How Guinness prepares for St. Patrick’s Day

Here’s how the Irish beer brand’s director of marketing gets ready for the biggest day of the year

(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)

(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and that means beer taps will be flowing and thousands of pints will get drunk to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. But for a company like Guinness, preparations kick off weeks before March 17th. Here’s what Toronto-based Joel Mallard, the director of marketing for Guinness at Diageo Canada, had to say about the importance of St. Patrick’s Day for the brewery and how they prepare for the holiday.

How does Guinness prepare for St. Patrick’s Day?

In Canada, it’s all about recruitment and awareness. There are a shocking number of people who don’t recognize that St. Patrick’s Day happens on the same day every year. It is actually amazing. It’s something they don’t really think about until the beginning of March or even the first week of March. The community that we never have to worry about is the European community—specifically the British and the Irish.

When do you start preparing for St. Patrick’s Day?

It’s a February-March preparation for us. Super Bowl is a real challenge. Bigger beer guys own that occasion, and rightfully so, because they spend an extraordinary amount of money. Internally, we kick it off mid-February, and we do a 30-day countdown to St. Patrick’s Day. But many other accounts we’ve got actually kick it off in September. So the half-way to St. Patrick’s Day is an initiative we started many years ago. But really the key thrust for us happens in mid-February and runs until the end of March.

When’s Guinness’s key selling period?

The key selling period for Guinness Draught is absolutely St. Patrick’s Day, and the build is a slow burn, but really ramps up in February right across the globe. But now we’re talking about very specific Guinness destination spots, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to do to dispel. We make good beer, and we have been doing so for the last 225 years, and we will continue to do so and create other occasions with either this brand or others.

What’s the second-busiest holiday for Guinness?

The holidays are 100% the second busiest holiday for us. So November-December is a significant selling period. It’s a strange one because our beer has not been painted into a winter, or a winter-warmer scenario, but it is a ritual. A lot of people come together to enjoy Guinness as they do on St. Patrick’s Day and they do the same thing around the holidays. So, November-December is a key selling period, but it is second to St. Patrick’s Day, but growing rapidly. We ran a bunch of different campaigns around driving volume and traffic, and obviously recruitment and awareness around those time periods for 2014.

How much Guinness are you distributing globally and in Canada?

We’re selling about 1.8 billion pints annually right now, and that’s just the Guinness Draught brand, the one you see more often than not. In Canada, that’s about 3 million pints annually. There are many other variants that we sell globally, a couple of different brands. For Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, our number one market for that is Nigeria and Africa. We also have another one called Guinness Extra Stout, which is more widely distributed in the Caribbean.