December 2005
Why printing awards matter
Winning awards pleases employees and impresses potential customers
Virtually every segment of the graphic arts industry has a variety of awards to recognize excellence. Manufacturers of folding cartons, flexographic printers and certainly sheetfed and web printers are well represented when it comes to competitions for showcasing the best and most innovative work.
One of the reasons that award competitions remain relevant is that they appeal to a wide segment of the industry. Whether your specialty is single or two-colour work or if you produce multi-colour materials for art galleries, museums, or major corporations, there are categories in which you can compete. In an industry as competitive as ours, submitting work that you’re proud of is simply an extension of what occurs on a day to day basis to get work into our plants.
Most competitions generally have four levels of recognition: Award of Merit, Bronze, Silver and Gold. There might also be a Best of Show Award to recognize a piece of work that is truly outstanding and one that clearly surpasses any other entry. An organization that receives recognition for winning any of these categories provides a wonderful opportunity to create a positive impact within your own company and with customers.
When you ask for a customer’s permission to enter a recently completed piece into an upcoming show, there is a curiosity factor as to what the competition is about, where it will be held and when the winners will be chosen. Needless to say, a certain amount of goodwill is created between the customer and the sales rep when this kind of conversation takes place.
I don’t think the account will be damaged if your submission is not an award winner. The fact is that with so many categories, many pieces will be given an Award of Merit at the very minimum. At Arthurs-Jones, when one of our entries won an award, we would have it framed for the customer and make a small celebration of the event by taking those involved out for lunch.
Winning awards will always have a positive impact in your own organization. Virtually everyone in a printing company, from the estimators, to the production personnel, to those who run the presses, to the bindery and shipping staff, have in some way been exposed to this work and everyone likes to be associated with a winner.
After we had hung several awards in our office area, we got a little bit smarter and displayed them in the plant so that those people who had used their expertise to produce the winning piece, could see and enjoy the results of their efforts. (I remember customers generally being impressed when they saw the numerous awards displayed in our manufacturing areas. My guess is that they also thought that displaying them in this area gave recognition to the rightful recipients.)

Winning awards is also a marketing advantage when you pursue similar types of work from other organizations. When a sales rep is showing a potential customer samples of relevant work and can add that several of the samples recently won awards in local, national or international competitions for printing excellence, a certain amount of interest is almost always guaranteed.

One year at Arthurs-Jones, we entered three reports in the Mead Annual Report Show. There were 28 winners, including these three, from the hundreds of entries from around the world, and it proved to be a wonderful marketing opportunity. Our submissions came from the financial, mining and real estate industries and we capitalized on our international recognition to secure additional customers in related businesses. I might also add that some goodwill was created in our firm when the senior production personnel were part of the team that we sent to New York City to participate in the awards ceremony.

Your relationship with suppliers will also benefit when you tell them that the blind embossing or foil stamping they did on a specific job enhanced the overall appearance of the work and helped win a particular award. We all like to be part of a winning team.

In order to begin pursuing printing awards, it’s important that someone be given the responsibility of overseeing this activity. Most competitions require two or three samples of each entry with a specification sheet outlining the various processes and techniques that were used. Make sure that at least 15 inspected samples of each job are kept in a safe place so that they are readily available when the various competitions are announced. Running around looking for samples at the eleventh hour or having to call the customer asking if they might have some additional copies is time-consuming and frustrating.

My guess is that regardless of the size of your company or the type of work you produce, there will be opportunities to compete in the many award shows that exist. If you are not currently pursing this activity, it will provide your firm with a new marketing opportunity.
Duncan McGregor was president of the former Arthurs-Jones Inc., a Toronto-based, award-winning commercial printer. He led the $5 million-a-year firm to a five-fold increase in sales. He is now a consultant to the printing industry and can be reached at (416) 487-7666.
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