Happy Saint Patrick’s Day: 4 Marketing Lessons from 'How the Irish Saved Civilization'

March 15, 2016

There’s a brilliant book — especially this time of year with Saint Patrick's Day approaching and especially if you have an Irish surname — that makes the case that the Irish helped bring the world out of the Dark Ages. You might think this book, titled How the Irish Saved Civilization, would cite William Butler Yeats, the Pogues, and Guinness as the saviors of all that is civilized.

But, no.

Instead, the book’s author, Thomas Cahill, lays out the argument that Saint Patrick and the Irish he converted to Catholicism in the fifth century are the ones who saved Western Civilization.

In the book, Cahill paints a picture of the Roman Empire crumbling on the European continent, literacy dissipating, and the great libraries turning to dust. At the same time, however, on the isolated island of Ireland, the Catholic Church, initially shepherded by Saint Patrick, had grown into a large flock led by Saint Columba and his monks. In the Irish monasteries, the monks copied the great Latin and Greek texts of antiquity. Safe from the chaos and conflagrations on the continent, these manuscripts endured and provided the cultural foundation that led to the rise of Medieval Europe and ultimately the Renaissance.  

How the Irish Saved Civilization is a provocative read, and it’s a particularly interesting one around March 17. The story the book tells — and the story of how the book sells — offer four key lessons for marketers.

Speak to your audience’s best view of itself

If you’re Irish or even if your family came from that island eight generations ago, the title How the Irish Saved Civilization is hard to resist. The book was on the New York Times Bestseller list for two years, in part because it presents the Irish in the best possible light. There’s a lesson here for marketers, too. If you create your content from the point of view that your prospects are smart, they will return the favor of also treating you with respect.

Think big

When Cahill debuted How the Irish Saved Civilization, he was thinking the book was just the start. He envisioned it as the first entry in a series of books he called the “Hinges of History.” Each book in the series, which includes The Gift of the Jews and Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, examines a group that altered the course of history. For Cahill, it has paid to make no small plans. Content marketers can learn from this approach. When creating your content, aim to answer the big questions your customers and prospects are asking — the questions that will catapult you to the top of the search rankings and deliver SEO success. 

Content is a change agent

In “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” Cahill makes the case that the books the monks copied — such as the Book of Kells and Confessions of St. Augustine — helped preserve the knowledge that eventually created the Medieval mindset and helped civilization rise again. Without these works, the ideas in them would have vanished in the mists of time. From this tale, marketers can see the power of content to change hearts and minds – even those of influencers and decision makers.   

Make your message simple and visual

It’s probably just a legend, but Saint Patrick is said to have explained the mystery of the trinity using the three-leaved shamrock, which are so plentiful in Ireland. The shamrock image is a simple and strong visual. Whether it stemmed from Saint Patrick or not, marketers should emulate this excellent example of communication. When marketing on social media and mobile phones, marketers should think visually first. A strong visual on social networks and smartphones is the primary way to catch a prospect’s eye.

For daily lessons (all year round) on digital marketing, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Photo: Danny Huizinga

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