Carol Fanagan

Looking out on a cold wet November day it’s hard to forget that you are in Ireland. How Irish are we really? With our travel experiences, international media, social networking, new found – and lost – wealth, have we changed in our national identity and our attachment to this? Is Irishness still important and how can marketers best capitalise on it?

We asked our Trendsetters panel how they feel about Irishness. Trendsetter is a panel of 50 opinion leaders and influencers who share their views in regular online discussions for insight into what’s hot and what’s not in Ireland today. We wanted to know if Irishness is still relevant to them and what are the types of characteristics they value. Borrowing from traditional marketing terms, what are the 4 Ps of Irishness today?

There is still a very strong sense of pride in being Irish. Despite the harsh times there is some relief expressed in the return to ‘normality’. Many people felt uncomfortable with the excesses of the Celtic Tiger and tougher times revive a stoic determination to get on with it. “It’s going to take a long time to get out of the hole we are in and because we know the path ahead of us, it’s not as scary as a runaway economy with which no-one was familiar”.

National pride is expressed with enthusiasm in friendly educated people, in the natural beauty and wholesome produce of the country and in sporting events which bring Irish people from all over the world together. Perhaps we are rediscovering our Irishness and this feels comfortable and comforting. “It’s more real now. People ask the price of things, recycle, aren’t as wasteful and are generally more thoughtful.”

There is considerable confidence in the strengths of being Irish – we see ourselves as warm, friendly, well-travelled and welcoming. “It’s a better place now for children to grow up in.” We like the fact that other nations like us too: “people all over the world love you for being Irish”. Irish pride is evidently alive and thriving.

So what makes us different? How can this be used in marketing communications? “Being Irish is about a great sense of community” … whether it is sport, culture, news or a joke. Fun, craic and not taking ourselves too seriously loom large, especially against a backdrop of increased stress. A good sense of humour, especially if there is an edge of competitiveness in relation to our EU neighbours, never fails to appeal.

Celebrity shopper brendan o'connor


Brendan O’Connor fronts for Mace. Despite exposure to all types of international media there is a desire to see more Irish humour in how products and services are promoted.

Despite exposure to all types of international media there is a desire to see more Irish humour in how products and services are promoted. Being Irish is having the ability to laugh at ourselves, and getting back up again every time we’re knocked down. Being sincere in our friendships, proud of our country and passionate in how we live our lives – this is what we want to see reflected back to us.

Buying Irish is high on the agenda now and there is a huge groundswell of support for this across the age spectrum. “I would not have given it a second thought a few years ago. I just bought what I wanted. Now I feel very strongly about supporting our country.” Protecting Irish jobs and keeping money in the economy is seen as a necessary act of survival. While Irishness cannot exist as a factor in isolation and price competitiveness is paramount there is a strong desire to support Irish jobs. It is clearly an easier choice when buying food products where the link to Irish producers is easier to identify and there is a belief that there is a genuine quality advantage to our food products. But it is harder for consumers to see an Irish connection in many non-food products and people are seeking cost savings in these categories. Here consumers need to be given a reason why supporting Irish is a positive choice – without a tangible quality differential there is a need to at least clearly label products of Irish origin. “Remind me why”.

Buying Irish products and services can offer an element of control to consumers. “It’s about taking responsibility; we can all contribute a little bit”.

How do we use the Irish dimension to promote brands in a meaningful way to consumers? Association of brands with sport and culture is not enough to form a bond with consumers to influence their choices. “It’s getting a bit old now – it tells us nothing about the brand except that they are willing to throw a lot of money at sponsorship”. Clear labelling of products of Irish origin is an option for some and selling a wholesome natural lifestyle has renewed currency. But others may wish to tap into the humour and national conversation that Irish consumers enjoy. New channels of media – especially the internet, social media and those which encourage consumer interaction – are felt to offer considerable potential. For non-food products and services customer service is felt to be lacking – improved delivery in this area could offer a point of connection to consumers; “there is nothing nicer than hearing a friendly Irish voice on the line”.

Carol Fanagan is business strategy director at Red C

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