Every time March rolls around you can count on three things happening in our office:
1) Someone will come around with an NCAA bracket to fill out.
2) Someone (usually younger than me) will ask me about my St. Patrick’s Day plans, to which I will reply “I’m too old to get sick on nuclear-green beer.”
3) Someone will unexpectedly announce, “Shamrock Shakes anybody?!”
The latter is the one I most look forward to. Why? It has nothing to do with the taste of a mint shake, and everything to do with marketing. The Shamrock Shake is a marketing masterpiece. It takes five basic marketing tactics and combines them to create the perfect storm, turning an otherwise forgettable milkshake into a perennial bestseller. Here’s how they do it:
This is something craft beer makers have known for years. Around rolls October and with it comes Pumpkin Lager. Summer comes and so does shandy. Springtime = Bock time. The same holds true here. Think back to the bulletin board decorations in your elementary school during March – shamrocks, leprechauns and green, green, green. March owns the color green from beginning to end. This gives us permission for a whole month to enjoy something green under the pretext of “celebration.”
“I guess if they’re all going to, I will too.” We’ve all been in the position where we are trying to watch our weight or just eat healthier and someone brings doughnuts into the office. There is both permission and solidarity in the fact that you’re not the only one making a splurge. There’s a reason one dozen remains the standard doughnut order. Hey, we’re all in this together, so nobody has to feel weird about buying a milkshake in the middle of the day on a Wednesday because it’s just what you do this time of year. It’s fun to be part of something bigger and to share in the experience.
It’s March. We’re in between Christmas and Easter; it’s been a long winter; and it’s still cold and depressing outside. We’re looking for something, anything to brighten up our lives. There’s a reason March owns green – because there’s literally nothing else holiday-wise to compete with St. Patrick’s Day. We need a reason to celebrate, and they’ve made one for us out of syrup and dairy products. Count me in.
A number of years ago the radio industry became obsessed with what they called “appointment listening,” and one of the tactics that came out of it was the creation of weekly or daily benchmark features that listeners could count on. In some way or another, we’re all creatures of habit. That’s why traditions exist – we love things that are familiar. The Shamrock Shake is something we can count on every year. And because of that, we start looking forward to it long before March. Anticipation heightens desire.
This is perhaps most powerful tool of all. We know it will only be around for a limited time, and this creates urgency. Not only can we finally get it, we have to get it because it will soon go away. This works especially well in the food and beverage category because these are low-commitment, small ticket items. We can act on our impulse with little consequence. “Let’s do this now! What’s the worst that could happen?”
I’ve completely bought into the Shamrock Shake hype. I am not ashamed. It’s fun. It’s something March offers that won’t leave me feeling like I crawled out of a hole the next morning. Is it the best shake I’ve ever had in my life? No, but that’s not the point. So next time somebody asks you what the big deal is, you’ll know exactly what to tell them.