Are Product Awards All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

We hear it and see it on a daily basis in retail: products that are award-winning. How often do you see a sticker that shouts loud and proud the prowess of a product as the champion of its industry? Buy me – voted best product in the annual Game Changer awards. Or me – 2015 You Really Need This Champion. Okay, we get the point. But, how often do these prestigious (and perhaps some not so prestigious titles) actually convert passing interest into a sale? More importantly for retailers – do award-winning products sell more than those that don’t?

Sometimes the benefit of winning an award is just plain obvious. Just the sheer increase in exposure and hypetrain can be enough to help elevate a product to a state of being a ‘must-see’. You only have to look at recent examples from Savage Gear, such as the Suicide Duck surface lure, to see how an award win can create a buzz of excitement around a product. Okay, so that product was pretty innovative on its own, but the fact it won awards in 2016 meant it quickly became the talk of the ICAST show, with media companies clamouring to cover it and retailers wanting to get a closer look to see if it was worth all the hype, all of which simply HAS to help a product sell through. If you think about it, winning an award should go hand in hand with products that are innovative and offer something needed and wanted by the industry.

Savage Gear’s Suicide Duck

“Product awards encourage a healthy level of competition and drive for improvement,” explains Jenny Gordillo, export manager for Costa Sunglasses. Costa has won Best Eyewear at ICAST every year since 2010, Best Eyewear at Europe’s EFTTEX in 2015 and 2016 and most recently John Dunphy’s Best Innovation Award at the AFTA show in Australia – so it’s a company with a rich heritage in fishing product award wins.

“Winning awards, however, does not necessarily translate to more sales.” continues Jenny.

“Having an outstanding product with a great support network of sales, marketing, product development and commitment to sustainability does. [Winning an award] is a great achievement to have and aids in brand and product awareness. Ultimately sales are driven by value or high quality products that make a difference in improving today’s anglers experience.

“I believe winning should not be the ultimate goal but striving to make the industry better.”

So, it seems that just the title of award winner alone is not seen as something that will boost sales by the fishing brands themselves, but more a terrific platform to implement a well-drilled marketing plan. A similar view comes from across the pond at Daiwa’s UK division. Its Marketing Manager, Stephen McCaveny, explained: “Awards do carry value, however it depends on how well the company levers the PR gain. They are contributing evidence that you have something of notable merit. In most instances the award itself won’t activate success, but used well, and if appropriate to the consumer, it can strongly enhance the launch profile. It can also assist but largely that product needs to offer something that stimulates the consumer. An award can bring the spotlight to it and give it a ‘foot up’.”

Costa has notched a series of wins at ICAST and EFTTEXBut even for a giant like Daiwa, there’s an awareness that B2B awards don’t always hit the customer right in the heartstrings and ultimately the wallet. Stephen adds: “Any B2B acknowledgement is of little interest at B2C. That is the arena where it matters most. So finding ways to make that bridge would enhance the value of certain awards. For example with European show EFTTEX – is that a brand recognised by consumers? If it was a brand and output with a strong PR package for consumers then its awards would be worth more.”

But maybe that’s not always the case. Sure, educating your customers about the value of awards would help, but in this digital age of increasingly plentiful information, consumers are more clued up than ever before.

Jeff Schluter is Vice President of Brand Management at St Croix, a company which cleaned up at this year’s ICAST awards, taking the Best Fly Fishing Rod, Freshwater Rod and Saltwater Rod prizes back to Wisconsin. He explains: “Product awards do bring increased visibility and always add positive reinforcement to our brand. Digital/social marketing has changed the way consumers receive information about new products and they now have access to new product information prior to the start of the ICAST show. There is opportunity for additional organic marketing with the increased visibility an award provides.

“In many cases [retailers find it easier to sell an award winning product]. Anglers are smart consumers and although they are curious to learn about fishing products that earn awards it doesn’t mean they will purchase it. The product has to stand on its own. Many anglers ask for ‘the rod that just won at ICAST’ when they walk into a retailer.”

Awards are not the definitive goal for manufacturers, brands, retailers or even anglers – but the positivity they bring to the industry is obvious. They help brands stay on their toes with product development and with marketing, which can only help retailers. Next time you get some stock of an award-winning range, maybe making little extra effort and creativity on how you market and sell it will give you a much-needed boost.