The Guinness Book of Records: all-time greatest piece of content marketing?

Remember when you were a kid and you got really excited when you saw that big book shaped present wrapped under the Christmas tree?

Remember ripping open the paper and seeing the shiny cover peek out at you?

Remember reading the title in its big bold writing: THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS?

Congratulations! You’ve just remembered opening the greatest piece of content marketing of all time.

The Guinness Book of Records, stuffed full of unimaginable facts and stats, has held legendary status in our society since 1954, and is a bible of weird that every household is the proud owner of at least one edition.

And it’s for that reason, I think, that it’s an exemplary piece of ‘content marketing’ and, like any great piece of marketing, it came from a nifty piece of audience insight.

Back in the 50s, while out shooting for the weekend in County Wexford, Sir Hugh Beaver, MD of Guinness got in a heated debate with his friends about which was the faster game bird – the Golden Plover or the Red Grouse (it’s the Plover in case you were interested).

When he got back home to research the answer, he couldn’t find it anywhere. In fact there was no definitive list of the fastest, the tallest, the longest or the fattest things in the world anywhere to be found.

This sparked an idea – Hugh knew his customers were down the pub arguing about trivial things like this every night. So this got him thinking – if Guinness was going to be true to its brand in bringing people together – why not do so with the ultimate argument settler?

And who’s going to feel more favourable to a brand than one who can solve an argument after four pints down the pub?

The first edition was created in 1954 when 1,000 issues were printed and given away for free.

Since then the popularity of the book grew and grew and it became a regular bestseller at Christmas – satisfying the curious minds of people across the world.

Recently the Limited Company set up by Guinness to publish the book was sold to private investors and has become much more than just a book (apparently they work with brands to help them come up with and break world records if anyone is interested) yet the name and brand recognition lives on.

Anyway, what can we learn from Sir Beaver and his famous argument settler when it comes to making your own content?

Start with a piece of audience insight – Hugh knew his audience didn’t just like to drink pints of Guinness down the pub, they liked to have a good old argument once they had one too many and he had the perfect answer.

Your content doesn’t have to be about your product – Like all the best pieces of content marketing in this series, the Guinness Book of Records had nothing to do with Guinness. No mention of Guinness. No call to action to buy Guinness. Just a nice useful thing for people that may drink Guinness.

Dream big – Who knows, one day your piece of content might be turned into a Christmas best seller and sold off as a separate company and live on for over 50 years. Just do something really interesting, dream big and you never know what might happen.