17 Brilliant Irish Marketing Triumphs

Marketing lessons from across the pond — just in time for St. Patrick's Day

March 15, 2020

Irish Marketing Triumphs

The Irish are well known for many things: the gift of the gab, convivial pubs, U2. What’s not as well known is many recognizable models of marketing excellence are rooted in the Irish tradition. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, let’s raise a glass to these fine examples of the Irish’s formidable promotional prowess.

1. Guinness Advertising

This inky, black (or dark ruby red) drink is the world’s most beloved stout, thanks in part to some brilliant brand advertising campaigns. Its playful taglines are iconic: “Guinness for Strength.” “My Goodness, My Guinness.” “Guinness Is Good for You.” Vintage Guinness signs are sought after by tourists and Irish locals alike. Not to mention the staggering number of visitors that the Guinness Brewery continues to attract.

Marketing Lesson: Investing in branding can deliver powerful results

2. John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Campaign

In 1960, Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, Irish-American, was elected president of the United States — something that had long been unthinkable in a country where groups such as the Know Nothing Party were built around anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment. Kennedy’s performance in the televised debates during the campaign helped create the image of a youthful, vigorous man despite his struggles with back pain and Addison’s disease.

Marketing Lesson: Marketing a new medium, in this case television, can pay huge dividends.

3. Jameson

This legendary Irish whiskey dominates much of the in-bar branding on St. Patrick’s Day. With its unmistakable green-tinted bottles, Jameson has become a staple of pubs around the world. The company also recently rolled out a Cold Brew whiskey, which has become quite popular in its own right. 

Marketing Lesson: Stay true to your colors, but don’t be afraid to innovate.

4. Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

Look out Jameson, because there’s a new contender in the ring. Proper No. Twelve is a relatively new offering via founder Conor McGregor, a renowned MMA superstar and one of Ireland’s most well known international celebrities (also the very embodiment of “Fighting Irish”). Ever the competitor, McGregor has made no secret of his ambition overtake Jameson as the best-selling Irish whiskey in the States.

Marketing Lesson: Familiar and relevant influencers provide a big brand boost.

5. Riverdance

Featuring the bare-chested Michael Flatley, an American from Chicago’s South Side, the dance extravaganza “Riverdance” became a phenomenon in the mid-1990s and revived the popularity of Irish step dancing around the world — some say in spite of itself.

Marketing Lesson: Match your message with the medium: Broadway and dance are a perfect pair

6. The Fighting Irish

Notre Dame is a Catholic university founded by French priests on the plains of Indiana. The school found unlikely fame, thanks to its football team, which rose to prominence in the early 1900s as the Fighting Irish, a nickname derived from the squad’s many players of Irish heritage. Notre Dame used its football notoriety to help the school become one of the top universities in the U.S.

Marketing Lesson: Leveraging your strengths can elevate every aspect of an organization. 

7. Ulysses

Published in 1922, James Joyce’s difficult masterpiece “Ulysses” is considered the quintessential modernist novel. It became an even more celebrated book when a New York court ruled it was “obscene,” which effectively banned the Irish novel from the United States until the 1930s. The censoring turned out to provide a serendipitous and lasting awareness for the book.

Marketing Lesson: File this under “any publicity is good publicity.”

8. Kerrygold 

Salty in flavor and extremely yellow in hue, this Irish butter has experienced explosive growth in the United States. Kerrygold has a very distinct creamy taste, which sets it apart, and the Irish flare is made clear by its Celtic font. The branding also puts this product’s chief differentiating ingredient forward: milk from Irish grass-fed cows.

Marketing Lesson: Carve your niche and find ways to clearly convey your competitive advantage.

9. David Ogilvy

Although he was born in England, David Ogilvy had Celtic roots: His mother was Anglo-Irish, and his father was Scottish and spoke Gaelic. Ogilvy was a genius at selling himself — the firm Ogilvy & Mather still bears his name, because his brand still maintains its strength more than 20 years after his death. Ogilvy was also a genius at selling the advertising profession as an honorable one. His quote, “The customer is not a moron, she is your wife,” is a classic call for the industry to elevate itself.

Marketing Lesson: The best salespeople sell themselves first.

10. Elvis Costello

The musician’s real name, of course, is not Elvis Costello. It’s Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, and he was born in England but is of Irish descent. The brashness of rechristening himself after the king of rock and roll got the new Elvis plenty of attention, and so did his music, especially his brilliant first three albums: “My Aim Is True,” “This Year’s Model,” and “Armed Forces.”

Marketing Lesson: Brashness can help you stand out. So can comparing yourself to other industry leaders.

11. Ireland

In the 1840s, the potato famine and its after effects created the Irish diaspora in which countless Irish fled their country, primarily to the United States. Now, the country has reinvented itself and thrives as a business center in part because of its English-speaking population. Ireland also thrives as a tourist destination for the descendants of those who fled.

Marketing Lesson: Brand comebacks are possible, even if it takes a couple of centuries.

12. "Kiss Me I'm Irish"

Are Irish people more kissable than anyone else? Maybe, maybe not, but this catchphrase will forever push the narrative. Along with culinarians sporting a “Kiss the Cook” apron, Irish have the market cornered on smoochability. 

Marketing Lesson: Subtlety can be nice, but it’s not always required. 

13. Saint Patrick

Once a slave in Ireland in the fifth century, Saint Patrick escaped to England, became a priest, and returned to the Emerald Isle as a missionary. He helped establish Christianity in Ireland; legend has it he did so in part by using the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the holy trinity.

Marketing Lesson: Metaphor and storytelling can be powerful assets.

14. Four-Leaf Clover

What a lucky thing to have good fortune so widely associated with your heritage. The “luck of the Irish” is represented by the four-leaf clover, a universal symbol of good luck. Studies suggest that there are approximately 5,000 to 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every one of the four-leaf variety. The underlying message we appreciate here? There’s nothing wrong with being different; quite the contrary.

Marketing Lesson: Uniqueness is special and memorable.

15. Lucky Charms

What better way to build affinity with the youth than an Irish-themed breakfast that’s basically a dessert? This colorful marshmallow-loaded cereal from General Mills carries plenty of tributes to Irish lore, from the “Lucky” descriptor to the four-leaf clovers to the cheery leprechaun mascot. And for obvious reasons, kids love it.

Marketing Lesson: Know your audience, and seek to delight them.

16. Boston Celtics 

New England is rich with Irish heritage, with an estimated 17.5% of the region’s population hailing from Irish descent. Boston’s NBA team embraces this history with its name and all-green color scheme. Incidentally, the Celtics also happen to be arguably the most successful team in the league’s history, with a record 17 titles. (Yep, 17. There’s some St. Paddy’s Day kismet!)

Marketing Lesson: Embrace your roots and engage your community.

17. St. Patrick’s Day

With all the green beer, it’s easy to forget that St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day of obligation in Ireland. On top of that, the holiday occurs during Lent, a period commonly associated with restricted eating and drinking. The uncelebrated marketing heroes in this story are the ones who got these Lenten restrictions waived for March 17. The rest is marketing history – mainly alcohol marketing history.

Marketing Lesson: Never underestimate the power of events (such as parades and parties) in building a lasting brand.

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Start your own marketing triumph on LinkedIn Campaign Manager today. No luck of the Irish necessary. 

Photo: Luca Sartoni

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