If you have to explain a joke … was it funny in the first place?
Maybe. To the right audience. But the moment you have to explain it, you realize it probably wasn’t the right choice for this person or audience.
That was the dilemma facing the Erin Feis organizers for years. The name was perfect for an Irish festival. “Erin” is a poetic name for Ireland, and “feis” – pronounced fesh – is Irish for a traditional Gaelic arts and cultural festival.
But nobody knew what it meant.
“And that includes many of our longtime patrons and vendors,” said John Martin, co-chair of Erin Feis. Most Irish knew what mainstream Irish sayings mean, like Erin Go Bragh (Ireland Forever) or Cead Mile Failte (One Hundred Thousand Welcomes). “But most would pronounce our name Erin Fish or Erin Fice and rarely know what it truly meant. And for those who are NOT Irish, the name was completely lost on them.”
To get a handle on the situation, the event organizers turned to the Marketing Department of nearby Illinois State University. Taken on as a class project, Erin Feis received valuable marketing research, and the students gained real-life practice in future careers.
The results were as bad as Martin’s team expected. Of those interviewed, only 8% had ever heard of Erin Feis, or could identify it as the name of an Irish festival. Yet 58% of the subjects said they were interested in attending, once the event’s nature was explained to them. “So, we knew there was an appetite for our event, if we could get our message out and understood,” said Martin.
In the three years since the marketing study, the name of the festival has been in transition. Last year, the tagline “Peoria’s Irish Festival” debuted, to help define the event. This year, the festival’s official name has been changed to the Peoria Irish Festival, with Erin Feis retained as a tagline in support of the new name.
“The Erin Feis name has 37 years of goodwill among our longtime friends and guests. We’d be foolish to just throw that away,” said Martin.
The event organizers are planning to expand their use of social media this year. With the name immediately communicating where and what the festival is, they are hoping for greater recognition in local communities – if not farther afield – and, hopefully, increased attendance.
“We are not changing what our festival is all about,” explained Martin. “It will still be three great days of upbeat music, delicious food and drink, with a wide variety of shopping and cultural experiences. The only new part is our name … and the more immediate connection we hope it makes.”
Written by Eric Hoadley, Marketing Chair