IBM, Kia, Colgate and Mary Kay are just few brands that have leaned on the iconic Guinness World Records to set, well, a record — and generate follow-through media buzz.

We spoke to Peter Harper, Guinness World Records’ SVP of Americas about the way one of the oldest symbols of content marketing was appealing to brands in the modern age. There’s a legend that the book was first invented in the 1950s to give pub goers trivia to enjoy while drinking beer, presumably Guinness. But our sources at Guinness World Records tell us the book was actually started over the question of what the “fastest game bird” was when Sir Hugh Beaver (chairman of the Guinness Brewery) was out hunting one day in Ireland and couldn’t find a reference book which would actually answer this question.

[caption id="attachment_2307" align="alignright" width="150"]Peter Harper Peter Harper[/caption]

This is when he invited two sports journalists, the McWhirter twins (Norris and Ross) to compile the Guinness Book of Records in 1954. The first edition was released in August of 1955.

In2: For many people, Guinness World Records is embodied by the thick paperback full of random but intriguing trivia. How has the book evolved for the digital age?

Peter Harper: When I started 2.5 years ago, a few things became evident. The first, record-breaking content works in a book and it works online in digital. And social media is a great place to share records. Everything from amazing athletic achievements to incredibly large collections naturally translates to digital areas.

In2: How do you work with brands?

PH: If it’s a business or an agency, we’ve got a group of account managers that will reach out to figure out what’s the best record for them. Many brands come to us thinking they need to have a precise record in mind — either creating a new one or breaking an existing one. But that’s not the case. The best record is not always the most obvious one.

Often times, brands will want an adjudicator to go to an event and, in real-time, to evaluate whether the record was broken. And if it was, they want to have the adjudicator proclaim the record and provide a certificate. That’s the pristine media moment.

In2: What if the brand is unsuccessful in breaking the record?

PH: Ultimately, that’s the beauty. There is risk and there’s no guarantee for each record -- not everyone succeeds. One brand came back and wanted to attempt a record again and I’ve seen brands claim a record even when there’s no official record. But for those who prepare and have their act together, even if they don’t break a record, they know how to work it. Just the attempt sometimes creates the media attention. For example, the Today Show attempted to pull a 15 lb. truck and it didn’t work, but they were still able to write a check for charity. If they achieve a record and they want to use our logos on their site, there’s licensing involved.

[caption id="attachment_2311" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Mary Kay's record-breaking makeup mural. Mary Kay's record-breaking makeup mural.[/caption]

In2: Do brands get their records in the book?

PH: The book contains only about 10% of the records, so there’s not a whole lot of space. But some of the records set by companies do get in. Otherwise, typically, it depends on how much the brand provides us with. But that content and material will go up on our website. Sometimes we might post on our social channels, but we don’t make promises.

In2: What’s the price range?

PH: In general, if you want to attempt a record, it’s free. You can go to the website and query whether a record exists and we’ve got a full staff worldwide processing these. If you want to open a new record category it takes 12 weeks.

If a brand is interested and engaged and wants to purchase a solution, it’s a package that includes sending an adjudicator to the event, basic usage of our logo and a two to three day turnaround. This starts at $8k and varies based on how much logo usage and consultation you want on selecting a record. After asking for an adjudicator, this is the most common thing brands want.

[caption id="attachment_2312" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Colgate and 1,142 consumers to break the Guinness World Record for the ' Colgate and 1,142 consumers to break the Guinness World Record for the '"most people using mouthwash simultaneously."[/caption]

In2: Can you give us some examples of brands who have partnered  Guinness World Records successfully?

PH: Sure, the Kia Optima set a record for the lowest fuel consumption in a hybrid car while driving through the 48 contiguous states. They used this and our logo for a commercial. We weren’t endorsing them for best gas mileage, but for the record.

IBM created the world’s smallest stop-motion film called A Boy and His Atom, it was all about manipulating atoms and exploded to more than five million views on YouTube.

When Mary Kay was celebrating its 50th anniversary last year, they called on us to create the world’s largest makeup mural.

Colgate, through their agency, wanted to promote the launch of their mouthwash and broke the record for most people using mouthwash simultaneously with 1,142 consumers in New York’s Times Square. Gathering people to achieve a record is a very popular category for us.