Tips for Marketers on St. Patrick's Day


What’s not to love about St. Patrick’s Day? It’s a fun holiday to theme around and so is often used in PR and marketing campaigns. But like many celebrated holidays around the world, the event’s true “brand” has become distorted over the years.

An estimated four million Canadians claim Irish decent and tens of thousands of Irish-born residents (including me!) have made Canada their home in the last two decades. Whether you are targeting an actual Irish audience or just the Irish-at-heart, consider these points to give your marketing campaign an authentic and accurate Gaelach touch.

 St. Patrick and St. Patty are different saints!

To review, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, celebrates the life of the Patron Saint of Ireland. “St. Patty’s Day” is one of the most common – and most incorrect -- ways to reference the Irish national holiday. While Pat is a shortened version of the name Patrick, Patty is not. Patty is a diminutive of Patricia and with the feast day of St. Patricia falling on August 25th, St. Patty’s Day is a different event altogether.



Paddy on the other hand, is a derivative of the Irish name Pádraig (or Patrick in English). So if you feel the need to get casual with the name of this day, just remember, its Paddy and not Patty.

Make it easy on yourself by keeping your references to the full term: St. Patrick’s Day, as these brands have done:



It’s Shamrock, not Clover

Another common faux-pas is the use of a four-leaf clover as a symbol to represent Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day in particular.

Here’s how that gets confused: 

  1. Finding a four-leaf clover is thought to be a sign of good luck 
  2. There is an old saying, “the luck of the Irish” which is thought to be in reference to some of the more successful 19th century gold rush miners, who happened to be Irish
  3. St. Patrick is associated with a shamrock – a three-leaf plant that looks rather like a clover

Although the vibrant green plant is not the official national symbol of the Emerald Isle (that’s the harp!) it was a three-leaf shamrock that St. Patrick used to teach the Irish people about Christianity and the Holy Trinity and so, the three-leaf shamrock is of great cultural significance.

Using four leaves instead of three is a widespread gaffe. 2016 saw Guinness use a clover rather than a shamrock in its TTC adverts. This was particularly disappointing as Guinness is one of Ireland’s oldest and most treasured brands. Fans did not waste any time in taking to social media to correct the company! The brand reacted quickly to remove the adverts and even went one step further to offer a personal and lighthearted apology to the person who first brought it to their attention via Facebook Messenger.  




This year, an official “Make America Great Again” green hat from the Trump merchandise website also incorrectly used a four-leaf clover. 



The craic

Having the craic (pronounced crack) is a phrase commonly used by Irish people, meaning to have a good time. Craic is the Irish word for fun and while the pronunciation doesn’t present any issues for most people, the spelling causes confusion. Spelling the word any way other than c-r-a-i-c will lead people to think you are up to something quite different.

On the topic of the Irish language, there is often confusion around this too. The Irish don’t speak Gaelic. The Gaelic languages are comprised of Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic, all of which are of Celtic origin. The Irish language is simply referred to as Irish and while many non-Irish people may refer to it as Irish Gaelic, this is not common practice in Ireland. The Irish word for the Irish language is Gaeilge, which looks similar in spelling, and so is often the source of this confusion.

This year, the Irish whiskey brand, Jameson, wins my heart for their accurate and authentic use of Irish language within a regional campaign. Jameson has encouraged Canadians to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the ‘Jameson way’ with custom Snapchat filters and a recipe for a Jameson cocktail. When referencing “craic”, the brand not only spelled the word correctly, they used it in the right context and tied it back to the brand’s Irish motto, “Sine Metu”. 

This wasn’t the only year that Jameson produced an impressive social media campaign for St. Patrick’s Day. Check out 2015’s 3-D whiskey shot on Instagram!



Slide this shot of Jameson to your drinking buddy #LongLiveTheShot

A video posted by Jameson Whiskey (@jameson_us) on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:31am PDT


(Bonus Irish Language Tip: No one from Ireland will ever, ever say "To be sure, to be sure," or "Top O' the morning to ya". Not even on St. Patrick’s Day!)


In Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart, he uttered the now famous words, “They may take away our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!” These words are now commonly slurred in pubs across North America on St. Patrick’s Day. Friends, William Wallace was Scottish. Doing your best William Wallace impression to demonstrate your understanding of Irish history will only confuse people. Other Scottish references to omit from your St. Patrick’s Day campaign include the bag pipes, tartan and kilts. 




There is a very specific way to pour a pint of Guinness. Whether this technique is the result of a very successful marketing campaign from the 1940s as suggested by many sources, pouring a Guinness any other way is simply unacceptable to the people of Ireland.



Vancouver based venue, Railtown Café, disappointed many Irish patrons by using the following image in its St. Patrick’s Day event advertisement. News of their egregious error travelled across the Atlantic with many popular Irish news and gossip websites discussing this disastrous pint. 

The café quickly reacted to the social media backlash, posting a new picture of a perfectly poured pint with a humble apology, winning back the hearts of the Irish in true Canadian fashion.



Here’s how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness from the experts themselves:


(Bonus Guinness Tip: If your Guinness has been poured correctly, then you should be able to tell exactly how many sips you took to finish the pint. A ring should after each sip will be left inside the glass. Master Guinness drinkers say it should take you seven big sips to finish!)


To really impress your Irish friends and colleagues this St. Patrick’s Day, might I suggest that you quote this ancient Irish blessing meaning “May every road rise to meet you.”

“An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas.”

(pronounced: on will kead a-gum dull guh dee on leh-rus)


La Fhéile Pádraig sona duit! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)

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