The Return of the Buywards

This has happened to me twice already, and I thought it would be good to share the experience.

Marketers who are good in psychology will tell you of the triple A to a human’s heart. Attention, Affirmation, Acknowledgement. That’s one of the reason why awards are so appealing. People would add it to their name card, decorate it on their social media profiles, shelved it on their personal wall of fame.

A couple of years back in a previous business, we were nominated for a prestigious brand award. Of course, as naive as we were, we didn’t know we had to buy a table at the award ceremony to officiate it. Naively too, we asked if they can just mail us the award, which they said no. Well, at least we tried.

Then this week, someone anonymously nominated me for a different award. (To think when I got the call, the interviewer actually asked if I nominated myself. I told him I had to be more narcissistic to do that.) So the interview was arranged, asking about my revenue, company size and all, to size me up for which category I would fall under. No joke though, there are some power packed celebrities on the awards list. Nice to rub my shoulders with, especially when some of them are supermodels and probably wear no sleeves.

Then, the sucker punch came in an hour after the interview started. The talk of a “package” – lifetime publication video on Youtube, full page article in a year book to be forever memorified in our national libraries (when was the last time I was there again…?), award to be given by a minister at a prestigious hotel.

And, as confirmed in an email I got a day later, among the summary of the package, was the price tag – RM8,000.

Now, I’ve paid more than that for my various gadgets and month-long holidays, but money is still money, eh? I can justify for my gadgets (all boys can) and the travels (food! beaches!), so I thought, why not try justifying for this.

But the truth is, I can’t. You see, I would know I bought into the award, not probably did not earn it.

This reminds me of my buddy Kelvin (obviously not his real name. Or is it?), who was invited to do a featured interview with a super big news network with three letters in it (Ok, it’s not RTM or TV3. Think international please). Now, as a business owner in Malaysia, that’s kinda awesome, right? Just like all the startups who would parade their “As seen on…”or “As featured on…” on their website, Kelvin can totally crush it with an approval stamp from super-big-news-network-with-three-letters-in-it. The catch? He had to pay GBP20000 for the featured video though. That was his sucker punch.

He called me and ask me of my opinion. I told him, well, it’s definitely a big boost to his brand to have such an endorsement, and it will definitely set him apart from the competition. He would be the guy who’s featured on super-big-news-network-with-three-letters-in-it, gain respect and recognition for the great work that he had already done, and still currently doing. Then I told him this:

“But late in the night, when all the world is quiet and you’re lying in your bed, you’ll think about the featured interview. Only you will know that you’d paid for it, because the others will certainly think it’s free, and that you earned it. For all the praises that you’ll get for that segment, deep down, you know you paid GBP20,000 for it. The question is, can you sleep with that?”

Don’t bother searching for that video interview. Kelvin didn’t take the deal.

Call it a dumb philosophy, a broken principle, or an analog-watch-in-a-digital-world mindset, but as my mom always said,

“Success is like underwear, everyone should have it, but you don’t have to show it”.

Ma had always been wise.

So I declined the award, saying that I’m not comfortable buying into such things. Call me naive, or even say that since other’s are doing it, why not me? Yes, it’s perception marketing. The public will believe what you lead them to believe.

But late in the night, when all the world is quiet and I’m lying on my bed, I will know.


Co-Founder of KICKSTART by night, Talent Development Consultant, organising workshops and conferences by day, and full-time single dad in between, Maverick is pretty much a renegade. An ex-monk who's always first to ask "why not?", Mav enjoys hacking the way things are done, and pretty much happy with the success rate of 50% (coz sometimes mom is right after all...). When it comes to business, give him a million bucks and he'll most probably get a new set of gadgets, drive home an Audi R8 and reload his Starbucks card. But give him little to nothing, and see how he starts switching on the little brain-matter between his ears. Challenge ACCEPTED!


  1. “Success is like underwear, everyone should have it, but you don’t have to show it”.
    This is a killer sentence. Came across your site when I saw your featured post in Vulcan Post.

    Loving what you wrote thus far, keep writing and stay realistic! I’ll be reading from time to time to serve as my own “wake up call”.

    1. Hi Carl, thanks for the support. Yeah, my friend W Mitchell once told me we can’t remember everything because we’re not smart enough, that’s why we need to be reminded from time to time.

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