Why does Amazon resort to tacky, green products for its St Patricks Day gifts and costumes?
You press the button to go to the amazing Amazon site that sells everything and anything and you spot a welcoming Saint Patrick’s Day promotion with a little green shamrock and an upbeat note that reads, “you've come to the right place.
"We've gathered up all our top picks for St. Patrick's Day, from books, music, toys, movies, clothing, and more," it continued.
"So whatever you're shopping for, we've got St. Patrick's Day ideas you'll love. Have a look around.”
And so I did.
What a disappointment! Plastic green earrings, big green funny hats, green suspenders, cheap green bow ties and on it goes. You can get the “World’s Tallest Leprechaun Shirt” for $16.99 to $20.99 or a “Beer Saint Patrick’s Day T-shirt drinking tee” for the same price.
Shamrock towels are available for $13.67, a Ty green Beanie Baby at $5.99 and the “Boutique 43 inch Saint Patrick’s Day Shamrock flower leis – 3 set” seems very reasonably priced at $6.70.
In the children’s book section you can get a charming book entitled “That’s What Leprechauns Do” for $4.05 and in movies Amazon is offering “Boondock Saints II.” Really! Amazon has carefully selected an “Irish You Were Naked Tee shirt” to sell for $12.99 but by far the most impressive item Amazon is offering is a “Saint Patrick Day’s Boob T-shirt funny cleavage tee” for only $18.99 - $20.99. I can’t wait to buy this cleavage tee for my three daughters when they grow up.
Somehow Amazon has lost its way in marketing Saint Patrick’s Day to the 36 million Irish Americans and the millions of other Americans who have an affinity for anything Irish.
Sure, it’s fine to buy a green tee shirt, to put a silly green hat on and have a few beers on Saint Paddy’s Day. But something is missing in Amazon’s overall marketing plan if this is the best that they can do. There seems to be a total lack of appreciation about what makes Irish culture so unique and in such demand and Amazon seems to have absolutely no comprehension that Irish America is a very upscale market.
Ireland has produced nine writers who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature but don’t look to Amazon to promote James Joyce, Samuel Beckett or the beloved Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Roddy Doyle’s wonderful expositions of modern Irish life aren’t offered up in the Book section, Colum McCann’s best seller “TransAtlantic” doesn’t get the nod and Alice McDermott’s “Someone,” which was described by the New York Times as an “exquisite new novel,” doesn’t merit a mention.
Irish movies and Irish movie stars get short shrift as well. Pity Liam Neeson or Colin Farrell for being ignored by Amazon for all of their artistic work but so they are. I’d been happy enough if Amazon promoted John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, "Saving Ned Devine," "Once" or even Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in the 1992 movie “Far Away.” which actually speaks to the Irish emigrant experience. Not a chance of this happening, however.
And so it goes even with Irish music. Bono and U2 are ignored, Van the Man’s decades of soul-infused Blues isn’t promoted and the Chieftains who have set the highest standard for traditional Irish music for decades don’t make the cut either. Drop Kick Murphy, Altan, The Pogues and the Saw Doctors are forgotten as well.
Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer with $61 billion in sales in 2012 and how and what it markets defines people and culture. Take for example Black History Month in 2013. What did Amazon promote? To its credit, Amazon went up a notch from its usual kitsch and promoted Black heroes and culture. You could buy a Black History Tee shirt promoting Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and Barack Obama for $13.95 or the Kindle edition of “100 African Americans Who Shaped American History” for $6.36.
Surely Amazon can do better when it comes to promoting Saint Patrick’s Day and increase its profit margin at the same time. There are hundreds of upscale Irish products that Amazon could promote from Newbridge Silver to Irish knits to Siobhan’s Irish Fire Logs. Irish Tourism might pitch in as well with a few pointers on how they sell Ireland to America and the world.
So Jeff Bezos – forget the drones for a moment and consider Samuel Beckett’s aphorism to “Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better.” You might be surprised to discover in that pity statement a smarter and more profitable marketing strategy for next year’s Saint Patrick’s Day pitch to Irish America.
Kevin Sullivan is a member of the Global Irish Network.
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*Originally published in 2013.