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Winning a medal or an award is easy! You don't need quality or style for awards. Are great beers winning awards? Thai beer is used as an example. At a film festival, are great films winning awards?

Home / Egomania Case Studies  /
Award-Winning:  Everyone's Favorite Adjective

If you haven't won an award yet, that only means you've haven't tried to

When you live in Thailand long enough and you want a beer at a reasonable cost, you get used to a limited selection. To be sure, well known and highly regarded imported beers are available here, but with high excise taxes, duties, and the recent hike in alcohol taxes on non-ASEAN products, a small bottle from a multinational with a Belgian label will run almost $5 from a supermarket.

But that's no reason to fret. The local Thai-made beers have their upside. They're all award-winning!

Thailand's best known beer, Singha, is no stranger to awards. It was given the Medal Award of Quality from Belgium in 1971. Thirty years later, it earned another gold medal at the Australian International Beer Awards. In 2002, a bronze in the European low alcohol lager/German light beer category at the International Beer Summit in Osaka, Japan, and a gold in this same category the following year. And finally, in 2004, a silver medal at the Australian International Beer Awards. Way to go!

Boon Rawd, the brains behind Singha, also puts out a low-end brand called Leo. Guess what? Leo is an award winner, too. In 2001, it won both a gold medal and a World Brew Association Beer Quality Award in Doemens, Germany. In 2002, another gold medal and the American Tasting Award of Excellence at the National Board of the American Tasting Institute in the U.S. In 2003, an international trophy for quality in Spain. And in 2004, a bronze medal at the Australian International Beer Awards. That means in 2004, Boon Rawd took both the silver and the bronze at the Australian International Beer Awards. What a year. Boon Rawd should have been calling itself the Brewery of Champions.

Another big player in the Thai beer market is Thai Asia Pacific Breweries (TAPB). Their biggest slugger in Thailand is Tiger Beer, a Singaporean concoction by birth, but brewed to perfection in Thailand since 2004. According to TAPB, Tiger is Asia's most award-winning beer with over 30 international awards. And why shouldn't it be? Only the finest ingredients go into Tiger we are informed: German hops, Dutch cultured yeasts, Australian barley. In 1998, this beer for "people who aren't interested in showing off" was voted the world's best lager at the Brewing Industry International Awards in the UK. TAPB tells us that these awards are like the Oscars for the beer industry. In 2004, Tiger won a gold medal in the European Style Pilsner category of the World Beer Cup, the Olympics of the beer industry. This beer knows no boundaries. It's been recognized as both a magnetic performer of the screen and a star athlete!

Like Boon Rawd, TAPB hawks a lower market segment brand, Cheers. Cheaper than Tiger it may be, but there's no sacrifice in quality. In 2009 in Brussels, Cheers was given a Gold Quality Award at the Monde Selection.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention ThaiBev, Thailand's largest beverage company. Its flagship brand, Chang, has won a Gold Quality Award three times at the Monde Selection. It must not have been competing in 2009. How could it have dared to topple award-winning Cheers? ThaiBev's slumming-it brand, Archa, won a gold medal at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2007.

Last, I'll mention San Miguel Brewery, manufacturers of the eponymous San Miguel Pale Pilsen, voted the best tasting beer by a popular American magazine, and Red Horse Extra Strong. Of course, these beers are not without awards. Both obtained the gold quality award from Monde Selection. The entire San Miguel range has.

Why would anyone in Thailand opt for an expensive import when they're never more than 100 meters away from, by the sounds of it, the best beers on the planet via the nearest 7/11 or Family Mart. A 630 ml bottle of Thai product in those outlets rarely exceeds $2.

To be fair to Thai beers, most of it actually is pretty good for what it costs, far better than any industrial Korean beer I've ever sipped. But what do you know? Korean beer is just as award-winning. At the 2013 Australian International Beer Awards, Oriental Brewery's Cass Fresh scored a silver medal in the American Lager Style category, along with Tiger Beer, allegedly the world's best lager in 1998. Oriental Brewery's Golden Lager shared the silver in the Best European Style Lager category. Two other Korean beers took home bronze medals among Australian Style Lagers.

Here's what you're not told. Of the 1,480 beers entered in the Australian International Beer Awards in 2013, 658 medals were given. 57 of those medals were gold, 190 silver, and 411 bronze. Statistically, 44% of all beers entered won some medal. Compare that to the 2012 London Olympics, where among around 10,700 competing athletes, less than 9% left with a medal. Remember the Monde Selection in Brussels so many of the Thai breweries love to cite on their labels? Any manufacturer can submit any product for a €1,150 entry fee and secure a bronze if the product manages a minimum score of 60%. It only takes an 80% to obtain a gold. There are no limits as to how many medals� are given out.

As if it hasn't been made abundantly clear by now, any beer, made anywhere, by any manufacturer, can attain the status of award-winning. Somewhere, there is a competition or a non-competitive assessment like the Monde Selection which isn't too stringent about handing out awards. Enter your beer enough times, it's bound to win some kind of medal or quality award, and it only takes one 'win' to call yourself award-winning. Lose out in Australia, then consider submission in the New York International Beer Competition. Or the Denver International Beer Competition. Or the Great American Beer Festival. Or the SIBA National Beer Competition. Or the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show. Or the Brussels Beer Challenge. On and on the list goes, quite possibly to infinity. I haven't wasted my time counting.

By no means is this phenomenon limited to the world of brews. Back in the days when I lived in Los Angeles, every filmmaker I ever met was an award-winning filmmaker. It's gotten so common, I don't think the word filmmaker can exist without award-winning in front of it. All of us know about the Oscars, and trust me. If a filmmaker had won an Academy Award, he wouldn't be calling himself an award-winning filmmaker. He'd make sure everyone knew he was an Academy Award-winning filmmaker.

Here's how it works. You enter your movie or short into a few film festivals, doesn't matter which ones. Ideally, your film would be accepted at a prestigious festival, one people have actually heard of: Sundance, Slamdance, Cannes, South by Southwest, the Montreal World Film Festival. No need to cry if it's not. There's always the Dhaka International Film Festival in Bangladesh, the Cyprus International Film Festival and Short Film Festival, and the Kastav Film Festival in Croatia. If you do your research thoroughly, you'll find at least one festival handing out some participation award for every film submitted. One screening later, you're an award-winning filmmaker.

A few weeks ago out of the blue, I started thinking about a woman I met almost twenty years earlier in Burma. "I wonder what ever happened to Jenny," I briefly mused. With a smart phone in my pocket, I was able to do a lot more than muse. She had an unusual last name, so in less than two minutes, I had no trouble locating her own web page. What do think I discovered? She is now an "award-winning travel and culture photographer"!

If becoming an award-winning beer producer or filmmaker is straightforwardly simple, becoming an award-winning photographer is something you should be able to do between an appetizer and a main course. A beer competition/assessment necessarily involves some kind of gathering. The beers must be submitted and the judges, however feeble their credentials, must actually try the beer and probably be given some kind of compensation. A film festival may have bottom-of-the-barrel standards for which films it selects, but space to show those abysmal films must still be secured and advertising conducted to get viewers into seats. Photographs don't entail these complications. They can be scanned and uploaded quickly to online galleries. Average Joes can be made the voters and the critics. One web site I came across boasts they have 50 art and photo contests every month. Eventually, any photographer fixated with defining himself by that appellation should be capable of winning some award.

People have always longed to set themselves apart from the masses, to be able to say "I am special while you are not." Our consumer culture thrives on that breed of thought. A luxury handbag affordable to me but not to you makes me different than you, makes me better than you. An award is just an official designation certifying that some product is better than the average.

Long ago, the brilliant curator of his craft was known for his expertise in his local community. His performance said it all. An award was unnecessary. Everyone in the village knew who was the finest blacksmith, the most adept baker, the handiest carpenter, the heartiest brewer. We don't live in that age anymore. Products are shipped beyond local boundaries, many times to other countries. The marketplace is crowded. How to distinguish your offering from all the other similar ones?

If you've got the sales data to back up how successful you are, you cite this, not some bogus awards. Corona beer is more than happy to proclaim it is the number one selling imported beer in the United States. I am sure before it got to this stage, it won a long list of meaningless beer awards its then manufacturer, Grupo Modelo, made known far and wide. David Ogilvy, the advertising genius, was famous for disparaging awards in his industry, claiming they had nothing to do with sales. He was right. With rare exceptions, there is no correlation between sales and awards. The world's top three best selling beers in 2011 were, in order, Snow Beer, Bud Lite, and Budweiser, none ever mentioned by cerevisaphiles as the most sterling beers on the globe or brandishing the most august awards. The most successful movies of all time measured by gross revenues are Avatar, Titanic, and Marvel's The Avengers. Avatar did snag three Academy Awards, but they were for visual effects, cinematography, and best art direction. Marvel's The Avengers was nominated for best visual effects but lost. Titanic remains the rare exception scoring big on the dough and big on the awards, 11 Oscars in total, including the coveted best picture award.

The award distinction probably mattered more when there was less competition and fewer awards. An award would have meant something when they were rare. Nowadays, with people lusting to set themselves apart any way they can, there are no shortage of award bestowers willing to crawl out from under their rock to give the public what they demand -- for a cost, of course. A friendly restaurateur I was speaking with last month told me how he was approached by an unknown organization who had claimed to single out his restaurant and hotel for special status. This would be duly noted in some journal no one ever reads in exchange for a fee. Ages ago, I was contacted by some Who's Who compilation. For $100 or so, I could get a write up in their guide as a notable person. This is what it has come to most of the time. So many dollars or euros handed over to a nobody to suddenly turn you into a somebody.

Who among us wouldn't love to be honored for doing something amazing? The problems here are two. Most of us haven't done anything amazing, for one. And second, most of us work in professions where the honoring authorities are unknown outside a single field. There are very few awards whose name and prestige transcends all borders and vocations, like the Oscars, the Emmys, the Nobel, the Pulitzer, the Congressional Medal of Honor. What are the accounting awards which matter? The construction awards? The interior design awards? Hell if anyone outside those particular occupations knows.

Which is why the award-winning industry --� and it is an industry, make no mistake --� continues to thrive. We so desperately want to impress others with magical feats we cannot really conjure that we're willing to literally buy into an illusion. Of course, any one in the know isn't fooled. Brewmasters and craft brewery entrepreneurs know which beer awards really matter, just as true blue auteurs know which film festivals and film awards hold real clout. The real deal don't crave phony awards. They're the sort to go on to win genuine ones that other players in their industry respect. The game for everyone else is to show how special he is to the people outside his professional circle, to potential customers, to acquaintances he may meet at a social gathering who'll ask what he does.

And I imagine it worked for awhile. The first Thai beers to sport awards on their bottles probably got some ill-deserved respect and an initial boost in sales. It's when everyone started doing the same that such distinctions lost their zing. A fancy-sounding award could get your foot in the door, but when your prospective client samples what you have to offer (a tasteless beer, a hackneyed film, stock quality photographs) you'll quickly be revealed as the poseur you really are. Award-winning in front of your name can't save you then.

Tall only means something as a description if there are others who are short. If everyone is tall, tall is average. Award-winning as a term has been so used and abused that it packs as much excitement today as last year's sports scores.

Disclaimer: Doug's Republic is not the proud recipient of any awards.

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