Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Oh, How We Like our Awards

'Tis the season for award shows. Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes and the Tonys. We sure do enjoy our annual award shows. In Washington, DC, we have our own awards for theatrical excellence--the Helen Hayes Awards--which just announced their nominations last night. It reminded me that as marketers, awards present us with a significant question--how aggressively should we use these awards in our marketing campaigns?

You might be thinking that the answer to that question is relatively easy. Why shouldn't you celebrate your nominations and trumpet your awards? A few things to consider:

When you market an award...
  • you are willing building the brand of the award. It is said that smart lawyers only ask witnesses the questions they know the answers to. That way, the lawyer is in control of the situation, and there are no surprises. In my relatively short time in the DC market, I have seen numerous companies trumpet their large number of nominations and awards year after year until the inevitable year comes when they are left out in the cold. By building the brand of an award, performing arts organization's leave their perceived success in someone else's hands. They are no longer in control of their own destiny. When you say to a consumer over and over again that an award proves your artistic excellence, what does it prove when you are left out? were you artistically insolvent that year?

  • you are publicly endorsing the validity of the award. You should ask yourself if you have any serious misgivings about the awards process. If you do, then you should not prominently market them, as doing so implicitly gives your endorsement of the process. One cannot market the awards, and then second guess the process.

  • you are sending a signal to the artists who work at your organization. And what might that signal be? Is an artist's work not as important to the institution if it isn't recognized with a fancy award? Should an artist take less risk knowing that the results of the risk might lessen his chances for public acknowledgement? Is one artist more important to a production than another simply because of a nomination?

Awards are fickle. They will come, and they will go. And most of the time, you'll have no clue as to why. The one thing they are good for is bringing together the artistic community one time a year for a great big party. So if you are a winner this year, enjoy your glass of champagne, because if there is one thing I can guarantee, it will be that you will get screwed in the future.


Mark Shugoll said...

So...what will you do when Oklahoma reopens for a summer run? It is a rare opportunity to have a show running AFTER the nominations, where you can say "Nominated for Best Musical."

Alli Houseworth said...

My favorite thing about reading this post was reading it a second time and replacing "award" or "awards" with "critics"/"reviews"/"pull-quotes."