Already Thinking of ICAST

It’s “only” April, but I’m already thinking of ICAST, working on magazine stories about ICAST and getting emails from people who are planning for ICAST.

Part of that is the natural cycle of magazine work. We have to aim ahead in order to meet print and mail deadlines. At FTR, it’s not very far in advance, and that’s good. A couple of decades ago, when I was at Game & Fish Publications in Georgia, we worked six months ahead. It would be July, but I’d be editing stories about January. When I went to lunch or left for the day, I’d sometimes be surprised that it was warm outside.

At FTR, the schedule doesn’t require that we work so far ahead. And since I now live in Florida, I’m never surprised if it’s warm outside.

But every month, it seems, I’m thinking of ICAST. I’m either planning for it or thinking of what happened once it’s over. What was good about it? What was bad? What could be better? How can we improve?

The story that has my attention at the moment is one I’m writing for our May/June issue. The working title is “How to Win ICAST.” It’s sort of a 10 Commandments thing about best practices for winning a Best of Show award at the New Product Showcase presented by Fishing Tackle Retailer.

I get a lot of questions about the New Product Showcase, probably because FTR sponsors it and maybe because I’ve been a pretty vocal and visible critic of the voting procedure.

Well, I’m glad to report that the voting issues have been fixed. At ICAST 2018, new products will compete on the most level playing field ever. It’s about time, and I hope that everyone sees and appreciates the difference.

Another reason I get questions about Best of Show awards is that I’m the awards presenter at several of the big distributor shows around the country. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Surely there must be someone else who could do that better, but I enjoy it and never shy away from a microphone.)

When you hang around enough new products and enough award ceremonies, people start to think you know something. It’s also true that I’ve made a study of what wins at ICAST and other shows, I talk with the industry’s top marketing and branding people—like Humminbird’s Jeff Kolodzinski, who’s won seven straight Best of Show awards in Electronics at ICAST, plus another in Apparel when he was with Frabill to make it eight in a row!

“How to Win ICAST” may be a bit controversial, but it’ll be practical and accurate and offer tips and ideas that I’m certain few manufacturers have considered.

It’s also fun to write, and it’s challenging because I want it to be really, really good and thought-provoking. I’m optimistic that it will change the way manufacturers look at the New Product Showcase and think about any Best of Show awards.

Right now, most manufacturers work on product development and try to come up with a good, new item. Then they enter it in the New Product Showcase and hope to win. Some will tell you that a win doesn’t add to their bottom line. A lot depends on how it’s handled after the fact, but it’s certainly true that winning is just one step in the marketing process, not the only step.

Any contest worth entering is worth winning, and I think “How to Win ICAST” will help savvy manufacturers do just that.

Competition of any kind is fascinating to me. As a society, we’re consumed by it and will spend hours watching tall people bounce a ball, big people tackle each other, or smart people play chess. If there is a way to measure something, we will create competition around it. It can drive us forward, inspire us and bring out the best and worst in us.

There seems to be no end to the ways we create competition.

For now, though, I’m thinking of ICAST.