what do business awards even mean

What Do Business Awards Even Mean?

Trusted Business Award. Top 500 SMEs. Elite SME award. What do these business awards even mean? Do these business awards represent that the company has merits or is it just an empty title? Well, it’s complicated. A company that has an award attached to its name provides trust to the consumer. To an untrained eye, one would pick to deal with a company with a business award versus one that doesn’t.

Before you decide to apply for a business award as a business, or trust a business just because of an award as a consumer, read on.

What Are Business Awards?

prize ceremony auditorium

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash 

Business Awards are essentially a marketing tool. They are presented to companies to build trust, showing that the companies embody what the award represents (e.g trust, quality, success, excellence, innovation). There are multiple uses for business awards. It builds trust and legitimacy similar to a celebrity endorsement. Besides building trust, the gala dinner and/or prize ceremony provides a networking opportunity for attendees.

These awards are mostly given out by private companies, with a few of the awards being Government-supported. Many of these private companies are media or marketing companies.

We will usually see these awards on the walls of offices or marketing material, attempting to attract you during the awareness phase and to persuade you during the consideration phase of making a purchase decision.

Some of these awards are created just for marketing purposes, as acknowledged by the organizer of some of these awards. It is a willing buyer and seller scenario where the award winners know that they are paying for marketing. These business awards had some bad rep in the last decade as they were quite aggressive in pushing companies to “purchase” awards. Multiple business awards are also created because companies don’t want to “buy” the same award every year.

How Can One Qualify For A Business Award?

Are there any qualifying criteria behind these awards or is it just an empty award that you can just buy? The criteria for different awards can range vastly.

Award Purpose Qualifying Criteria
Marketing Simple

Example

  • Singapore registered company
  • Operating in Singapore for X years
  • Share X years of income statement
  • Management level have not committed crimes
Marketing +

Recognition of Achievements

Complicated

Example

  • Independent assessment of various criteria by prominent judges
  • Documents showing achievements and how they are achieved
  • Initiatives and their effects on stakeholders

The awards that are primarily for marketing purposes have much simpler qualifying criteria. Essentially, most companies will be able to qualify for these “marketing” business awards as long as you are willing and able to pay for them.

As for the awards that are used to recognise achievements, they have more stringent criteria and are usually supported by big media companies and the Singapore government. These awards also have a marketing effect but at least it is based on something.

Can These Business Awards Be Bought?

You will need to pay to receive all, if not most awards. At least there is no upfront payment until the award is confirmed. If the criteria are loose and almost every nomination receives an award, it will look very much like the business award can be bought. These awards are called vanity awards and are used to give recognition to the company without any meaningful achievements backing the award. For the more “legitimate” rewards, besides paying, you will also need to fulfil complicated criteria before receiving the awards.

The cost of these awards can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. The money does not only go into paying for the award itself. Depending on the award, getting the award can come with the following.

  • Trophies and certificates (To display in the office to show clients)
  • Marketing package (Appear on traditional media, social media)
  • Services package E.g. legal, consultancy
  • Gala dinner (if you are lucky, an MP will be there to give extra legitimacy)

I actually came across a free award that comes with paid options. Their strategy is to package their marketing product as an award. By giving you the award, they have one step in the door to encourage you to purchase their marketing package, especially if you are a new company. If you are willing to pay, they will help your company “maximize” the reach and value of the award as they will help you promote the award via their marketing packages. After receiving the award, it will feel like a loss if you are not willing to pay for marketing as the award will be less effective.

So Are These Business Awards A Scam?

It is a willing buyer and seller situation so it is not a scam per se. You need to know what you are getting into. You are essentially paying for a marketing package. Don’t get forced into paying for an award that might have limited use. If you decided to go for a business award, make sure that you are getting your money’s worth. They might help you post your company winning your award on their website and social media but it looks forced. Just imagine a social media feed or website with the sole purpose of showing award winners. To me, it’s just a wall of ads that builds zero or even negative trust.

You can either approach a marketing company to see if the amount spent can be better spent on an actual marketing campaign or even run some ads by yourself. There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to run your first marketing campaign on Facebook or Google.

How about the consumer? To put it nicely, it builds trust but if nothing is backing the award, it is misleading to the consumer. If the consumer realizes that your award is just a pay-to-win vanity award, it will backfire, and break any trust instead of building trust.

Things To Look Out For Fluff Awards

All awards are not made equally. If I, as a nobody, say that your company is the best or a trusted company in Singapore, it means almost nothing at all. There are certain things that give an award more legitimacy and value. If you are not trained to look for it, you might just treat an award as legit just because there is an award. Google is your friend, use it to vet the awards. Here are some factors to look out for to see if an award is more legitimate.

Award Name

First, we will need to look at the name of the award as this is the one that directly influences us. Are there any hyperbole claims like the company being the top or best? These terms are used very loosely. Just because a company gets a “trust” award, doesn’t mean that it can be trusted. It also doesn’t mean it cannot be trusted. I am just saying that you should not only rely on an award to decide whether to trust somebody.

Award Organizer

Next, we need to see who is behind the award. Is it some random company or is it an established company? We cannot rely on the company name as these companies are pros at marketing. They will name their companies to include big words like “global” or “international” to make themselves look grander.

Is it backed by a government organization? It might bring more legitimacy if a government organization is involved. We need to differentiate the difference between MPs and government organizations. MPs have attended some of these business award ceremonies which are not supported by a government organization.

Criteria Of Award

What are the judging or nomination criteria? Are the criteria stringent or simple? Is there an audit process and who is doing the audit? Who are the judges? If everyone can be a winner, no one is.

Stories And Achievements Backing Award

Is there any legitimate basis behind the award? What did the company do to deserve the award? Are the stories and achievements published by a reputable source? If the companies themselves or the award organizer post glowing stories, take it with a pinch of salt as you should remember that an award is a marketing tool. Check if there are third party accounts of their stories to corroborate what they said.

Hawker Awards – Down The Rabbit Hole

hawker chicken rice

Photo by Nauris Pūķis on Unsplash 

Remember the organizer that I mentioned above? He closed down his old company when hit by the scandal and is now operating under a new company under a different but similar name. I look under his credentials and a related company has ventured into the hawker awards business. Just imagine a less legitimate version of the Michelin Bib Gourmand Award. Looking at the company behind the hawker awards, I see a troubling number of PHDs. It looks like almost everyone is a PHD.

These hawker awards given out by this company were able to get the district’s MPs to attend award presenting ceremonies at various hawker centres. These awards can say that they are the best in their category (e.g. chicken rice, rojak) but do they even mean anything? Taste is subjective and who is to say which stall is the best? How many stalls did they compare between and what qualifications do these judges have? However, as long as the dishes don’t taste too bad, there will be minimal harm to the consumer.

It is good that they are helping the Singapore hawker culture but if any money is involved in receiving the award, these hawkers need to be more prudent. After 2 years of the pandemic, hawkers might be desperate to try anything to boost their businesses. If these awards tell you to pay anything, just be careful and make sure you are getting your money’s worth and not just a worthless piece of paper to stick at your stalls.

As for consumers, we should treat these awards, even the Michelin Bib Gourmand, as marketing and apply the same rules as if they are ads. There is a partnership between STB and Michelin to help boost the dining culture in Singapore.

Don’t Just Rely On Business Awards

These business awards are supposed to represent what they are named after, allowing and influencing a consumer when they are making a decision. This provides a shortcut for the consumer as due diligence will not be needed if they rely on the business award. For both the business and consumer side, business awards are not everything. In fact, these awards are just a tiny part of a business.

As A Business

Business awards can build trust but if the business doesn’t match the award, you might be able to attract new customers, but you will not be able to keep repeating customers. An award is just a marketing tool. Did you do enough to deserve the award? Or is it just a marketing tool? Will your customers look at your awards and that it is a joke? It might backfire on you if your customers “cancel” you after a bad experience or if the company that gives out the award gets exposed for indiscriminately giving out awards. “Purchasing” an award might give you a small boost in building some trust but it is not a long term solution to improving your business.

Improve your business processes and listen to your customers to provide them with the best service or product possible. You can also make use of digital marketing on your own or hire a professional. A marketing budget that focuses on highlighting your product can potentially go much further than some award and is much more relevant to your consumer. If you have more budget, can go for more traditional forms of marketing like sponsorship or advertising on traditional formats like tv advertising. You can also better use the money to reward your employees or customers instead of spending on an award that means very little to your consumer.

As A Consumer

We can be lazy and want to trust that an award means that the company is good. What did the business do to deserve the award? Is it backed by any achievements or is it just pay-to-win? You don’t know what exactly happens during the audit process behind the award.

If it is a simple product like food, the most we can lose is perhaps a few dollars. However, if the quantum is substantial and has a costly and detrimental effect if anything goes wrong, we should not only rely on an award. Some of these award companies do not even exist anymore.

Check reviews, google the business, use common sense, and ask a friend. Don’t just rely on only one source of information. Especially since the source comes from the entity trying to sell your product.

Are there false, exaggerated claims that are too good to be true? Who is the organiser of the award? Is it some random private company or is it a media company with government support behind the award? Many of these awards make use of a lion logo in their design. Although the lion head represents Singapore, it gives the impression that it is endorsed by the government. This cannot be further from the truth. The National Heritage Board states that the lion head logo can be used by individuals and firms but it must not be used “to create an impression that the State or the Government is endorsing any goods or service”

The National Heritage Board, which regulates the use of the lion head logo, says it can be used by individuals and firms, but must not be used to create an impression that the State or the Government is endorsing any goods or service.

TL, DR

Business awards are a marketing tool used to build trust with consumers, influencing their purchase decisions. Most awards need to be paid for, with the award criteria being the differentiating criteria. The award criteria can vary greatly between awards. Business awards should be treated as marketing. As a business, providing the best product and service should be a priority and not just rely on an award to build trust and legitimacy. As a consumer, further due diligence should be performed if the purchase is important.

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