4 Marketing Secrets for Viral GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS

Screen_Shot_2014-09-02_at_4.56.38_PMChief marketing officers are in love with the idea of breaking a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® event record and having their brands bask in the seemingly viral eruption of TV, radio, print and online buzz that comes from that honor. So what’s the secret behind your agency or company successfully breaking a world record for maximum social media engagement, traditional media coverage and global brand buzz? In just a few paragraphs from now, you’ll learn behind-the-scenes tips from a public relations executive with GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS, Jamie Antoniou (right).

But first – consider the most prominent example of branded world record smashing, pulled off by Red Bull, which broke multiple records (including the largest audience for a live stream advertisement from GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS) when it sponsored daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s $20 million Stratos Project freefall from a helium balloon at 128,000 feet.

Closer to earth, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS has worked recently with such brands as:

  • Tang (largest donation of toys in 24 hours),
  • Coca-Cola (longest drink pouring relay)
  • Virgin Mobile (most people crammed into a Mini Cooper),
  • POM Wonderful juice (longest airborne inflatable beach ball relay)
  • Nissan (largest indoor illuminated advertising billboard)
  • Priceline Pharmacy (world’s longest chain of selfies)
  • Italy’s Piazzagrande (world’s largest tiramisu)
  • Domino’s (most pizzas  7,539 pies  made in 24 hours)
  • British Airways (highest performance of the Harlem Shake)
  • Weetabix Breakfast Drinks (world’s fastest milk float)
  • De’Longhi (largest cup of coffee)
  • Smirnoff vodka (largest anamorphic painting)
  • Big League Chew (most people – 721 of them!  blowing a bubble gum bubble simultaneously)

We were reminded of the awe-inspiring PR and social media marketing power of a well-executed world record event this past July. Our agency helped Minnesota-based Kemps Dairy celebrate its 100th Anniversary by setting the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the Largest Scoop of Ice Cream at the Cedarburg Strawberry Festival in Wisconsin. The 3,010-pound scoop of strawberry ice cream generated 769 TV, radio and other media mentions for $1.7 million worth of media coverage. Local TV segments on Kemps' mammoth scoop aired in 181 out of 210 U.S. DMA markets, climaxed by coverage on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” and online mentions by People magazine and the New York Times.


To give you insight into what makes for a successful, record-breaking PR event, we interviewed Jamie Antoniou, senior public relations manager for GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS North America. “It all starts with which record you decide to break!,” says Antoniou. “If your PR agency or company is planning a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event, I recommend you choose a world record that has four key elements.”

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Secret #1: Relevancy 

“The first element is: select a record that’s relevant either to your product or to what’s hot in pop culture now," suggests Antoniou. "For an example of relevance, Colgate came to us to launch its Colgate Total Mouth Wash by breaking the world record for most people (1,142 of them) using mouthwash in New York’s Times Square, an event which was perfectly tailored and relevant to their brand."

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Secret #2: Cause Marketing

Secondly, Antoniou advises, tie your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event to a cause or charity. “Kaiser Permanente has set a series of health-related world records with us, including most people vaccinated in a single venue, most blood pressure readings and most colon cancer screenings,” says Antoniou. “The visuals for these philanthropic events can be great: TV stations can pan along a shot of hundreds of people waiting in line to get their blood pressure taken. We also liked how Colgate tied their mouthwash event to a $1 donation for every participant who gargled to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which Colgate called the program, ‘A Wish For A Swish.’”


The third secret for a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event is clarity of visuals, counsels Antoniou. “The media love to see a strong photo opportunity that shows the record being broken, in action. Smart PR agencies will choreograph their event so the visual image shows the scale of the record – in other words, the TV cameras and photographers can show the traditional side-by-side with the superlative. For example, put a standard ice cream scoop next to the Guinness World Record scoop, the tallest dog next to the smallest dog, or the largest guitar next to a standard guitar.”

“Mass participation activities – particularly fitness-related activities – do very well in attracting morning TV show coverage,” adds Antoniou. “We recently worked with NBC-TV’s ‘Today Show’ when a company produced the largest exercise ball demonstration class on Rockefeller Plaza and we collaborated with a fitness company on the most people jumping on trampolines for ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.” Not only are there lots of participants who the TV stations can interview, but the broadcast journalists themselves were bouncing on the tramps!”

Good Morning America

At Maccabee, we’d add one more element to the construction of an extraordinary GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event - shamelessly pursue the power of symbolism and metaphor. When our agency helped OfficeMax break the record for the world's largest rubberband ball, the 4,590-pound rubber orb was pushed onto OfficeMax’s digital scale by four stripped-to-the-waist bodybuilders – a tableau that evoked the Greek titan Atlas, who held up the celestial spheres of the world on his back.  But the bodybuilders’ herculean effort with OfficeMax’s giant ball also harkened to the iconic 1945 photo of the four US Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Those Rubberband Ball visuals helped the OfficeMax event generate a staggering 422 TV segments in 127 markets, along with hundreds of newspapers, magazines, blogs mentions and 365,000 downloads of a video at Yahoo.com.

Office Max

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Secret #4: Simplicity

Finally, Antoniou recommends that marketers pay close attention to the fourth element of a winning GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event – simplicity. “You don’t want to overwhelm journalists. Push out one message, one visual, one cause. My biggest peeve is with companies that try to fit too many messages into their record event – which leads to the press sending out an image of your record, but your message gets lost in the clutter. Focus everything for the news media on one shot, one image, one moment.”

So, how obvious should your logo and branding be during a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event?

“The branding of your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event should look clean – it’s a delicate balance with a company’s logo, because you do NOT want to suffer death by brand,” warns Antoniou. “You don’t want your event to look too commercial or contrived to the press that attend. But if your company does not incorporate its logo into the attempt, the press may broadcast the record-breaking moment and leave out your company’s message entirely. When you did the ice cream scoop with Kemps, the logo was carved right into the ice cream itself, so the branding message was very clear in every photo taken at the event.”

When our PR firm handled OfficeMax’s World’s Largest Rubberband Ball event, we had an advantage – the giant ball itself was OfficeMax’s logo, and the ball was also wrapped with a ribbon proclaiming the OfficeMax brand. But just to make sure no one missed the company behind the world record, we also asked the two adorable children of the Rubberband Ball’s creator to wear headbands with OfficeMax’s logos on them, which literally, and quite shamelessly, branded the foreheads of these two youngsters.   

To Use a Celebrity Or Not?

When Hellmann’s Mayonnaise set the record for world’s largest picnic table (for the record, it was 320-feet long and 8,000 pounds), it employed actress Katie Holmes and celebrity chef Mario Batali to celebrate the brand’s 100th Anniversary and encourage media coverage. More recently, Colgate employed TV actress, model and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Stacy Keibler (best known for dating George Clooney) to generate media interest for their June 2014 “Most People Using Mouthwash Simultaneously” event with GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS. So how important a marketing/PR tool is a celebrity in all this?


None of the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS that Maccabee helped clients achieve involved or needed a celebrity hook. “In my opinion, a celebrity is extra to a world record event,” agrees Atoniou. “Essentially, the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS judge becomes the spokesperson or celebrity at your event – celebrity involvement is just icing on the cake.”

What’s more, the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS judge who officiated at Kemps’ giant ice cream scoop event, Phillip Robertson, was something of a celebrity himself. Having officiated at more than 100 Guinness Record events, Robertson has been seen on networks from CNN, CMT, Bravo, ESPN and Fox to NBC, ABC, BBC and CBS. Who needs Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise when you have the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS judge who adjudicated the World’s Largest Hamburger?

What’s the biggest mistake agencies and companies make in producing a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event?

“Lack of organization – to pursue a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS record, you need to be organized and have an understanding of our guidelines,” insists Antoniou.  “Just because your company invests money in an attempt, you will not automatically get the record. Each record category has its own set of guidelines that you must adhere to; we standardize the guidelines so everyone can attempt the record on a level playing field.”

Lightning Round: 4 Tips for GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Marketers:

Waste Not, Want Not

Official rules from GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS actually require agencies and companies producing food-related events to refrain from throwing out the food once the World Record has been set. So when our agency helped Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) break the record for World’s Largest Box of Chocolates with a 3,226-pound box of 90,900 Frango mints, we made sure to give away the chocolates to the gathering throng so they would not be thrown out. Similarly, Kemps celebrated its GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event by giving away thousands of mini-scoops from the Largest Ice Cream Scoop to festival-goers surrounding the mammoth sculpture.

Do Pay Attention to the Man Behind The Curtain

You can expand your potential media coverage by inviting media to view the preparation before your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event. For example, we invited TV stations in Wisconsin to preview the giant ice cream scoop, even before it left its 20-degree-below-zero freezer. And we gave media a sneak preview of OfficeMax’s rubberband ball the day before the event, as its owner painstakingly applied the last of its 185,000 giant rubber bands.

Think Global, Start Local

Although media coverage for your GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event can easily go global, Antoniou advises: “Never be afraid to go local – a single post by a prominent local blogger can generate pick-up globally. And it’s a good idea to hire a local wire service to capture your event on film, and then have them do the syndication for you.” The Maccabee agency often hires local videographers and still photographers to immortalize its national GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS events, so that no matter which network affiliates show up (or don’t show up), we have the visual content ready to distribute ourselves.

Go Online or Go Home

“Ninety percent of the companies that we work with want the video of their Guinness World Record event to ‘go viral’ via YouTube – which makes sense in terms of value of the exposure online,” marvels Antoniou. “The best you could do with a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS event eight years ago was NBC’s ‘Today Show’ or ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’ But today? Marketers would rather get their brand featured on Huffington Post or Yahoo.com than in traditional media outlets.”

Intrigued about the value of a Guinness event for your company? Check out the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS services for brands and corporations.

Or if you just need a lift today, check out the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS “Largest Gathering of Elvis Impersonators,” sponsored by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina – which climaxed with 895 Elvises crooning The King’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Now excuse us, but we’ve got a white jumpsuit to pull on, a pompadour to slick back and a chorus of “Blue Suede Shoes” to rehearse. "Yeah, it’s one for the money..."

Image Sources: Good Morning America / VidaVibrante

About the Author

Paul Maccabee

Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Brand Strategy, Publicity

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