The record-breaking business of Guinness World Records

In the past month, Canadians have broken Guinness World Records for the deepest underwater model photoshoot (6.4 metres), most pancakes served in eight hours (17,182 flapjacks) and, most impressively, the largest dinosaur costume dance party (1,187 costumed dinos). 

These achievements have led us to wonder, “How on Earth does Guinness make money?” 

Catch up: The company was originally owned by the Guinness Brewery but is now owned by the Canadian conglomerate Jim Pattison Group and called GWR. Until recently, it made most of its money through its books, which you may recall as the crown jewel of the Scholastic Book Fair. 

  • While the company has sold over 150 million copies of its books and publishes new editions annually, sales dropped precipitously in the mid-2000s (blame the internet).

To survive, the company needed to pivot… 

… so in 2009, the GWR Consultancy began offering companies brainstorming sessions for record attempts to build brand awareness on a global scale. With a starting price of £11,000 per consultation, the consultancy wing now accounts for half of GWR’s annual revenue.

Book sales still account for roughly half of revenue, and some (but not much) money comes in from everyday record breakers that pony up £6,000 for a live adjudication of their record-breaking attempt—though most skip the steep fee and just send in a video.

Bottom line: GWR is a legacy brand that used the goodwill and name recognition it had built up over the years to bolster the transition from an outmoded business model. If only Blackberry, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Blockbuster could have figured that out.—QH