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Years ago, one of my clients used to pridefully boast that he'd been recognized as one of the top consultants in his field. Here's how that sort of thing usually transpires:

  • First, you get a letter and/or a call with the exciting news -- you've been selected!
  • The letter goes on to say that only a small percentage of people in your field have been so recognized.
  • As a result, your company is going to be listed in a published source (usually a business magazine).
  • The listing is free!
  • But... "Why not hype the honor?" they ask.

Following that last question, the mark (and I use that term because that's what con artists call their targets) is presented with a wide array of marketing opportunities -- numerous advertising upsells in the publication where the list will appear, marketing slicks that the mark can order and send to clients, and of course wall plaques ranging from simple to ostentatious.

As a marketer for a client like this, this is the sort of thing where you just bang your head off the desk... Try and get the client to do a strategic, planned $5,000 campaign and you get the third degree; stroke their ego with some bogus made-up award, and they'll happily drop seven grand out of the blue on a whole marketing package! Money flies out the door, marketing slicks come in, marketing slicks go out in the mail, plaques get hung, and the phrase "award-winning" creeps into all of the marketing collateral until the end of time.

As cynical as I am about it all, perhaps there is some good in it, too. For one, a lot of activity happens, which usually is a good thing. Also, such things create an important psychological change in the awardee, and maybe that newfound swagger (deserved or not) leads to something positive as well. Don't get me wrong: I do respect legitimate award-winners, and find no fault with spreading the word accordingly. But personally, I look on many people who market like this as absolute *tools*, which that great resource the Urban Dictionary defines as "one who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used." (Even funnier are the words related to tool listed there. I'll, um, let you read those for yourself.)

Be smart, do good work, get awards or don't... but don'tbe a tool.

Tool photo by Jopsep Ma Rosell (Flickr, creative commons).


Update: Funny, I published this just one month ago, and today I received an email that "Marketing Portland has been selected for the 2014 Best of Portland Award in the Web Design & Web Development category." So, there you go... now Marketing Portland can write "award-winning" before our name. They even showed me a picture of the award and plaque. Take a look:

  

Sadly, no award will be sent to me (the winner) -- unless we pay for it. Here's their language on that:

As a mathematician might say after rendering a rock-solid proof: Q.E.D. I'm not as refined as that, of course... I just shake my head, say something like "wankers...," and then go back to coding web sites.

Further updates...

Received the same shite email in 2015, and again in 2016:

  

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