Three Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from the Shamrock Shake

Three Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from the Shamrock Shake

As a junior marketing student and descendant of Irish immigrants I naturally took interest in the business side of my favorite holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. Additionally, as a consumer subject of today’s advertising campaigns, one of the major products I associate with the holiday is the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. If one takes some time to analyze what the fast food giant has done with the product, it truly is remarkable from a business perspective. Our marketing staff at 4CDesignworks has recognized these initiatives and wanted to share with you, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, the lessons we have learned that could benefit your business.

1. Consumers can really get behind holidays: Households historically have spent big for these yearly celebrations. According to the National Retail Federation, over $790 billion was recorded in 2015 for holiday related spending. $4.4 billion of this was on St. Patrick’s Day, making it the 9th largest spending holiday of the year. Clearly households are willing to set aside some cash for these kinds of celebrations. Corporations like McDonald’s understand this and have taken the new product development steps necessary to take a slice away from this $4.4 billion dollar pie.

2. A seasonal product naturally creates anticipation and want: People want things that they can’t have, that’s simply a part of human nature. This psychological tendency in consumers helps make seasonal products so successful. McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes are only available for a limited time, which began this year on February 7th. The temporality of this product helps to build the excitement for it in each year’s annual relaunch. After doing this year after year successfully since 1970, the product has built up enough brand power to be associated with the holiday.

3. Your brand is never too big to innovate: McDonald’s is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and a leader in the fast food industry. Yet, in 2017 they are still building on product lines and innovating for the St. Patrick’s Day season. This past February McDonald’s launched 4 new variations of the Shamrock Shake, transforming the seasonal product into a seasonal product line. This year on top of the original product, consumers may now order a Chocolate Shamrock Shake, a Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappe, a Shamrock Hot Chocolate and a Shamrock Mocha. McDonald’s executives could have very easily shut down this expansion as well as the original product in 1970. However, McDonald’s has recognized the very real potential that exists in holiday and seasonal markets and has successfully transformed this potential into first quarter sales.

So how can your business get lucky this St. Patrick’s Day with these 3 lessons? First and foremost, consumers spend on holidays. If your product manager can recognize an appropriate niche, products can be transitioned into coveted seasonal sales and revenue. The most important lesson however, is to always be innovating in your business and not to be afraid of taking risks. It was innovation and new product development that lead to the launch and eventual success of the Shamrock Shake. This only happened because those at McDonald’s were bold enough to take the plunge into the holiday market.

Works Cited
“Consumer Data.” National Retail Federation. National Retail Federation, 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. <>.
“McDonald’s Rolling out Chocolate Shamrock Shake for First Time Ever.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 03 Feb. 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. <>.
Photo / Link Credit
The History of the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake.

Contributed by Patrick Donnelly, Marketing and Sales Intern
Along with his work at 4C, Patrick is a full-time marketing and digital media arts student at Duquesne University. Before Patrick joined the 4C team he was employed as a sales associate at Nordstrom since April of 2015. Outside of the office and classroom Patrick enjoys the outdoors, traveling, and kicking it on the soccer field.

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