When you read the words, "Shamrock Shake" did you get a taste in your mouth? Did a visual pop into your head of a green, frothy, tasty shake from McDonald’s? It does for me every time.
The power of a strong brand is that it can evoke such a Pavlovian response in people. And many of our large companies are very good at creating these brands.
This time of year, even without prompting, I find myself thinking of Shamrock Shakes. I’ve always looked forward to March for three reasons:
1.My birthday happens in March.
2.The snow starts to melt.
3.Shamrock Shakes come back.
Now, of course I have only two of those three reasons to celebrate March because we can no longer get Shamrock Shakes at McDonald’s. I believe it’s been many years since they’ve been available in Minnesota.
What amazes me is how strong this "brand within a brand" is. Even though they’ve been unavailable for years, people not only remember the Shamrock Shakes, they want them back!
A search on Google shows over 39,000 listings for "Shamrock Shake".
A website called "Bring Back the Shamrock Shake" gives us some history of the Shamrock Shake and asks McDonald’s to bring them back. (They even offer a link to McDonald’s corporate website where you can send your request to ‘bring back the Shamrock Shake’.)
And, there are many links to copycat Shamrock Shake recipes for those too impatient to wait for McDonald’s to change their ways and bring them back.
And, just eight days ago, a blogger in Chicago found herself wistfully wondering why the tasty shakes are no longer available. Read her "Search for Shamrock Shakes" article here.
When I think of Shamrock Shakes I ask myself why they still exist in the memories of so many people. Why do people still feel so strongly about them they would make recipes or websites? What makes this brand so powerful that many of us cannot forget about it?
One answer that occurs is that Shamrock Shakes engage different senses. The mere mention of it beings back memories of their color, their taste, how they felt with the cold, minty ice cream sliding down your throat.
By engaging three of our five senses, they have etched their way into our memories.
Another reason is that Shamrock Shakes are different. Even unique. You couldn’t get them anywhere else. Only one place had them. That made them special.
One more reason we remember them is because they were limited in supply. They were only available one month out of 12. And, they were tied to a popular holiday (St. Patrick’s Day). Any time I hear something about St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a good chance I’ll think of Shamrock Shakes.
Finally, McDonald’s used a lot of repetition to deliver the Shamrock Shake brand to the permanent parts of our memories. They advertised the heck out of them.
So, now we have a whole generation of people walking around every March thinking about Shamrock Shakes (if only subconsciously). They drilled the brand into our little heads through many, many ads on TV, radio, signs, newspapers, you name it.
I don’t know why McDonald’s no longer sells the wonderful Shamrock Shakes. I suppose some number-cruncher decided the ROI was not high enough. Or maybe some marketing wonk decided they no longer fit their demographics.
Who knows for sure?
But I do know they made a lasting impression on a lot of people that has carried on many years after the product disappeared.
I’d call that a branding success story.