The Best of St Patrick’s Day Marketing Campaigns: Not Just Shamrocks and Leprechauns
What is the top day of the year for bars in the US?
No, not St Patrick’s Day, which actually comes in third, after Mardi Gras and New Year’s Eve.
But don’t worry, St Patrick’s Day does come in at number one for beer drinking.
Though beer is a popular tradition, St Patrick’s Day is about much more: celebrating Irish culture, spreading goodwill and joy, and good old Irish luck.
The symbols of St Patrick’s Day – the shamrock, the color green, and the mischievous mythical leprechaun – can be seen everywhere during the festive season, especially in the US, where the day is celebrated more widely than anywhere else outside of Ireland. Yet creative marketing must go a step beyond the obvious to be truly effective.
So we reviewed a whole bunch of St Patrick’s Day campaigns and selected a few that relate to the holiday in an original and compelling way. If you want to run St Patrick’s Day promotions, take a (green!) leaf from the playbook of the brands below:
Guinness and Carharrt
Every year, in honor of St Patrick’s Day, the city of Chicago dyes its eponymous river a bright Shamrock green. But who handles the job? This engaging ad, a collaboration between Guinness and the Carharrt workwear brand, answers the question: it’s the plumbers from The Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local Union 130. What’s more, it was plumbers who first came up with the idea of turning the river green, way back in 1962, and the tradition stuck ever since. This ad is the right amount of Irish nostalgia, heartwarming gratitude, and community, introducing many of the people who make St Patrick’s Day in Chicago happen. Great marketing collab and great storytelling!
For the past 50 or so St Patrick’s Days, McDonald’s has promoted its Shamrock Shake, a green minty milkshake. In fact, the green shake was first launched as a charity promotion in around 1970, raising the money that purchased the very first Ronald McDonald House. Today, McDonald’s customers wait for the release of the famous Shamrock Shake, and in a 2022 promotional campaign, the brand decided to reveal the secret ingredient that turns the shake green: Hex color #cbf2ac. The brand asked followers on social media to create and share their own Shamrock Shake fan art using the #cbf2ac color. Apart from being a great idea for a user-generated content (UGC) campaign, we also love McDonald’s interactions in the comments with fans.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
A great example of 1-minute storytelling here by Jameson Irish Whiskey, in an engaging and highly watchable video exploring what is St Patrick’s Day. This is no standard history lesson, but rather a vibe that connects the tradition of the day with bigger lessons about life and what it means to be Irish. It’s called “Sine Metu”, and it’s an attitude rather than a specific place or time. Told in a soothing Irish accented voiceover, we love the message of “fear a bit less, and live a bit more”. This ad definitely inspires the viewer to celebrate the Irish spirit wherever they are in the world, and a bottle of Jameson whiskey won’t go astray, either!
For St Patrick’s Day 2021, Dunkin’ released a donut sprinkled with matcha, otherwise known as green tea powder. Matcha is a green color (yay!), but also kind of bitter, so the donut got mixed reviews, such as in the taste test below. While Dunkin’ explained the story behind the matcha donut in a blog post, it is fair to assume that it was another idea of how to connect with the famous St Patrick’s Day green that is everywhere during the season, from the Chicago River, to the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, to Rome’s Colosseum! But hey, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Plus, matcha is very hot right now, famous for its healthy benefits. So perhaps a matcha donut is a pretty good idea after all!
Now for something completely different. If you want a quick schooling on how to create an authentic brand image, look no further than Flex Seal, adhesive bonding products. The company co-owner Phil Swift has built up an incredible fan base, on the power of the product and his personality alone (plus some very clever storytelling tactics). The brand has a YouTube following of over 1 million, who flock to the channel to watch Phil saw boats in half, seal them with Flex Seal, and take them on a sail to test how they work. Rest assured, Inside Edition investigated whether the products live up to their advertising claims (spoiler: they do!) – which is key to the brand’s authenticity and success. In 2017, Flex Seal promoted a simple St Paddy’s Day ad that fit nicely with the spirit of the brand, spinning another angle to its famous product with its signature bombastic and slightly tongue-in-cheek approach.
It’s the simple and free things that make life worth living, like kindness, joyfulness, and generosity, all ample traits of the Irish. So the Cadbury chocolate brand is promoting a 2023 St Patrick’s Day campaign in Ireland that’s all about giving. “Be a Cadbury Daymaker” encourages people to make someone else’s day by doing something nice for them. Dubbed as an ‘anti-formula’ campaign, Cadbury is steering clear of the usual holiday marketing tactics, not just selling a product or turning it green, but rather focusing on how to make the world a better place. It’s putting the true Irish spirit back in the holiday, and we think that’s a winning formula.