St. Patrick’s Day, Triggers and Why All A/B Testers Should Buy Guinness a Drink
“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!