11 Lessons from the Buick Verano Celebrity Apprentice episode on 3/11/12

I haven’t been that excited to watch a reality TV show in a long time. Why? While I do enjoy Celebrity Apprentice it’s mostly because I’m doing marketing for Detroit based Buick Dealership, Ray Laethem. In fact, when my partner and I found out on Sunday, March 4 that the Verano was going to be featured on the next episode, we created a new microsite that shows Detroit area lease deals on the ¬†Buick Verano. I also spent the entire episode live-tweeting as Laethem Buick. The latter was a truly unique experience especially when the boo birds came out. People are nasty to brands. But that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is to talk about the Verano, the episode and how Buick could have better capitalized on this opportunity.

First, the Verano. I feel bad for the little luxury car now because it’s taking a bit of a beating for being affiliated with the show. The car is very nice and I actually test drove and blogged about it last week. Here is a link to my post entitled: Way to go Detroit: the Buick Verano is a great car. Long story short: the Buick Verano comfortable, quiet and has amazing technology called “Intellilink” that looks like this:

The episode itself seemed to start off on the wrong foot and was full of lessons for those who pay attention.

Lesson #1- if the Donald tells you to be project manager on a task, don’t flip it over to someone else. Adam Carolla should have never been project manager. Michael Andretti should have taken that role the moment it was suggested. Both got what they deserved at the end of the day.

Lesson #2- if there are only 7 people who need transport, get yourself a Buick Enclave or some other vehicle with 3 rows of seats. Nobody wants to feel like people are talking behind their back. This gets exasperated when you put their backs in a different van than yours.

Lesson #3- ALWAYS LISTEN TO THE CUSTOMER. Way too many salespeople and business folks alike think it’s more important to speak to sound intelligent and often do so at their own peril. Your customer will tell you exactly how to sell them. You may not like Buick’s brand, message or the way they communicate it, but it is theirs. There was a certain man in the episode who paid little attention when he should have been paying the most.

Lesson #4 There’s a difference in being a project manager and a project dictator. Smart project managers leverage the collective knowledge of their team and they put it to good use. Less smart project managers sing songs no one wants to hear or end up getting fired.

Lesson #5- It’s barely acceptable to be a one trick pony. When all you can do is offer the same idea over and over your teammates will find little use for you. As you begin to sense that is true, your likely reaction is to try and throw them under the bus before they do it to you. This is not a good long-term strategy and does not build a good working environment.

Lesson #6- Just because you think you’re funny doesn’t mean you’re funny. As a guy who thinks he’s funny I almost take issue with that statement, but since I know enough people who don’t find me funny, I realize it’s true. In related news, regardless of how funny you may be, funny isn’t always appropriate.

Lesson #7- Just because you pronounced a name wrong and you maybe should be fired, doesn’t mean you will be. As I mentioned, I live tweeted as Laethem Buick during the episode and at one point tweeted that Buick should hire Aubrey O’Day because of her creativity. Not 30 seconds after I tweeted that Ms. O’Day had to remove her foot from her mouth as she referred to the Verano as Verona. Clearly the Buick folks didn’t mind enough…but should they have?

Lesson #8- Even if you know you’re the only one who F’d up, bring others to the boardroom with you. While it seems like the honorable thing to do to stand alone. It’s not. Clearly. You never know how someone else will react under pressure. They may make a mistake that allows you to live for another day (or episode as the case may be).

So far many of these ideas have focused on the actual game. But what did we learn about Buick and how they handled themselves? My initial response is there are some definite lessons for them too.

Lesson #9- And this is a BIG one- IF you make a decision to throw a “Twitter event” AND you pre-record it, than dangnabbit you’d better have ALL HANDS on deck responding via Twitter while the event is going on. Buick got virtually trashed last night. People thought the wrong team won and that the executives were out of touch. Both of which needed to be addressed immediately if not sooner. You know what the amazing thing about Twitter is? They could have addressed it in just these issues immediately, if not sooner.

Lesson 10- Buick executives are out of touch. It’s not their fault. They suffer from the old “this is the way we’ve always done things” stigma. Here’s the deal Buick, if you don’t want people to consider you as the old stodgy Buick of yore, stop acting like it. Loosen up. Have fun. You’re building really cool cars with excellent technology that could appeal to a new generation. Find people who understand that generation and let them make your stuff appealing.

Lesson 11- Buick is moving into new territory and targeting new audiences and reaching them in new ways. That’s tough and is worthy of being commended. Keep trying. Don’t make your decisions in a vacuum. Reach out to smart people in the area who are willing to help. There are lots of folks in Detroit and around the world who will continue to pull for your success. Keep reaching for it.

What did you think of the episode? Did the right team win? What do you think of this post? If you don’t answer one of these questions…YOU’RE FIRED!!!

12 Responses to “11 Lessons from the Buick Verano Celebrity Apprentice episode on 3/11/12”


  1. 1 Steve O Monday, March 12 at 10:21 pm

    Lesson 12 – Those guys from Buick our total schmucks, they wanted the Andretti name but didn’t get it and that’s why the guys lost; very childish and immature!

  2. 2 Linda Berti Tuesday, March 13 at 1:54 am

    I watched Celebrity Apprentice for the first time because of what they were tasked with – I’ve been selling and leasing fine GM automobiles in Canada for many years – and couldn’t help but think that these supposedly super-intelligent, wealthy and famous celebrities can’t do MY job! Very disappointed, but not with the Buick people per se. I was disappointed in how these people promoted an awesome new addition to our great GM lineup. Enjoyed your “11 lessons”!

  3. 3 vonB Tuesday, March 13 at 4:03 am

    Sorry, survey says terrible showing for Buick.

    #1 is wrong Carolla has the credentials with 3 car shows and knowledge about cars in general, especially production cars. What connection does Buick or its target audience have with racing or Andretti? Project manger is not product brand. #3 It appeared that the audience (representing the customer) was engaged with the men’s presentation #6 Carolla is quick gifted quirky funny and sometimes goes a bit far but can reel it in. Editting exaggerated the “You Suck”, — Lou messed that up.Editting also left out Adams impressive ability to answer questions about the car #7 Shouldn’t win though. Brand is expressed in the name, AOD is brighter than most. #8 Clearly? Accepting responsibility and refusing to play a rigged farce is honorable, hoping for someone else to fail is dishonorable. #9 Or be careful who you get in the sack with, you can’t spin failure. Don’t be out of touch#10 or #6 You cant have both #11 Good luck.

  4. 4 Quantum flux Tuesday, March 13 at 9:51 am

    Sorry… but only people affiliated with Buick and GM are going to see it your way which is part of why Buick continues to remain out of touch even as Cadillac reinvents itself successfully.

    VonB is spot on… The women’s preso was ridiculous and wasn’t good for a brand that is already seen as stagnant, but the executives are too arrogant, as usual, to recognize their own failure and so defaulted to being petty for not getting a free endorsement from the Andretti family.

    Sorry, if you want that then write a check for it… But I seriously doubt the Andrettis would take that check honestly

  5. 5 larry Inferno Wednesday, March 14 at 2:56 pm

    The apprentice episode came off as a disgrace. I totally disagree with your conclusions. As has been discolsed since – Andretti has some conflicting endorsements with other Auto Companies, he could not be project manager. None of this was disclosed during the show. But, it’s clear that Buick/GM wanted Andretti as a “free” endorsement, and Trumps (and apparantly Buick’s) reaction to that was childish – fire Andretti. News Flash – Andretti is worth much much more than the cheap-ass $30k that Buick wanted to contribute (not that they are contributing there own money, they still owe us the taxpayer $14b). It’s not like a singer singing a song. Andretti is a BRAND, and he was right to protect that brand.

  6. 6 KEH Thursday, March 15 at 4:18 am

    Sorry I am in Marketing…
    Lesson #1 Don’t sign contracts that place your product when you don’t get to see the results first. You ended up sponsoring the disrespectful treatment of two respected car guys creating a negative message to your influencer community.
    Lesson #2 Don’t create a place to embarrass two respected car people who will I hope make life miserable for Buick for years.
    Lesson #3 Don’t do what Buick did.. so glad I driver a Ford..

  7. 7 Terry McNary Thursday, March 15 at 8:18 am

    If you are doing marketing then you should know that a few million people, Apprentice watchers, woke up on Monday morning vowing never to buy a Buick again. This is called “blowback”. The show came off as rigged and fake. The firings came off as petty and vindictive. You don’t “fire” a contenstant just becuase they didn’t endorse a product to your satisfaction. Alot, alot has come out about that epidose since, by both Andretti and Corrola. And the internet judgement is firmly against the actions taken on that episode. Buick and Tump are the losers in this show.

  8. 8 Mitch M. Thursday, March 15 at 4:08 pm

    Relax, people. It’s just another unreality TV show that yes, OF COURSE is rigged and fake! Would Andretti have even agreed to be on the show if there was a potential conflict? C’mon now. It’s the first – and last – time I’ve ever watched the show, but decided to do so as I was in the market for a new vehicle and was curious about the Verano. LIked what I saw as far as the vehicle was concerned on the show, despite the other crap, so checked it out. Now have my own in the driveway. It far exceeded my expectations. Bad publicity for Buick? Enough GM bashing already! And for you interested in demographics, I guess I’m the “new Buick” buyer. 34, SWM.

  9. 9 Terry McNary Thursday, March 15 at 6:17 pm

    We aren’t upset, but more amazed at the marketing mishandling from so called marketing professionals. It’s a textbook case of a marketing failure. Sure the show is rigged and edited to meet certain entertainment standards. But the firings are dependent on Trumps wims. Andretti had almost $500k in charity he had set to give away for a future project, which would have gone to charity. That was anothe reason he was not sponsor.
    But he said it best ‘”I’m supposed to sell my brand for the show?” he says. “I’m supposed to just give it away for $30,000?”‘ It’s clear he didn’t expect to be fired (he probably doesn’t care, except that he did want his charity to benifit).
    Interesting info here:http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2012/03/celebrity-apprentice-michael-andrettis-brand-isnt-for-sale—-at-least-not-for-30000.html

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