Why awards don’t matter

Tobias is one of the directors of a large graphic design company in Sweden that has won a number of industry awards. He and his colleagues were proud of these awards and rightly so. At one of my workshops he told me that they always featured these awards in their marketing communications. However, one day a customer asked Tobias: ‘So what?’ In other words, the customer was asking: ‘What good is that to me?’ Tobias said that for a moment he was flummoxed, wrong-footed by this question. For Tobias it seemed obvious that winning awards was good – it proved they had the respect of the industry, and were good at their chosen profession. But that perspective was being challenged and Tobias had to answer the question from the customer’s point of view.

The answer was easy.

They had won the award in question because their packaging design had increased sales for a manufacturing client and allowed them to increase the price of the newly-packaged product. Aha! Now the customer was interested. Now the customer wanted to talk about how their graphic design skills and advertising expertise could be used to help him to increase his own sales, prices and profits. (And if the company won an award for it, fine, but frankly the customer didn’t care about that.)

The point is that winning an award is not a customer benefit. It is the design work that helped the client’s profitability that was a customer benefit. In emphasising prizes and awards, Tobias’ company was talking about what was in it for them, not what was in it for the customer. The trap of talking about features – not benefits – had taken another victim.

Looking at it from the outside, it’s easy to see where they went wrong. As outsiders, it’s easy to give advice (that’s what I do as a consultant!) But before looking down on the mistakes of others, look at yourself. We’re all guilty of falling into this trap to some extent, so spend some time looking at your own marketing messages and use the ‘So What?’ test to ruthlessly examine every nook and cranny of your marketing communications for evidence of this error.


Key Points

Some things matter much more to us than to customers. Identify these things and de-prioritise them in marketing communications. Highlight instead what does matter to customers.


What to do next

  • Examine your own marketing communications. Are you talking about customer benefits or what matters to you?
  • Ask a colleague or an outsider to scrutinize your marketing communications to identify customer benefits and weed out anything that does not convey benefits.

This is an extract from David’s marketing book ‘Chase One Rabbit: Strategic Marketing for Business Success. 63 Tips, Techniques and Tales for Creative Entrepreneurs’.
Read this and 62 more inspiring and practical marketing techniques on your smartphone by downloading this strategic marketing book as an eBook. It is also available as a paperback and as an Audiobook. This highly-acclaimed marketing book is also available in Spanish and French.


David Parrish is a marketing speaker, author and consultant. He works worldwide helping businesses to become even more successful by using the best strategic marketing techniques.

awards don't matter

awards don't matter

Translator Florence Magee (neé Harmelin) with author David Parrish

French edition translator Florence Magee (neé Harmelin) with author David Parrish

Marketing book Chase One Rabbit. Spanish translation

Celebrating the launch of the Spanish translation of the marketing book in Spain