Setting One for the Record Books

Jeter hits number 3,000. Photo: Robert Sabo, New York Daily News

New York Yankee Derek Jeter has added his name to the record books, striking his 3,000th hit against Tampa Bay. Other well-known record breakers include Lady Gaga, who has the most Twitter followers and the fastest number-one-selling single on iTunes and Lil Wayne, who set the record for Facebook “likes” in a 24-hour period.

Setting and breaking records has long been a way to generate publicity for individuals and brands, and in the digital age there are more records to vie for. Having raw talent helps, but for companies it takes a concerted effort and some familiarity with the process. Even if one is not a celebrity, setting or breaking a record can still generate some buzz. We’ve outlined some tips for how to go about it after the jump.

Going for the right record is key since there are many options.

Being the first to attempt to set a record usually attracts attention, though it often involves searching existing record databases to see what has already been accomplished. (More about that below.)

Make sure the goal can be objectively measured, such as being the fastest, tallest, or longest. Subjective performance, including being the best, may work for smaller scale contests but not for major records.

Try for an impressive but ultimately attainable record, and hopefully one that can’t be quickly surpassed. Jeter’s goal was reachable this year since the baseball season has 162 games and he does not have much competition yet in this category.

Aligning the record with the brand is critical, and even more so when customer participation is involved. Earlier this year, Oreo sought the record of being the most liked brand on Facebook, and it could do so since it has so many loyal fans.

Being a sponsor is another way to associate the brand with the record being set. Before W Hotels opened in Barcelona last year, they sponsored a sailing race that set the transoceanic record from New York to Barcelona. Their logo appeared on one of the two boats, and their affluent customer base was a good fit with sailing.

Have fun — setting a record can be a serious undertaking but can also be entertaining. At the New York Entrepreneurs Conference, they set the record for the most 15-second elevator pitches delivered in a five minute period. Going for the record in real-time at the conference made the feat more memorable.

Selecting the right officiating organization or record keeper is also important.

In some cases, the official organization presiding over the records are clear. In Jeter’s case it is Major League Baseball, for Lady Gaga’s music records, iTunes can confirm the numbers, and Facebook can verify the volume of Oreo’s likes.

For many other types of records, the organization to consult is U.K.-based Guinness World Records, the gold standard of records for over 50 years.  However, since they are so popular they receive over 50,000 inquiries each year, which causes delays. They also have strict rules and guidelines, including the types of records they allow and proper application procedures to follow.

RecordSetter, formerly known as Universal Record Database or URDB, was launched in New York in 2008 and represents a more accessible option. They deal with quirkier records, such as the elevator pitches or most people performing air windmill guitar at once. The clip of the record being broken can be sent in, or they can officiate in person if the record is being set during an event.