Since Conde Nast Publications' Allure pioneered the tradition of bestowing honors on top products in a special issue in 1996, followed closely by Time Inc.'s InStyle, hundreds of awards are doled out annually, with winners using a "seal" on product packaging and promotions.
Enlisting retailers in the war is the latest twist, as Allure recently scored a first-time tie-in with Walgreen Co. promoting last year's winners in the January 2003 issue, as well as additional promotions with Sephora and Eckerd Corp., said Nancy Berger, VP-publisher at Allure.
Hearst Corp.'s Cosmopolitan, which launched its beauty awards in 2001, this month teamed with Macy's flagship Manhattan store in a consumer promotion touting its award winners; the program is likely to be expanded to more stores next time around.
"Having a magazine's seal on the product inside the store lends credibility and helps pull sales at the counter," said Heidi Manheimer, president of Shiseido Cosmetics America, which has used the Allure seal for promotions.
But the sheer number of prizes lavished on manufacturers could dilute the impact of awards.
Products chosen range from as few as 10 (Time Inc.'s Health Healthy Beauty Awards) to as many as 150 (InStyle). Aveda Corp. confesses to winning awards from multiple magazines in a single year. It has used seals from Allure and Health on product packaging in past years, and is very selective about using seals, said Rachael Ostrom, senior manager-media planning.
Publishers are also spending lavishly on events to honor winners. Health treated 175 guests to a luncheon last year, said Mary Morgan, VP-publisher, where manufacturers' research and development teams were also honored. Conde Nast's Glamour hosts "The Glammys," an awards ceremony honoring about a dozen manufacturers' products.
Each magazine claims the awards are determined by editorial panelists, however, many award winners are also advertisers.
Each title also takes pains to differentiate its rating systems. Health claims total objectivity by using three independent dermatologists to rate products; Allure relies on an exhaustive 85-question reader survey that netted 8,000 responses last year, for over 100 product winners.
Conde Nast's Self used about 130 consumers as product testers last year, but this year plans to recruit 500 for its online product survey for about 40 awards (also named Healthy Beauty Awards).
Many magazines include sweepstakes to win a cache of honored products. But Suzanne Grimes, VP-publisher of Self, doesn't fear overkill. "We have a unique point of view, and our awards strengthens our dialogue with consumers."