“He was a wise man who invented beer.” - Plato

It should be no sur­prise that St. Patrick’s Day makes us think of all things Irish. In fact, as per Google Cor­re­late, most of the things Amer­i­cans asso­ciate with St. Patrick’s Day are food related – Irish Stew, Irish pota­toes recipes, Irish bread. Amer­i­cans also asso­ciate the day with Guin­ness. Google Trends shows the fol­low­ing chart:


This is a remark­able chart for many sev­eral rea­sons. First, and per­haps least remark­ably, it shows that the inter­est in Guin­ness spikes (quite lit­er­ally!) on St. Patrick’s Day. But what is more inter­est­ing is that this is quite dif­fer­ent from the sea­son­al­ity of beer. Searches for beer increase dur­ing the sum­mer months when the weather is warmer, but in Guin­ness’ case, St. Patrick’s Day reminds peo­ple of all things Irish includ­ing Guinness.

That brings me to the sub­ject of trig­gers. Broadly speak­ing, event-based trig­gers (in a mar­ket­ing con­text) are events that remind peo­ple of a brand – there­fore increas­ing their propen­sity to engage or inter­act with it. For instance, St. Patrick’s Day is a trig­ger for Guin­ness. In his new book, Con­ta­gious: Why things Catch On, Whar­ton pro­fes­sor Jonah Berger, talks about trig­gers as a strat­egy to help make things go viral. He pro­vides an exam­ple of the infa­mous Rebecca Black song, Fri­day. Google Trends pro­vides very inter­est­ing insight into the song. While the song has lost most of its ini­tial inter­est, there is still a spike of inter­est EVERY Fri­day. In fact, this has been the case ever since the song launched. In other words, Fri­day serves as a trig­ger for its name­sake song. Berger fur­ther con­vinc­ingly argues that mar­keters can cre­ate trig­gers of their own by asso­ci­at­ing their brand with events and objects.


This brings me back to the first chart. Note the spike in Sep­tem­ber 2009 and smaller ones every Sep­tem­ber since that time. 2009 was the first year that the Guin­ness brew­ing com­pany cel­e­brated Arthur’s Day, which is a series of music events hosted at mul­ti­ple loca­tions across the globe in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the brewery’s estab­lish­ment more than 250 years ago. Thus, it is no sur­prise that inter­est spikes every Sep­tem­ber, too. With the aid of mar­ket­ing and a bit of his­tory, Guin­ness has cre­ated a yearly trig­ger off­set six months from St. Patrick’s Day. By going from a once-a-year inter­est cycle asso­ci­ated with St. Patrick’s day, to a once in a six-month cycle, Guin­ness is in a bet­ter posi­tion to main­tain the rel­e­vance of its brand and one expects this helps it increase its sales.

A final note about Guin­ness: Any­one who has done ad copy test­ing or land­ing page test­ing would have used the t-test (or more specif­i­cally Student’s t-test) at some point to ana­lyze the data from an A/B type test. We owe the t-test to William Sealy Gos­set, an employee of Guin­ness in Dublin, Ire­land, who devised the test as an inex­pen­sive way to mon­i­tor the qual­ity of the stout being pro­duced. Gosset’s employer viewed the use of sta­tis­tics for qual­ity mon­i­tor­ing as a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and would not let Gos­set pub­lish a paper under his real name. There­fore, Gos­set used his pseu­do­nym “Stu­dent.” Beer and sta­tis­tics – life doesn’t get any better!