to find his customers--people who would spend, say, $50,000 on a hot dog.
(The fact that the hot dog buyers didn't know which charity the money would go to is telling. It's not about the charity, it's about the feeling of glorious excess in your bigshotedness.)
Where to find your customers and what to say once you find them are the name of the game, no matter what (tangible or otherwise) you're selling. And Simmons nailed it for that particular customer.
Did I mention Gene Simmons got fired?
I know it's wrong of me to gloat, but I just can't help myself.
While you may not take the personal glee that I do, you can still take something good out of the outcome. Simmons has a lot of marketing expertise. He runs a large, complex and highly profitable brand. (Apparently all by himself, since he doesn't seem to be able to hear.) He's energetic and driven. And he is certainly smart and well-connected.
But he didn't speak to the heart of the customer, in the language of the customer about what matters to the customer. The team with crappy signs printed by Kinko's did, and they handed his ass to him.
There, doesn't that feel nice?
(P.S., one more lesson from last night. Never, ever go without a remote backup of your work. Get a cheap/free service like Backpack, or just email files to your gmail account, but back up your hard work like you expect the building to burst into flames at any moment. Sometimes it does.)