Winning endorses a brand and does wonders for your marketing, says Steve Dunne, chief executive of Digital Drums

You can’t have helped but notice that it is awards and conference season in the travel industry.

And the travel awards season, which seems to run from September to about March, bears, in many ways, a more than passing resemblance to the FA Premier League in terms of the number of fixtures, media coverage, social media debate, celebration and commentary it produces.

For many, of course, awards events are an enjoyable part of the industry calendar. They recognise success, are good for team morale and allow for networking, a much-maligned and often underrated part of doing business.

Additionally, they often enable the sector to give back by tying up with charities through auctions, bids and fundraising.

However, for others, awards events can be seen as a bit of excessive self‑indulgence by the sector – a sort of mutual back-slapping ceremony where the hailed hero brands of the industry are sometimes at odds with their public personas and reputations.

I’ve even had clients who say awards are a waste of time. ‘‘Don’t focus on winning them for us,” they tell me.

Marketing magic

When I hear that, I always have the same response: perhaps they don’t matter – until you win one.

From a marketing perspective, awards are incredibly important. And that has nothing to do with vanity or ego, networking opportunities or a good night out.

For brand building, marketers always talk about vision and mission statements. They focus on brand values and a customer proposition.

But how do they support the claims of the brand to be green, customer‑focused, innovative or caring? How does a travel brand prove its strapline of ‘We Try Harder’ to the public, particularly a public that may never have experienced that brand?

Glowing endorsement

Awards are a vital ingredient in how marketers support the brand proposition. And they act as a vital marker for the consumer facing a vast array of choice when it comes to choosing who to buy from.

If an airline claims to offer a continent’s warmest welcome and then wins a ‘best airline’ award to that continent, it cements that claim through the strongest endorsement of all – the acknowledgment of peers and public.

And, in a world where trust is hard to come by for brands, that endorsement matters. It is proof that the marketing strapline, the chief executive’s comments or the advertising slogans are more than just words – an award shows the brand really does walk the talk.

Becoming an award-winning travel brand should not be a throwaway line in a marketing plan. It’s not a “nice to have” or a good excuse for a night out but a vital contributor to growing the business.

So, no matter what segment of the sector your brand occupies, strive for it to be an award-winning business – it very much matters to the customer and who they chose to buy from.