Celebrating Saint Patrick – Ireland’s First Marketer

St Patrick

Wait, what? Marketing was a thing 1,500 years ago? The story of St. Patrick will be familiar to many – young and old alike. Born in Britain in the fifth century, Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. Although he managed to escape after six years, he later returned to Ireland and…well, the rest is history, and we’re still talking about it – how did that happen?

We celebrate his life and legacy each year on March 17th through a dazzling display of parades around the world, and recognise many of his achievements – the jewel in the crown and bringing Christianity to the Irish people.

But dig a bit deeper and you’ll see that Patrick may well have been the first marketer on our shores.

  • Great storyteller. Diluting one of the greatest stories of our time (God, His Son and the Holy Spirit) into an easily understood metaphor using the Irish clover shamrock is quite impressive in a time where props and visual aids like PowerPoint were still centuries away. Patrick identified the need to ‘keep it simple’ – a lesson in good communication that would still resonate 1,500 years later.
  • Social. Our patron saint wasn’t shy about getting his message out there, traversing the Irish wildlands to spread the Good News to his countrymen. Now he’d probably be Insta famous or TikToking his way around the world.
  • Branding. Patrick was humble and approachable, one of the key reasons that he was accepted by the local community. His message was simple and effective, helping to win the hearts and minds of the people. How did he even know that creating a personal brand was an important first step in creating a global communication strategy? I mean come on, he didn’t even have an iPad.
  • Inbound marketing. While many Irish citizens would have been illiterate at the time, Patrick did write several works, including the ‘Confessio’ – a spiritual autobiography, and his ‘Letter to Coroticus’, both of which would later cement his legacy and reach a wider audience. So on top of everything else, Patrick was quite the blogger.
  • Strategic planning. In the middle of a 40-day fast, Patrick came under attack from snakes, disrupting his best laid plans. Adjusting to testing conditions, his strategic brain kicked in and he was able to quickly correct course, driving the reptiles from the island and into their watery graves far below.
  • Consistent. Throughout his life, Patrick never deviated from his mission, determined to spread the message of Christianity – oftentimes despite serious misgivings and confusion from the locals. No doubt he worked out a clear set of goals and mini tasks in an early version of project management software that he found under a rock or something, but however he did it, he executed his plans with consistent precision.
  • Memorable. Over fifteen centuries later, Patrick left such a strong impression during his time in Ireland that his legacy continues to grow – not only in Ireland but worldwide – as we celebrate in our own unique way to mark his life. I really would like to see the look on Patrick’s face as he stands on the side of the road in Ballyporeen or somewhere, watching two lads parading on the back of a trailer dressed as leprechauns to the thrills of eager green-haired children – he’d surely ask WTF?

The best marketers leave their legacy long after they have gone. St. Patrick’s life is one that was directed toward a singular purpose. The fact that we are still talking about it in 2022 illustrates that a lot of the hard work and dedication of our humble patron saint was not in vain. 

Like all good marketers, his message reached far beyond the confines of our little island. It found countries and peoples in all nations. No paid advertising as far as Patrick was concerned, and for that, we have to admire his efforts.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the team at Proactive.