POTATO NACHOS ANYONE? THE CONSUMPTION OF IRISH CULTURE FOR THE MASSES ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Image Source Courtesy of Spend With Pennies (Easy Home-Cooked Comfort)

St. Patrick’s Day is a widely-celebrated day of Irish culture, and has been well established as the “most global national holiday”. We all know the common stereotypes about celebrating the day, but here at DI we wanted to delve a little deeper.

We wanted to know how people celebrate the day around the world and what opportunities for brands may exist over the holiday. We set up a Brandwatch query to track use of the #StPaddysDay☘ hash tag to discover when and where online audiences shared celebratory posts.

Tracking the location, time frame and content of posts we learned some fascinating facts about how St Patrick’s Day translates around a wide range of countries and cultures:

  • The dominant St Patrick’s Day global conversational trend is the colour green. From synthetically coloured food and drink to clothes, accessories and paraphernalia, the colour green transcends borders and linguistic barriers to unite a myriad cultures around and behind the St Patrick’s Day occasion
  • Culinary experimentation with Irish staples forms a key ritual of the export of St Patrick’s Day. Irish Nacho’s anyone?  Yep, Nachos made from the humble potato is a thing in South America
  • Mrs Doyle’s impact is not to be underestimated! Tea is an important ritual for Brits over St Patrick’s and Matcha Green Tea enters the repertoire of Americans and Canadians on the 17th G’wan, g’wan
  • And last but not least, no matter where your pint of the black stuff is being poured NO ONE SHOULD EVER, EVER MESS WITH THE GUINNESS SERVE.

 

ST PATRICK’S IS A SHORT, SHARP CONVERSATIONAL BURST:

What we initially found was that there was very little in the way of anticipation or follow up conversation. There’s no slow burn or big build up around this occasion. For St. Patrick’s Day posts are in the moment. It therefore makes sense for marketing efforts to maintain a similar timetable of promotion in order to meet this standard. St Patrick’s Day hits like a train so brands tapping into the event would benefit from an ‘always on’ 24-hour approach to extract the most value out of agile communications on the 17th February.

As for the times of sharing, there’s a definite preference for afternoon sharing, peaking at 3pm. This is presumably just before celebrations commence and inebriation takes effect.

 

AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY

Next we looked at global geographical conversation patters.  As expected, the majority of mentions appeared in Ireland and the United States. Given that this is an Irish holiday, it is an unsurprising finding that Ireland has generated a large quantity of the content. The same can be said of the United States given its close ties with Ireland and long history of Irish Immigration.

When St. Patrick’s Day springs to mind, you might think of drinking and parades.  With our research, we wanted to find out more. Where are those without Irish roots celebrating the day and are they having a pint of the black stuff, or are they celebrating differently in different locations?

 

SO WHAT’S THE ST PADDY’S CHAT?

Traditional Irish Food and Drink: Food and drink are an inextricable part of any celebration, so we decided to examine references to food and drink in a market with less traditional connection to Irish culture: South America.

About half of the references to food in South America discussed foods which are perceived to be traditionally Irish, including potatoes, lamb and Irish stew. They featured on celebratory menus and recipes posted in honour of St. Patrick’s Day. Potatoes are, of course, a crucial part of Irish food culture, and there was evidence of this in the dataset with discussions of potatoes and recipes for dishes like potato scones. Corned beef was also mentioned – a product which is a traditionally Irish American part of the celebration – and there was an intriguing example of fusion food – Irish Nachos, in which the tortilla chips are replaced with potatoes.

Guinness was a substantial part of the conversation, showing the strong connection between this brand and Irish identity and culture. Other brands mentioned included Jameson and Baileys. Although these were the most popular brands, they were not the most popular beverage. People were more likely to discuss beer in general, rather than Guinness or stout specifically.

Green Food and Drink: Half of the food posts discussed Irish food, so what was going on with the other half? Well, it seems that celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day feature green food. Some of this is naturally green, like pesto or enchiladas with a green sauce. However, most of this food was synthetically coloured, including cakes, doughnuts, banana pudding and emerald green burger buns.

As with food, so with drink and the trend for dying things green continues, although this was a smaller proportion of the dataset. Some posters discussed drinking green beer or dying their drinks green.

 

What’s More Irish Than Alcohol? Tea!

Having discovered the prevalence of food and drink conversation in South America, we decided to look at the dataset as a whole for any global trends. The topic cloud contained a surprising revelation.

We expected Guinness to feature heavily, but actually the only beverage mentioned by name was tea. So delving further we looked at the topic cloud for people talking about tea, hoping to see if there were any emerging brands or themes.

This mostly referred to black tea or people in the UK and Ireland referring to tea generally, which it could be assumed means black tea. However, continuing the theme of green food and drink, it seems that green tea is beginning to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

This is particularly true in the United States, which featured the largest number of tweets relating to green tea. Matcha, a particular type of green tea, was discussed in Canada, Ireland, the UK and the United States in direct connection to St. Patrick’s Day. Although this was a relatively small proportion of the dataset as a whole, this could represent an opportunity for brands to push green tea related products around St. Patrick’s Day, including a wide range of food products which are now made using Matcha powder.

NEVER Mess with the Guinness Serve: It turns out that as far as enjoying the day most people aren’t that bothered about how you celebrate your Irish roots, so long as it’s green. However, Guinness is a notable exception, devoid of green but still a crucial ingredient of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

This staple of Irish culture should not be changed in anyway and is deemed by many Irish people as an authentic staple of Irish culture. One Canadian café found this out the hard way when they shared an image that was described as “sacrilegious”, because of its overflown spilled head of Guinness. The café later amended the image with an apology to the Irish people, offering free pints to Irish drinkers on the day.

Our social analysis shows us the universal nature of St. Patrick’s Day, allowing all manner of cultures to celebrate by adding green to their day and using the excuse to enjoy themselves. But we also observed the emerging trend of a more vocal Irish audience who wish to maintain their own traditions and see these translate with reverence and authenticity around the world.

There’s an old Irish saying that “a best friend is like a four leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have”.  Well, the data used in this report was powered by our best pals at Brandwatch and they aren’t so hard to find – they’re right here – Brandwatch.

Thanks for reading Disruptive Insight’s brief St Patrick’s Day ‘global odyssey’, if you like our chat then come and say “Hi” at @DI_Insights anytime.  SLÁINTE.

© Disruptive Insight 2015.