Social Hijacking of St. Patty’s vs. Mardi Gras: Global Beats National

March 22, 2017

Is there a winning formula for brands looking be part of social buzz during major events and holidays?

Nick LaBran, my fellow social intelligence guru at Harte Hanks, and I hypothesized that both national and global events would raise significant interest from brands looking to “news-jack” the use of social channels and insert themselves into conversations taking place.

To test this hypothesis, we took two adult-friendly calendar favorites—New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and Saint Patrick’s Day—and analyzed their surrounding social activities. Both are very good reasons to party with friends, irrespective of where you’re from, and offer plenty of brand associations. 

Mardi Gras

As February came and went, Nick and I were surprised by how little effort they saw from brands during Mardi Gras. Southern Comfort was the exception, understandably, with high levels of activity. It seems they created content once (and repeated everywhere) but only on Facebook did it earn any significant engagement.

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The brand was probably heavily invested experiential but missed a trick, or two, by not streaming live or taking advantage of posts being shared by attendees.

For a notable non-alcohol brand, NBA made the most of All Star Weekend being in New Orleans by sponsoring a hashtag and posting films of their stars decked in costumes.

It seems such a specific location-based event doesn’t offer much scope for global brands and therefore nobody thought much beyond beads. Meh!

Saint Patrick’s Day

As always, this global excuse for a party was mercilessly news-jacked and––whether the brand had a valid voice or not. Guinness and Jameson both worked the day for all it was worth. From our social listening, we can see both appeared more regularly than any other brands.

The whiskey brand hosted an interview live (with their Master Distiller) from their Distillery in Ireland, as well as offering a trip to Dublin for Paddy’s Day 2018. They released a limited-edition bottle in international airports and generally “owned” the liquor space on March 17.

The world-famous “Black Stuff” took their connection to Ireland’s Saint’s Day to another level. They encourage drinkers to get involved in their campaign for #StacheForCharity … to share moments of them wearing their “Guinness Moustaches”. Many pieces of user-generated content later, they clearly won the activation gold medal with something memorable that’s true to their product experience.

Notable mentions from around the world of brands include McDonald’s Limited Edition Shamrock Shakes (as regular now as Green Beer). Dunkin Donuts offered Green Glazed Doughnuts. Hard Rock Café tailored menus to cater to the (rare) Friday night crowd. Starbuck’s even got involved with a cute apron post.

All in all, mentions of Saint Patrick’s Day outnumbered Mardi Gras by 2:1 … and the number of brands getting involved was exponentially higher. ­­So why would that be? Here are some reasons why Nick and I believe global beats national every time. 

#1: Heritage Counts

Meeting friends and having a drink (or two) is universally a good idea that any alcohol brand can take advantage of.

But clearly there are more global citizens with Irish heritage than with New Orleans ties. It also helps your brand be more authentic with more people who’re either Celtic; or married to one; or has a great friend show is; or likes to think they are! Brand Ireland has propagated the world with its charm.

New Orleans is awesome and the people are amazing, but it’s cultural influence is somewhat the reverse of Irish culture because of its colonial history. Many cultures and ethnicities co-exist in the South but they all concentrated into a relatively small geographical area … French, Spanish, African, Native Americans and so on.

Music, food, architecture all play their part in their charm for a visitor, but does it travel well? Any brand associated with Mardi Gras will always feel confined to a smaller moment in time.

#2: Keep It Simple, Shareable

Beyond a limited-edition product or two, the biggest opportunities came from image-based associations with Irishness. Shamrocks, foamy mustaches, green anything!

Images create an instant visual connection for someone scrolling through their social feed. Images are transcreation-able (let’s add that one to the dictionary). And the relatable and translatable moments that are captured, in one day a year, are global. Anyone can bundle down to their local pub and take part in #SPD. You probably should travel to New Orleans to really enjoy #MG!

#3: Get Community Involved for Real Reach

SoCo did a reasonable job of creating a bank of content around Mardi Gras but didn’t create ways for their fans to really participate. Watch and (maybe) share was really the extent of involvement. No effort was made to encourage dialogue or to share their own stories for instance. They also didn’t interact with anyone or any other accounts who were talking about Mardi Gras. Therefore, their feeds don’t look too different during the festival than they do any other time of year. Southern Comfort should be owning Mardi Gras and taking the essence of the event and translating it into something we can all celebrate while consuming their liquor.

Guinness did far more to involve their fans. We’ve talked about Stout Mustaches and we’ve seen how Jameson broadcast live to create larger reach. And there’s always the potential for a global event like Saint Patrick’s Day to have a local activation component, as well. It offers the best of both for brands. Activate an omnichannel campaign for a condensed amount of time and people will want more and more to enjoy that moment and positively associate your brand with the experience.

So, there you have it. If you’re a brand and want to be part of a conversation around a cultural event, pick something with global appeal and find ways to draw people into your branded experience in a meaningful and relatable way. You’ll win the hearts and minds of your fans for another year.