Well everyone, it’s time to get our novelty tri-colour hammers out and toast to our snake chasing patron saint, as Paddy’s Day 2023 has arrived. As per usual, we’ll be bombarded by brands posting greened-up mascots and trying to connect themselves to the idea of luck. Some efforts will have you soaring with pride, while others will fall into the realms of paddywhackery.
For us here at Verve, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate those brands that really go for broke with their St. Patrick’s Day creative, hitting it out of the park every year. So, after knocking our heads together, we’ve narrowed it down to five of our favourite St. Patrick’s Day brands.
Unsurprisingly, Guinness is the head honcho when mid-march comes around. They were selling 13 million pints on pre-Covid Patrick’s Days, and given the increased reverence for the beverage post-pandemic, we only expect that to go up. That said, it’s all been earned by putting the black stuff in the centre of Paddy’s Day messaging for decades, essentially turning their brand into a tradition.
There are genuinely too many Guinness ads in this category, particularly in the U.S., with stings of Nick Offerman, their $1 million cash prizes campaign for the best Patrick’s Day toast, their poignant Carhartt collaboration “The River”, or their campaign to make St. Patrick’s Day a national U.S. holiday. For us, our favourite stateside piece is the hilarious “St Patrick’s Day Morning” from the early 2000’s that sees a group of lads run down to the living room as if it’s Christmas.
Over this side of the Atlantic, we’ve seen their funnier side over the years, from “The Jar” that houses all the craic, to “Round up your mates”, where a bunch of lads out celebrating get the sheep and shepherd treatment. They’ve also taken more socially conscious approaches, such as asking New Zealanders to check in while celebrating during the pandemic, and encouraging Irish people to turn the holiday into “The Friendliest Day of the Year” through a Guinness World Records push.
Currently, they’re running their “Make it a Paddy’s Day to Remember” platform, turning pubs like O’Donoghue’s into 0.0’Donoghue’s and championing a choir of singing zero percent Guinnesses on socials. As a brand, they pretty much own the holiday so we’re always so excited to see how much they’ll bring to the table.
It may be their job to promote Ireland, particularly around March 17th, but Fáilte Ireland do it with gusto. “The World Goes Green” with its Liam Neeson narration always lifts our hearts and fills us with heartwarming national pride. And last year’s “Green Button Festival”, which took over billboards overseas, was a cutting-edge way to showcase our musical talent and Ireland’s most beautiful locations.
We love any brand that eschews Paddyness to embrace a deeper Irish insight for Patrick’s Day. In recent times, Cadbury has been doing just that by focusing on people who don’t feel the typical Paddy’s Day festivities speak to them. That the day doesn’t celebrate what it truly means to be Irish. So, to get their attention, Cadbury has instead been spotlighting Irish generosity.
This year, the message has really taken off with their wonderful creative “Be a St. Patrick’s Daymaker”, encouraging people to give their time and energy to others as a way to celebrate their Irishness on the day. All the while offering a sneaky route out by just getting someone a Dairy Milk!
Generosity found its way into their messaging two years ago as well with their “Bainne Déiríochta”, a limited release of Irish language Dairy Milk gift boxes. You got them complimentary when you purchased 4 Dairy Milks and could give them to whoever you liked come our national day. They also came with a satisfied feeling as Cadbury were making a small donation to Aware for each box sold. All in all, we just find it refreshing to see brands cut through the noise.
There hasn’t been a major St. Patricks’ Day overhaul from McDonald’s in many a decade, and frankly there hasn’t been a need to. For a non-Irish brand, McDonald’s has enjoyed its Shamrock Shake being synonymous with the holiday since 1970. And throughout the years McDonald’s have milked this shake for all its worth with the clever marketing trick of artificial scarcity. Now for 3-4 weeks every year they have a minty phenomenon that is relentlessly promotable.
The Shamrock Shake has been the hero of too many ads to count (even getting the Gardiner Brothers behind it), but we can’t help feeling extra enthusiastic toward one in particular: their guerrilla marketing on the Chicago River. There they floated a giant spilled Shamrock Shake in the famous green-dyed waters, earning some much deserved spit takes at the Windy City’s yearly parade.
Look, nothing excites us more than an underdog story, and when it comes to drinks brands on Paddy’s Day, Tullamore D.E.W. is up against some tough competition. But that’s never deterred them from hopping in the ring and throwing their weight behind eye-catching campaigns and events.
Their “World’s Smallest(ish) Irish Pub” neatly delivered virtual entertainment during lockdown while also spotlighting great Irish talent. And their partnering with meat purveyors Pat Lafrieda saw them release “St. Paddy’s Day Patty” kits in a fun effort to correct the common misspelling.
Their now annual “O’Everyone” campaign deserves special mention, as we see pubs across North America rebranded as Irish. Meanwhile consumers can O’Last-name themselves and get their new Irish moniker on personalised bottles and kit. This sends a well-meaning inclusivity message across North America as all proceeds from the merch go to diversity projects. And let’s not forget their “O’Everyone” P.R. stunt, where they searched for a fan in California with the surname Jameson to change their name to Tullamore. What a way to turn heads.
“St. Patrick’s Day Snakes” is such a wonderfully simple print ad. Without even showing a car, Audi were driving home their message of excellence while seamlessly blending in St. Patrick lore.
And there you have it, folks – our top five St. Patrick’s Day brands. As a creative agency delivering events, sponsorship, activations, and branded content, we know first hand how crucial memorable campaigns are. For us, each of these brands has found their own way to capture the Paddy’s day spirit and has committed themselves to delivering that year on year. From the iconic Guinness to the kind-hearted Cadbury’s, they have all proven themselves to be creative, innovative, and truly deserving of their spot here.
We hope this has shown you what’s possible for a Patrick’s Day campaign. If you’re ever looking to launch one, our creative teams are always ready to think outside the box and turn your brand into a holiday staple. Speaking of holiday staples, it’s about time we got our hands on some ham, cabbage, and mashed potato.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀
Written by John Close
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