Friday, March 16, 2007

The Marketing o' the Green

Whether it's aimed at pushing merchandise directly tied to the holiday, or just dressing up the message with related images and references, I actually don't mind holiday-related marketing. And that includes marketing related to St. Patrick's Day.

Here in Boston, which has a pretty high percentage of people of Irish heritage, it's no surprise that we see more than a wee bit of marketing o' the green.

St. Patrick's is, in fact, a day off here - schools and government offices are closed. It's nominally (wink, wink) Evacuation Day, the day the British - of all things - evacuated the city of Boston during the American Revolution. These days, the only evacuating is the 20-somethings leaving their downtown offices at 11:30 "for lunch."

So we definitely "do" St. Patrick's Day here.

You can guarantee that, come the first of March, shamrocks, leprechauns, and cartoon Irishmen will start appearing in local ads (paper and TV).

Every day florists (and grocery stores) will make sure that they have dyed green carnations or dyed green alstrameria in supply. More upscale florists will push Bells of Ireland, which are quite lovely, but may have no more association with Ireland than do green carnations or alstrameria. Not that I've looked, but I don't recall ever seeing a Bell of Ireland growing there.

The card stores in Boston all carry St. Patrick's Day cards, at least half of which are about drinking.

I was picking up a few cards the other day, and grabbed one that at first glance looked like it had the standard "May the Road Rise Up to Meet You" Irish blessing on it. Good thing I looked at it a bit more carefully before mailing it off to my 82 year old Aunt Mary: it was all about getting falling-down drunk.

There's always at least one card that will set my teeth on edge by calling the day "St. Patty's Day." No, no, no. If you're going to use a nick name, it's Paddy, not Patty. (From the Irish Padraic, which is actually pronounced Paw-rick. Go figure.)

Souvenir stores here all have hideous, Kelly green "stuff" for people to wear while celebrating, parading, or reeling around: boas, scarves, fools-caps, hats - all made out of material that looks so combustible, I sure wouldn't wear it anywhere near a turf fire or a clay pipe.

We are blessed in this area with a number of excellent Irish bakeries, but this time of year grocery store bakeries are pushing soda bread that I can guarantee is nowhere near as good as my Aunt Margaret's recipe. I haven't baked any this year, but I do have in my freezer a loaf of Irish brown bread I brought back last September. My mouth is watering at the thought of thawing it out and having a slice (slathered with butter), and a cup of Barry's tea.  Sounds perfect for tomorrow, when we're expecting our first real snow storm of what's been a largely non-white winter.

Supermarkets in these parts also have their big displays of veggies for boiled dinner: cabbage, carrots, turnips, potatoes, which all goes in the vat with corned beef. Apparently - other than the praties and other root vegetables - this dish has nothing whatsoever to do with Ireland. Even around here it's generally known as New England boiled dinner. Somewhere along the line it got to be the thing to eat of St. Patrick's Day. (It may sound ghastly, but corned beef and cabbage isn't bad if you ignore the turnip and the slimy fat in the pot. Just make sure there's enough corned beef and potatoes left over for hash.)

There's no end to the number of Irish pubs in this area, and they, of course, go to town this time of year. There's been a major change in what constitutes an Irish bar or pub over the years. In the good old days, it used to be any tavern with an Irish last name over the door and a neon shamrock in the window. Now, they're a lot more authentic, generally owned and staffed by immigrants. And many of which have great traditional Irish music sessions - not schlocky bands that specialize in The Black Velvet Band type of songs. (Not that these bands can't be great fun, and not that you'll never hear TBVB in pubs in Ireland.) 

We also have some real-fake Irish pubs, which may have sprung out of a Guinness related business I read about years ago in the Aer Lingus in-flight mag, and which you can read about here (a site which, weirdly, you must be 21 years of age to enter; have they figured out a way to download a pint over the net?).

But the best marketing-of-St.Patrick's-Day anything I've seen comes from Ireland, of all places. It's SEO maven Liam Morrison's post on how Irish-related web sites should expect a boost in traffic as St. Patrick Day approaches. Here's your man:

Search boost ahead.

On one day of the year, each year, the Irish rule the world.  St. Patrick's Day. It's pretty unique for a country with such a small population to grab such a level of attention globally for one day. 

Its also a pretty unique search marketing opportunity for marketeers of all things Irish related.  Why?  Because the volume of searches  of many Irish and Irish related keyword phrases explodes for about one week in March. 

For those who are prepared and ready, it  can be a very profitable time.  While the searches for many Irish and Celtic related keyword phrases will see an increase, the number of searches for certain keywords jumps dramatically.

His post includes some charts from Google Trends on searches for Irish food, pubs, music, Guinness, drinking songs, and craic (pronounced crack - it's Irish for fun-at-the-pub). Great fun. If you want to do something Irish on St. Patrick's Day that doesn't involve hoisting a pint of stout, give Liam's blog a look.

I've been to Ireland many times, but I've never been there on St. Patrick's Day. I understand that, over the years, there's been a reverse influence going on, and what used to be a Holy Day (Mass, family meals) has now become something that more closely resembles St. Patrick's Day in the States. (Sure, the Yank tourists are expecting it.) If you've got it, flaunt it. Isn't that a lot about what marketing's about?

Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day to yez all.


alan said...

Hello Maureen

I was doing some research on Irish folklore and I came across a company in Ireland that will actually catch a leprechaun for you. I think they are been very innovative here is the link


Maureen Rogers said...

Sure, and St. Patrick drove all the leprechauns out of Ireland, didn't he. No, wait, that was snakes.

So, note to OM readers: Alan's URL will get your nowhere.

But apparently setting leprechaun traps is something that people do with their kids. Readers should let us know if they catch any.

Liam Morrison said...

Hello Maureen. Greetings from Dublin. Thanks for the mention. Enjoy St.Patrick's Day.