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A judge’s perspective: how to win marketing awards

It’s marketing awards season. If you want the inside mail on how a judge reviews entries, then read on. Matt breaks down his approach and the three 'must-haves' to stand out from the pack.

It’s that time of year where the best and brightest marketers start preparing submissions for the myriad of awards on offer; the Content Marketing (CMA), Mumbrella and Effie Australia Awards are a few of the more prestigious.

 

I’m a judge on the global CMAs, which are run by the Content Marketing Institute. In a nutshell, they recognise the most successful content marketing projects, agencies and marketers.

 

I can’t speak for everyone, but if you’re in it to win it, these are my tips to ensure you make the cut.

My first submission call is brutal

I had more than 60 submissions to review for my category last year. And I knocked about 50 of them out of the running in roughly two minutes each.
Cull the herd of bulls

Now that may seem harsh and I’m the first to admit there were some excellent ‘campaigns’ that got culled straight away.

 

But that was their problem: they were campaigns, not business drivers.

 

And I cut them because their submissions were missing the most critical element: demonstrable business results.

Let’s be really clear; these are marketing awards. And given marketing is meant to deliver commercial outcomes, winning entries need to be able to stack up tangible results that improve the bottom line.

These awards – at least in my mind – are not for campaigns that simply had a brilliant creative idea or well-crafted content.

How I assess the few remaining entries

Once I’ve whittled it down to a much smaller, high-quality number of entries – typically around 15% – the review takes a lot longer. My approach is to grade them against the following:

The nexus of content marketing and business strategy

How did the content marketing strategy marry up to and accelerate the delivery of business results?

 

What business outcome were they trying to drive, with which specific segment or audience, and why? And what insights or research was the strategy based on and how does this help you differentiate from competitors?

 

(For a deeper dive on how to develop a sophisticated strategy, this yarn ‘content marketing or corporate vomit’ may be worth a read.)

They have clear and measurable objectives

They need SMART metrics and ideally, financial outcomes – or at the very minimum be aligned to the buyer journey. You’ll see the hyperlink is to a finance institute. People in finance deal in the real world, where money matters more than pretty pictures.  

Demonstrable results that tick both the strategy and objectives box

Their results clearly demonstrate how they delivered or better yet, exceeded, their objectives.

Winners are grinners – and commercial

Here’s a massively paraphrased, and redacted, example of how last year’s winning submission ticked all the boxes above.

Strategy:

Its objectives were to:

How they did it:

A boy siming with a thumbs up and peace sign

Results:

For every $1 invested in, the campaign generated $167 in [category] spending and $7 in [category]

Now, this wasn’t a big brand or a big financial investment.

 

But it was a really strategic, sophisticated and targeted content marketing play – executed brilliantly. And to be frank, it was a pretty easy decision as a judge to recognise this brand. From memory, I scored than 24 out of a total of 25 points.

 

So, as I sit back and wait for the tsunami of submissions to review this year, I hope there are more of these, and less of the latter that go in the infamous ‘pretty pictures but no results category’. 

CMA Application deadlines

The late registration has been extended until 19 June. Click here to enter.