It’s tool awards season, with mentions in my inbox, press releases, tool review offers, story pitches, on social media, and even on product pages.
Some of the emails about new and unfamiliar products and brands are often summed up as: “Check out our new award-winning product!” While it makes for flashy marketing, many awards seem to be full of holes.
Always Ask These Questions
Did a product or brand you’re looking at win an award of some kind? Ask the following questions.
Did they pay for consideration?
What was the criteria for winning?
How many competing products were in the running for that award?
Was the product even tested?
I’ve posted about my dislike with “pay-to-play” awards processes before, and the lack of transparency of it all. I haven’t done so in quite some time because I like the people who run one particular tool-related program, and it’s difficult to convey that my feelings are really about “pay to enter” awards processes in general.
My frustration comes from how some marketers are taking the awards they “won” and implying that they bested competing brands. It can confuse readers into thinking that a product is the best of its kind, when it very well might not be. Not all brands pay to participate in product awards processes, leading them to lose by default, and awards processes typically look at products released in a calendar year.
With most awards programs, there’s not much light shed on any of the process between “entry” and “awards notifications.”
Many awards are won without products even being tested. In those cases, awards are “earned” based on what the manufacturer or brand writes down on a piece of paper.
We have even seen awards given to products that never made it to production or store shelves. So how are awards given to products that never existed?
In many industries, marketers and marketing boast about awards, but I can’t find help but find them to be hollow, even meaningless or misleading, because of the lack of context.
One particular “pay to enter” awards program has many awards categories each with have 3 winner tiers, but some categories only show 2 winners. Does that mean that there were only 2 entries and they both automatically earned awards? If there are too many entries in one category, is another category introduced to ensure that more entries receive prizes?
Consumer and commercial product awards aren’t anything new, but I haven’t thought much about them at all until a few years ago. Back then, I took a lot at face value. Now, it frustrates me when shopping for products – let’s say a specific piece of test equipment, for example – and it dawns on me that many enthusiastically-promoted awards are empty – maybe even dubious – because I know that no other brand released anything to that product category the same year.
Most awards programs at best vaguely discuss their judgement processes. One program, due to the nature of the commercial products they give awards to, definitely aren’t testing any of the products. So are they just judging products based on a photo and marketing language write-up?
There is one thing that would make me feel a little better about all this, and that’s if all product awards programs, paid-entry or not, published a list of entrants and entries.
I only know of one paid-entry awards program that displays a list of entries, but when I last checked, they have a list of last year’s winners, and a list of this next year’s entrants, and without any categorical separation.
Maybe an NCAA-style bracket chart would be a good way to visualize things.
Otherwise, how do I, as a consumer, know that an award holds any meaning, and it isn’t awarded just because there was only one entry in the category? Any discussion of how or why a product is award-worthy would be helpful, too.
- Rant: “Tool Awards”
- That “Award” Your Favorite Brand is Boasting About? They Might Have Paid for it.