We all know some of the most famous awards, such as the Grammy's, Nobel Peace Prize, or an Olympic Gold Medal. The existence of such an award tends to speak highly of the recipient, often resulting in lasting fame -- and in many cases, prosperity.
Businesses have put this phenomenon to work for them. Perhaps you've seen the commercials. Car dealerships boast to be the award-winning best seller in the area. A steakhouse showcases their blue-ribbon winning steak. Why? Because they know from a marketing standpoint, it works. But the catch is, where do these awards come from? People have a mindset to think more about the recipient of an award than the giver of the award. Sometimes if you read between the lines, you can see the award came from an internal or affiliated source, so in essence the company has awarded themselves. Or, at least they were not awarded in such a manner as some think, such as a third party or by a consumers' organization. But does it matter? Is it still working?
Perhaps an obscure award can help. And perhaps it's not only awards, but also badges or insignias that show a product or service has been 'approved' or 'certified'. Examples of these could be Verisign, BBB, etc. But what about those who give awards? Some businesses or organizations that give awards can use that to their branding efforts, creating the perception that they must be the 'authority' along those lines. In fact this phenomenon seems so powerful that givers of awards or certifications can seem to go a great distance of being trusted simply on that premise, until someone actually asks, 'why?'. Case in point -- online diploma mills.
One interesting thing I've seen are various website awards and ratings, based on quality of design, ranking, traffic, and IBL's, or other factors. These are things definitely coveted by other webmasters, because they are indicators of a site that may perform well. It still remains to be seen what value it has in the eyes of visitors/consumers.