Mike’s Hard Lemonade for the Guys?
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We have all witnessed this in some form or another. You are at a restaurant or the bar with a few of your guy friends. Everyone orders the first round of drinks. You ask the bartender for a cold one and your friends do as well, and then it happens. Out of left field, your college buddy who always wore his pants a little tighter than the rest, beckons the waitress over and proclaims, “I’ll take a Mike’s Hard Lemonade please”. Jokes begin to ensue.
There has always been a clear line between what constitutes a manly beverage and what liquid refreshments are clearly feminine at heart. Some of this is condemned by the brand positioning their drink in the minds of the consumer as such. Conversely, this is sometimes due to the consumer placing a mental ideation of who the drink is for, regardless of what the brand is telling them. However, in certain cases there are beverages that transcend this invisible boundary under certain circumstances. I call these “situational beverages”. For example, if John Doe orders a strawberry daiquiri at a nightclub in Manhattan during December, it is rightfully open season on his keester for his guy comrades who will have given him the nickname “Sally” for the night. Although, if John were to order up the same fruity concoction while lounging on the beach during his vacation in the Bahamas, he would receive far less criticism from his male counterparts. Situational beverages play an important role in the social scene, but they must be used wisely unless you (as a man) are willing to receive a pink skirt for your next birthday.
One drink that has clearly been adopted by the feminist wing is Mike’s Hard Lemonade. From its introduction, Mike’s has gained association with the likes of Smirnoff Ice, wine coolers, and appletinis. Regardless of the company’s best intentions on positioning the childhood drink gone grownup, consumers have rightfully taken the initiative to proclaim the beverage as being very unmanly. This is how it should be, or so everyone thinks, everyone except Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
In January of 2010, Mike’s dropped McCann as their agency of choice in favor of Havas’ New York based Arnold agency. Since that time, Arnold has taken the brand in a bit of a different direction, marketing Mike’s as an excellent substitute for beer…for men. There are so many things wrong with this approach it is hard to know where to begin. When a consumer places a product for a certain purpose or demographic, it is difficult for the company to change that view, especially without altering the product in any way. Mike’s Hard Lemonade has not changed at all since its debut. It still has a strong, fruity flavor (or so I am told), something that has not bode well for any male-marketed alcoholic beverage. It is also still very sugary, meaning it is laborious to drink more than a few without feeling sick to your stomach or getting a headache. One of Mike’s latest commercials promotes drinking the hard lemonade at a tailgate in place of beer. Go to any NFL tailgate, and you will surely see that the men filling the parking lot are rarely abiding by the one drink per hour rule. Then try challenging 250 pound Doug covered in face paint to a Mike’s Hard Lemonade chugging contest. Chances are it won’t go over very well. No one wants to consume 180g of sugar (the amount in a six-pack of Mike’s) along with 4 hot dogs. That combination will not make anyone feel good.
Aside from the fact that Mike’s is not ideal for consuming in multiple quantities and that it’s flavor has already been categorized as a girly drink, there is one final blow that the brand will not be able to recover from. If you drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade and have an adam’s apple, you will get made fun of. I’m all about individuality and trying not to care what others think about me, but why bring on unneeded disparagement? No guy is going to order a Mike’s Hard Lemonade without risking jeering from the peanut gallery. Cheers to the brand for trying to change this view. The market for male centered alcohol is huge, and if Mike’s entered that market they could see a significant rise in revenues. As serious as they may try, I just don’t think they have any chance of making it work.
Mike’s current slogan is “lemonade for grownups”. The only grownups likely to be ordering their drinks anytime soon have long hair and breasts. Until the company comes out with a completely new drink strictly for the male community that consumers loosely associate with the Mike’s Hard Lemonade brand, they will have little luck increasing numbers. It is tough to win a battle you have no reason being in originally (I actually just came up with that motto now. Write that down).
Mike’s Lemonade may be “hard”, but so is sitting through a women’s athletic event without wanting to stab myself, and that is not something you will see me doing anytime soon.
**View one of Mike’s Hard Lemonade’s latest campaign commercials above, and you too can witness a total fail.