The Great Whiskey War

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St. Patrick’s Day is a time for celebrating the spirit of the Irish – not to mention the “spirits” of the Irish. While this day unites in Irish solidarity, the accompanying flow of whiskey on March 17th is not without conflict – for March is the month of The Great Whiskey War.

At no other time of the year is Irish whiskey more sought after than the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Although the Irish have long since chased the snakes and the Brits off the Emerald Isle, distillers are now taking to the online battlefield.

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America’s three leading Irish brands, Jameson, Tullamore Dew and Bushmill’s, all experienced a clear spike in unique visitors in March 2010. Although Jameson is the best-selling brand of Irish whiskey in the U.S., Bushmill’s is not far behind in its online presence.

One of the ways that Jameson separated itself from the pack last year was a clever ad that reinforced its proud Irish branding by poking fun at the very same heritage. “John Jameson in the Great Storm of 1781” was one of the most talked about ads on television and YouTube before St. Patrick’s Day, and the numbers from 2010 certainly reflect its influence.

This year, Jameson looks to retain its leading position for the month of March by releasing a new tall-tale advertisement, again starring John Jameson as he saves his distillery from destruction during the fictional “Great Fire of 1789.”

In reality, sentiments for Irish nationalism were spurred on March 17, 1798 when Irish soldiers donned green uniforms to raise support for the upcoming rebellion against Britain. Rather than overcoming a fire or storm, the Irish spirit overcame the British and this historic St. Patrick’s Day was the signal that the Irish would no longer tolerate foreign influence in Éire. Similarly, in March 2010, these Irish distillers warded off dominant competitors from nearby Scotland.

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Dewars and Glenfiddich, two of the world’s best-selling brands of Scotch whisky, showed a marked decline in unique visitors as March approached in 2010. Dewars bounced back mightily in April; however the Irish whiskeys managed to stifle their better-selling neighbors in the weeks surrounding their proudest day.

This year, we are excited to see if John Jameson and his heroics will keep his brand above the rest. Or will the Scotch whiskies show resurgence come St. Patty’s Day? Tell us in the comments section which label you’ll be drinking and what you think about their website! We’ll unveil the winner of the Great Whiskey War next month.

About Aaron Smolick:
Aaron Smolick is the Senior Director of Marketing at Compete. Aaron spends his time at Compete building brand awareness and lead generations while managing the PR, the Kantar relationship and the day-to-day marketing efforts--he greases the wheels and connects the dots. Before Aaron joined the Compete team he ran the US division of the Samsung gaming division. He hopes to eventually climb the corporate ladder where the dots become larger.