On the record

In Communicate, Dubai, Marketing, Published journalism on November 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm

It pays to be superlative as Guinness World Records prepares to publish the second edition of its trivia trove book in Arabic. Can brands cash in?

Originally published in Communicate, October 2007

The region in general, and the UAE in particular, claims a lot – the world’s tallest building, the fanciest hotel, the largest man-made marina, the biggest inflatable bottle. So it is perhaps surprising that of the 48,000 official records set since 1954, only around 120 belong to the Middle East and North Africa.

Now companies in the region are working with Guinness World Records to give themselves something to shout about. It seems being No. 1 is good business, whether a brand has sponsored more football teams than any other or unwrapped the biggest box of chocolates.

“Arab people are proud people,” says Myriam Hoballah, regional project director for Guinness World Records. “And I believe they are the right people to enhance Guinness’s brand. Why? Because they are so positive about these ideas. They like the fun part and the showing off.”

Al Waseet International, a Kuwaiti company best known for its weekly free classifieds publication, represents Guinness World Records in the region and is ready to help companies looking for a record to break.

The company also plans to launch the 2008 Arabic version of the Guinness World Records book at the end of this month in Abu Dhabi, the world’s richest city.

Many of the claims made by Dubai businesses of being the biggest, the best and the first are never validated. “Most of [the region’s claimed records], I am sure, are not listed as Guinness World Records,” says Hoballah. “This makes a big difference. Guinness World Records is the records institution to validate a record that you set. If you don’t go through Guinness World Records guidelines and are not certified as a Guinness World Record holder, it is not a record.”

She explains how the relationship with marketers often works. “A lot of companies have understood the importance of breaking records,” says Hoballah. “For example, I might have a company that wants to do something for a new product launch in order to grab more attention in the market, and they want to link into breaking a record. Or when a company wants to rebrand, again it makes sense.”

Al Waseet advises companies free of charge on which records can most easily be broken, and it can lobby for a company to appear in the book, provided it actually breaks a record or sets a new one deemed worthy of inclusion by the book’s editors in London. Customers can also order special branded editions of the tome, which can be printed – with a special cover and dedicated pages – before the next public edition is even out.

The company charges fees for organizing branded events based around record-breaking feats. Further income comes from book sales, merchandise and the special editions (though no companies from the Middle East have ordered any of those yet).

In a region with an ambitious spirit, the most mundane record can draw admiration and emulation. Gargash Enterprises, a UAE-based car dealership, for example, set a record for the largest procession of Mercedes-Benz cars in April, when the owners of 153 C-Class Mercs turned out for a parade around Dubai.

Now Mercedes in Syria are interested, says Hoballah. “They heard about what they did [in the UAE] and they might go for it. So it might become a competition.”
Another one in competition is the world record for creating the biggest football. In November, Doha Bank took the prize with a diameter of 9.07 meters.

But, when they took their eye off the ball, telecom company MTN Sudan overtook them, showing off a 10.5 meter inflatable on August 26.

Regional records: a marketing tool?

World’s largest box of chocolate bars: A giant carton of Kit Kats weighed in at 1,700 kilograms during Dubai Summer Surprises 2005.

World’s tallest unsupported flagpole: 126.8 meters, in Amman.

World’s most expensive phone number: The identity of the Qatari bidder who paid $2.75 million at a charity auction in May 2006 was kept secret, but he can presumably be contacted at +974-666-6666.

World’s largest same name gathering: 1,096 Mohammeds gathered in a Dubai park, also during Summer Surprises 2005.

World’s largest kite: 25.47 by 40 meters, flown by Abdul Rahman and Faris Al Farsi in Kuwait.


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