This week’s content marketing landmark is a good example of how a company can develop and broaden brand appeal without really having any affiliation with its core product.
Last time we looked at Michelin and how the eponymous brothers developed their travel guides, featuring maps, hotel and restaurant guides and fix-it advice, to help promote and sell the tires they manufactured. There was a clear link between product and the affiliated promotion.
With Guinness and its annual book of world records the link is less obvious. Mainly because it doesn’t exist.
The idea behind the Guinness Book of Records came from a moment of serendipity rather than from strategic marketing thinking.
The lightbulb moment came from an argument on a shooting party in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1951. Following a missed shot at a golden plover, Sir Hugh Beaver, MD of the Guinness Breweries, argued with another member of the party over whether the fleeing plover or a red grouse was the faster flying game bird in Europe.
Later that day he realised that there was no simple way of determining facts and trivia of this kind and set about producing the first book. He employed Ross and Norris McWhirter, who owned a fact-checking business, to compile the data.
The first edition was published in 1955 and reprinted annually just before Christmas. The publication had a huge and enduring history and helped raise awareness of the brand in demographics that weren’t its core audience.
When I was reading the Guinness Book of Records on Christmas as a kid or watching Roy Castle attempt yet another tap-dancing world record on the BBC programme in the mid-eighties my mind didn’t associate it with a pint of stout.
But each book has the word ‘Guinness’ printed prominently down the spine. And it does successfully place a brand front and centre, opening it to a wider audience by creating something that people will keep on using and come back to again and again. Not essential but useful and enduring.
So either wounded pride or the need for trivia at your fingertips gave birth to one of the most famous annuals in the world.
And for the record, the fastest game bird in Europe is indeed the golden plover with a flight speed of around 60mph.
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