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Announcing the Winners of the 2023 Workhorse Fake Awards

While our award might be fake, the inspiring work these organizations are doing is 100% real.

The long-awaited moment has arrived: We’re announcing this year’s Workhorse Collaborative Marketing and Organizational Strategy Fake Award winners.

A geometric collage of 6 close-up teaser visuals from the honorees below a heading: The 2023 Workhorse Fake Awards

There is no formal process or official trophy; this is our way of recognizing some of the most creative, progressive, and interesting work we see right now in the world of arts, culture, and nonprofits. We celebrate these organizations (and the people who make them) because they often don’t get the kind of accolades that major institutions and household brands do—and they deserve it.

We do feel inclined to note that while these awards are not at all official, last year we gave Literacy Pittsburgh a Fake Award for their spectacular rebrand—and then they submitted for and won an actual, real award for that rebrand.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, we present: the 2023 Marketing and Organizational Strategy Fake Awards!


The Woven Kente

Award: Spot-on Value Proposition
a portrait of a brown-skinned woman wearing a rich, light maroon scarf smiles brightly at the camera. She is dressed in a long sleeved, ornately embroidered shift and a plain black skirt. Beside, The Woven Kente's value proposition: "The Woven Kente is an online marketplace offering a curated collection of high-quality products selected for the specific needs of the black millenial market. Our products allow for the unapologetic celebration of our heritage, culture, and history."

A value proposition is how a brand or organization describes the problem it solves for its audience; they can range from lackluster to extraordinary and they’re the core of a good marketing strategy. We have no notes for The Woven Kente’s value proposition; it’s perfect. In just two sentences, we know exactly what this brand is, who its audience is, and why they’d want to buy. And it doesn’t hurt that the value proposition is part of a well-designed website!


Philharmonie Luxembourg

Award: Exquisite (and Slightly Snarky) Rebrand
an advertisement for the Philarmonie Luxembourg. The word "boring" is bright yellow and bold on a pink background, shooting out of the horn of a trumpet player. Below, the text finishes with "is a night on the sofa. Shake up your calendar with the Philharmonie."

With eclectic visuals, animated graphics, and a splashy color palette, this rebrand of the prestigious Philharmonie Luxembourg concert hall, executed by UK-based agency NB Studio, delivers a punchy look for an iconic organization. Where you might expect a serious or muted brand, NB Studio takes a common criticism of classical music (“boring!”) and cheekily works it into punchy advertisements. And we can’t forget the inspired designs for the children’s programming, which pair friendly letters with musical instruments, making a genre that’s often seen as stiff and old appeal to a young, vibrant generation.


Pittsburgh Glass Center

Award: Dynamite Capital Campaign
two white women are in mid-conversation together against the backdrop of an active glass studio. On the bottom right, the logo for Pittsburgh Glass Center.

PGC’s recent capital campaign, Shattering the Ceiling, raises money to expand its facility and enable the organization to grow as a community space for glass art-making. Through personal interviews and descriptive visuals, the campaign video that launched Shattering the Ceiling is an incredible example of how storytelling can drive impact—and why thoughtful, fully realized fundraising efforts are worth the time and effort. We can’t wait to see the new facility in summer 2024!


Kelly Strayhorn Theater

Award: Exceptional Community Alignment
The facade of the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty at dusk. Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn's signatures are scrolled across the marquee in blue neon light. Below, the soft glow of overhead exterior lights illuminate the ornate entry doors.

We have a special place in our hearts for KST because they match their organizational planning and processes with their essential mission: to create a home for Black and queer people in Pittsburgh. KST’s 2021–2024 Strategic Plan, Owning Our Future, Thriving Where We Live, is an astounding example of how to authentically align programming, staffing, funding, and operations. On top of creating a fantastic strategic plan, KST shared it through a number of engaging channels, from a campaign video to a packed website to a community survey, making sure that everyone could understand and share in its vision.


Sacramento History Museum

Award: Impressive Instagramming
A senior white man holds a printed newspaper headline for the Daily Bee that reads: We are open! The Sacramento History Museum." He is standing in front of a printing press.

Like Carnegie Museum of Natural History (celebrated for its surprise TikTok fame), Sacramento History Museum turns its best assets—its passionate experts—into great social media content. From impromptu beer history lessons to a surprising Barbie/Greta Gerwig tie-in, this museum finds every opportunity to connect the history of Sacramento with contemporary events and reach new audiences.


Pittsburgh’s Original Oyster House

Award: People-first Management
Exterior shot of the Original Oyster House. Its sign is lit in neon red. Its exterior has a Historic Landmark plate in a prominent position by its entry door. A menu hangs in the front window with a claim that they're famous for fish and oyster sandwiches.

While a restaurant might seem slightly out of place on this list of arts and culture organizations, we had to include the Original Oyster House. In 2021, this Pittsburgh restaurant shut its doors for 6 weeks after the holidays to give its staff a break after working through the worst of the pandemic. Earlier this year, in agreement with staff, the co-owners decided to make the 6-week break a yearly practice. They also switched to a 4-day work week. We don’t often see restaurants breaking the industry’s well-established grind culture, and we hope arts and culture orgs take note.


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