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Leprechauns, Pots of Gold and the Luck of the Irish

Like many celebrated holidays, ask any non-Irish descendant what celebrating Saint Patrick’s is all about and the most likely response will center around turning many things not usually the color of green, green, over-drinking, lucky shamrocks (four-leafed clover), short little men wearing green top-hats and the delicacy known as corned beef and cabbage. But like most iconic things celebrated, there is more to the story under the Irish rainbow.

The origination of Saint Patrick’s Day began in the 4th century when the patron saint of Ireland introduced Christianity to the country. As a result, Ireland has come to celebrate March 17 of each year as a day for religious services and feasts. Early emigrants to the United States transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday of revelry and celebration of things Irish with extensive parties and parades. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. Chicago intentionally started turning its river green for the Day in 1962.

Like other heritage holidays, March 17 has become a marketer’s dream, particularly for those that distill traditional Irish whiskeys. According to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA), worldwide sales of Irish whiskey have soared to an all-time high as the Pandemic began to fade in 2021. While no evidence exists supporting the notion that Irish whiskey has a medicinal purpose in treating symptoms of Covid-19, it’s generously rumored that over-consumption of the spirits is very effective in numbing one’s memory of pandemic woes. Who knew?

While the Irish whiskey trade may have unabridged justification for marketing Saint Patrick’s Day, the industry is certainly not alone. A casual perusing of the multitude of advertising channels and marketing collateral suggests that on March 17, nearly everyone is of Irish heritage. This year consumers are expected to spend $5.7 billion on the special day according to the National Retail Federation.  Most consumers will spend St. Patrick’s Day shopping dollars on planning for get-togethers or apparel to wear to either go out or participate in a celebration. With that much consumer green available, sellers of nearly everything, green or not, are eager to line up to secure a share of the treasure. But should they?

The correct answer aligns with the company culture and if the brand’s image relates to the celebratory nature of St. Patrick’s Day. If there is an obvious association between the brand and the holiday, marketing the Day is an easy decision. If the brand’s image is counter to the celebratory atmosphere of the Day, advertising and marketing this holiday may be wasteful and counter-productive.

Top consumer spenders are aged 35-44 years old with those over the age of 65 laying out the fewest pieces of gold coin. This year 54 percent of American adults plan on participating in a celebration. Restaurants, bars and special event venues will take the largest share from the pot of holiday gold. Many will offer consumers special discounts, contests, special menus, free giveaways and congratulatory social media greetings. Engaging personally and authentically with customers over social media channels will produce rewards at the end of the holiday rainbow.

May the good luck of the Irish and a pot of gold lay beneath your rainbow this Saint Patrick’s Day!