A raft of adverts have appeared in the last few months sporting a "Voted Product of the Year" badge.
In our world of Charter Marks for service, British Safety Institute Kite Marks, British egg Red Lion symbols, and Food Standards Agency Traffic Light labelling, one assumes that this is a badge offered by some independent standards body whose opinion we can trust.
Sadly that's not quite the case, and the "Voted Product of the Year" logo is very questionable as a badge of merit.
"Voted Product of the Year" was founded in 1989 by ex L'Oreal marketing man Christian LeBret. It's been visible throughout Europe for some years; in France since 1992, Spain since 2003, Czech Republic since 2004 and Germany, Portugal and Benlux since 2005. In the UK, the operation is run by DMB&B and FCB marketing man Mike Nolan and ex-John Lewis Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the British Retail Consortium David Felwick "with the aim to champion and reward product innovation in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Groups) categories."
So, how does one "win" a "Voted Product of the Year Award" (VPOTYA)?
1. Send in your product to VPOTYA. A "jury" will put your product into the appropriate category. If there's no category for your product, don't worry, they'll make one up for you. And to make sure you stand a good chance of winning "there will never be fewer than two or more than six products in any one category" This stage is free, presumably to encourage as many companies as possible to enter.
2. If you're shortlisted (only 22% of product were rejected at this stage in 2006), you're sent a bill for £3,950. You're now in the next stage.
3. Taylor Nelson Sofres, a market research company, conduct a survey with over 12,000 consumers asking them which of this pre-selected shortlist (whose participants paid for their entry) they prefer. Except in France, there is no need for you to have even used the product to be allowed to vote. You have between a 1 in 2, or a 1 in 6 chance of winning. As the consumer can choose a product they haven't even used, as long as your product is well known or its accompanying colour photograph and blurb sounds good, you stand a decent chance of winning
4. If you win your category, you're sent another bill for £11,000. For the next 12 months you can boast to anyone who will listen that your product was "Voted Product of the Year"
5. You can expect an average increase in sales of between 10-15%. That presumably assumes that if you heavily advertise your win, it's the VPOTY award that caused the increase in sales and not the advertising itself.
Company Number of Wins
Lever Faberge 22
L'Oreal Group 17
Procter & Gamble 17
Nestlé Group 15
Nestle Waters 9
Draw your own conclusions about the value of the "Voted Product of the Year Award".
ps Read an article about VPOTY by Daily Telegraph writer, and judge, Dominic Mills. This is unbiased journalism?