In touch with reality

Embarrassing revelation ….. I have been watching reality TV.  I’d like to say it’s because of the rainy winter we’ve had here in San Francisco, but that wouldn’t be completely true. Other than American Idol, I’m not actually a “fan” of any reality TV show, but I have been stumbling upon random episodes and finding them kind of intriguing.  I’ve never watched Survivor or Big Brother. I find the very idea of the Bachelor revolting. Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent, America’s Next Top Model are just too contrived to interest me.   But as a marketer, I find the business challenges these shows present  an  experiment in product integration and celebrity promotion that’s just fascinating.

Here’s what I’ll admit to watching at least once !

The Celebrity Apprentice is a great study in  teams and leaders at work. Set the strategy, create a plan, assign tasks, execute.  Watching LaToya Jackson develop a marketing concept for Australian Gold Tanning product and mobilize a team made up of Star Jones and one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta is truly something to see. In real life, co-workers don’t scream at each other and tell the boss you should be fired, but these Apprentices sure do.  My favorite part is watching the executives from the integrated promotional company – usually the CEO and CMO evaluate the challenges and provide feedback to the celebrity contestants.  They’re a lot nicer than bosses in the real world.

The Next Great American Restaurant features my hero Bobby Flay  and the founder of Chipotle helping wannabe entrepreneurs develop a national food concept.  This showcase is a testament to the need for General Management.  Create a brand promise, develop a product, hire a team,  and manage for performance.  Oh, and know how to cook .  It’s interesting to see that in the chain restaurant business the marketing is as important as the food and the contestants that recognize that win.  Clearly the contestant with a concept called “Saucy Balls” doesn’t see that.

The Shark Tank is a show where small business owners pitch a group of  celebrity venture capitalists.  The entrepreneurs tend to be pretty colorful and the products range from the practical  (Ride On, Carry On child seat to get your kid through the airport) to fad  (Vertigo Pogo Sticks).  The “Sharks” are led by Kevin O’Leary,  the guy responsible for $3.2 billion sale of Learning Company to Mattel.  He “helps” the entrepreneur understand valuation, investment, and deal making.  This show is separated into four segments. 1) The Pitch.  The entrepreneurs create a dramatic presentation showing the product 2) The Ask.  How much money do you need and why?  3) The Feedback.  Here’s where it gets fun. Invariably, the “Sharks” disagree and give conflicting feedback to the contestant 4) The Negotiation. An offer is made. Or not.

What are you watching?