O'Snap! A Visual Portrait of St Patricks Day.

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Whatever your opinion on “plastic paddies” and their bizarre penchant for dressing up as leprechauns – epitomized by the trademark green hat and comedy ginger beard – there’s no denying that St Patricks day is a massive deal.

In fact for a day that is supposed to be a celebration of all things Irish, in modern times it has developed a curious knack of transcending ethnic allegiance. You don’t share any Irish blood ties? Not to worry — anyone can wear the green! It seems that the only prerequisite is a desire to party.

Dating back to the 17th century, it began its life as a religious feast day, marking the death of St Patrick in the year 461 A.D. Patrick is the man believed to have brought Christianity to these shores so needless to say the Irish were pretty fond of the guy. if that's not reason enough to make him our patron saint then I don't know what is.

Although historically a much quieter event, the day was always rooted in the spirit of indulgence. Falling in the middle of lent, it afforded those who were abstaining from alcohol a chance to partake in their beverage of choice; typically some 'pota Phádraig' or Patrick’s Pot.

Nowadays that cultural tradition of consumption is thriving more than ever and St. Patrick ’s Day is one of the biggest drinking days of the year. This, combined with the international popularity of the 17 of March, makes it one of the highest activation periods in the calendar for spirits and beer brands.

The graph below shows the sheer volume of pictures on Instagram that were directly related to St. Patrick’s day.

Notice how the big spike of content around the 17th is actually succeeded by a small tail of posts in the immediate aftermath.

The buzz surrounding St Patrick’s Day doesn’t simply exit the public’s consciousness on the 17th, rather people are still riding the St Patrick’s wave long into the days and nights that follow.

For companies that recognise social media as a lens into the mindset of the consumer, the insights that can be gleaned from this sort of information are immeasurable. It could enable them to communicate, at scale, to the right people, at precisely the right time.

If we explore what proportion of posts explicitly mention alcohol brands, beer in particular, here is what we see; Guinness is dominating the visual conversations on Instagram by a long shot!

It should come as no surprise that Guinness looms large over all other drinks brands on St Patrick’s Day. After all, studies indicate that 13 million pints of the black stuff are imbibed worldwide on the 17th of March each year!

Its mark on the day is indelible, but with so many images on the likes of Instagram and Twitter, how can we ascertain what’s actually relevant to the Guinness brand? Not only that, but how can we digest the content and turn it into something constructive? Something that makes sense?

This is where the Computer Vision and Machine learning comes into play.

Utilizing the latest advances in artificial intelligence we are now able to train computers to identify things within pictures and videos.  At Beautifeye We can for instance teach them to understand the Guinness logo. So rather than having to sift through millions upon millions of photos; instead we present the computer with lots of different logos, enabling it to automatically detect and locate our favourite dark stout brand, like in the image below.

Instagram image above: The brand logo is successfully detected and located within the picture.

For brands, why is it important to track your visual footprint in this manner?

Put simply; with Computer Vision technology we can discover the precise number of times the Guinness logo is being shared in pictures online.

For example:

On St Patrick’s Day only 51 % of the images tagged as Guinness actually contain the Guinness logo.

On the surface this might appear to be a relatively feeble statistic. However with Computer Vision we can delve into the remaining 49% tagged as #guinness.

What our algorithms determined was that while these images may not have contained the Guinness logo per se, there was a plethora of images displaying pints of the “black stuff”. It was a brand in and of itself.

The iconic black pint is a straightforward image, but one that evidently resonates with people all over the globe. By sharing it on Instagram people are engaging with the brand and delivering an efficient yet compelling message. One that simply says; “I’m drinking Guinness.”

What’s more, using logo recognition analysis, we can increase the total number of images relevant for Guinness by 41% . These involve photos that don’t include the Guinness hashtag but do feature the Guinness logo.

Using Logo Recognition, we performed analysis on other brands to surmise which drinks co-featured the most in images with Guinness. We discovered that 5% of the images containing the Guinness logo also contain the Jameson logo. While in approximately 2% of the cases Baileys and Magners also appear.

You may bemoan the war-torn state of Temple Bar (Dublin’s party district) on the night of the 17th of March (or any night for that matter) but the truth is that St Patrick’s day has a reach that extends far beyond the streets of Dublin. As national holidays go, it’s as global as they come.

Less surprisingly but equally pertinent, is the breakdown of where images of Guinness were shared. As the nation that gave birth to the modern phenomenon of St Patrick’s day, it is fitting that the USA (also the apex of Irish immigration) comes out at the top of the pack, with the UK, Canada and Ireland hot on its heels.

But what about color? What is the greenest country over St Patrick’s day? According to our colour analysis algorithm, for example, we can understand and quantify how the colour green was used in images shared all over the globe. We can automatically find pictures like the ones below.

Moreover, we can deduce that the most part  of these so-called green images were posted in Brazil. This is significant because Brazil, unlike the USA which ranks second, isn’t especially known for its Irish immigrant culture. It’s further evidence that St Patricks day eclipses the lines on a map. It speaks to a person’s desire to have a good time, irrespective of the language they speak or the country they call home.

For drinks brands looking to capitalize on their social currency, the period around St Patricks Day is an optimum time to reach out to customers and create a real emotional engagement with people on a global scale. Computer Vision can greatly help in cutting the noise and in maximising the understanding of complex social activation events like St. Patrick day. Dou you want to know more? Download the full report.