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How Guinness World Records helps brands transform risk into reward


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

August 15, 2017 | 6 min read

Attention is the lifeblood of brands and the spectacle of a record-breaking first is one of the best ways to mine this scarce resource from the public, the long-lasting Guinness World Records (GWR) company arbitrates the lion's share of these efforts.

Over the years, brands have been able to drive headlines, social media posts and a positive narrative through the creation of bizarre stunts overseen and facilitated by GWR. To discuss this, The Drum sat down with Keith Green, vice president of marketing and commercial sales of GWR North America, who relayed the importance of brand recognition and stunts in the modern marketing ecosystem.

Each week, the guild receives some 1,000 record applications, this ensures a mountain of bureaucracy must be tunnelled through before any action is taken. In 2016, businesses broke some 800 new or existing records, although it is unclear how many failed attempts there were.

The records are as varied as they are numerous - from longest beard to longest freefall - but each effort adheres to numerous criteria, they are measurable, breakable, standardised, verifiable and cannot be too obscure or regional. Each attempt must also be limited to one variable, the example provided is “we can verify the largest painting” but would not consider the “largest painting by the most people.”

How to approach Guinness World Records

Sometimes brands approach the company with a clear vision of what new ground they want to break. Others “are excited about the idea of creating an advertising or PR campaign, but aren’t sure what they’d like to do,” said Green.

That’s where the GWR account managers come in. They advise brands on deliverable records while also looking to get the best return on investment for the activity. Green cited LG’s approach which wanted to promote a new washing machine that did not vibrate. To do this, the company got card-stacker Bryan Berg to build the tallest house of cards in 12 hours on their new appliance while it was mid-cycle.

“We feel our best work comes from being consultative based on our decades of experience and our position of being the global authority on record breaking,” he added.

He continues to claim that World Records can have a “huge impact” for a brand, that it gives credence to all the "best" and "first-in-class" claims flooding the industry. To help deliver this, even the on-site adjudicators undergo extensive records and media training before being allowed to oversee a record attempt.

Green denys that this open-invite to brands risks the credibility or integrity of the records and that stringent measures are in-place to ensure each effort is correctly judged, whether or not they are a company or individual. “Brands that have approached us to set or break a record understand that we’re heavily focused on the integrity of each individual or group participating in the attempt (from the marketing team to the event coordinator and attendees) and that there’s never a guarantee that a record will be set or broken.”

GWR does not generate first party content from the efforts, but it does open its channels to sharing the most impressive or shocking success stories, some of this will also inevitably end up in the annual book documenting the shifting landscape of human achievement.

Big winners

When asked to cite the biggest PR wins generated by GWR from stunts in recent memory, Green mentioned Volvo and Jaguar. Volvo tapped into the YouTube unboxing trend and snatched the largest object unboxed accolade when a three-year-old fan unveiled its VNL 760 truck, a 72-foot beast that gained substantial coverage online, including 1.6m views on the below video.

Jaguar upped the excitement with a riskier endeavor. It won the largest loop-the-loop in a car ever, a second accolade for the brand. In a true death-defying manoeuvre, stunt driver and record-holder Terry Grant paid homage to the corkscrew car stunt in James Bond the Man with the Golden Gun, launching his E-Pace SUV into a 15.3 metre-long barrel roll, to date racking ion 1.1m views.

Rebook has also greatly benefited from activity with GWR in February. Its athletes simultaneously broke 44 records across the globe to celebrate the CrossFit Nano 7. The activity from M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment upped the ante for any future enthusiasts. Global brand mentions on social up 115% and usage of #Nano7 by 76%.

Any naysayers of the branded nature of these efforts may be ignorant of the activity that birthed the awards. “Many people aren’t familiar with our origin story. The idea for the very first Guinness World Records book began in the 1950s as a result of an argument had by then managing director of Guinness Brewery, Sir Hugh Beaver, about the fastest game bird in Europe during a shooting trip.

“What originally served as a promotional tool for Guinness, based on the idea of settling pub arguments, has evolved into a bestselling annual sold in more than a hundred different countries across the globe. Our journey has seen GWR evolve into an entertainment company and world-class intellectual property brand, and as ever, we are focused on making the amazing official.”

The company has since changed hands after evolving into an entertainment firm. It is now run by the Jim Pattison Group which also owns Ripley Entertainment, the group probably best-known for its ‘Believe it or Not’ series. Since 2008, Diageo has licensed out the Guinness name to the company.

Green concluded: “With every step we take towards offering new services, products or record titles, we are constantly thinking of and preserving our heritage. While it’s important for us to adapt and seek new opportunities to strengthen and diversify our brand, maintaining our role as the global authority on record-breaking achievements remains vital.”

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