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mikeshard.com

Founded Year

1999

Stage

Acquired | Acquired

About Mike's Hard Lemonade

Mike's Hard Lemonade is an alcoholic beverage manufacturer based in Chicago, IL.

Mike's Hard Lemonade Headquarters Location

Chicago, Illinois, 60661,

United States

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Expert Collections containing Mike's Hard Lemonade

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Mike's Hard Lemonade is included in 1 Expert Collection, including Conference Exhibitors.

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Latest Mike's Hard Lemonade News

Beer Industry: Get Your Brands, Expectations and Most Importantly, Heads Straight

Aug 22, 2022

For the last 22 years, Neal Stewart worked in sales and marketing leadership roles for several breweries, including Pabst, Flying Dog, Mark Anthony Brands, Dogfish Head and Deschutes Brewery. Stewart departed Deschutes, where he served as VP of sales and marketing, in May for a job outside of the beer industry, as director of marketing for Holland Construction Services in the St. Louis area. As Neal exits the beer business, he shared his views on the state of the industry, and thoughts on the challenges workers in the beer business face in regards to mental health. I grew up in Belleville, Illinois — which is across the river from the big brewery in St. Louis. As a kid, I daydreamed of playing for the Cardinals or maybe playing in the U.S. Open (Belleville was home to Jimmy Connors, after all). But I also dreamed of creating beer ads. I guess I can see how someone would think that’s weird, but it seems completely normal to me. How could it not be normal? At the time, Anheuser-Busch was pumping out some of the best television ads of all time. Remember the Bud Bowl ? I loved it more than the game itself! That spot with Dr. Galazkiewicz ? Brilliant! I wanted to be a person who helped build beer brands, and I’m eternally grateful that I got my shot. It started at the beginning of 2000 when I worked for one of the hundreds of St. Louis-based agencies that could claim A-B as a client. I remember we did some work on Tequiza — the ill-fated agave-infused, wannabe challenger to Corona. The idea was to build a stretch Hummer and drive it around the country to execute bar promos and serve as the designated driver for local sales reps and distributors. If the project happened, I was going to be that driver. The brass at A-B never gave that one the green light – so randomly, I moved to Austin, Texas that summer to find a job in the music biz or in the burgeoning tech scene. The tech bubble burst right when I arrived in Austin, but I had a lead on a marketing gig with Pabst (what?!) in San Antonio. Luckily, that Tequiza project gave me just enough beer experience to get in the door at Pabst as a very junior-level marketer. The next six years at Pabst were a crazy ride as Pabst Blue Ribbon made its unlikely comeback, and as the brand manager, I was in the right place at the right time. Here I am, 22 years later and I’ve decided that I want to do something different. Just typing that feels incredibly strange because I LOVE the beer business! How could I not? I’ve made incredible friends, traveled the country, worked with incredible partners and accomplished that goal I set long ago to be someone who helped build beer brands. But being in the beer business also became too intertwined with my personal identity, and as I enter the “back 9” of my professional life, it left me wondering if I was properly managing my mental health. As I depart the industry, I feel like I can still add value and share some thoughts that maybe people still in the biz don’t feel comfortable saying. Some of these are pieces of marketing advice that are drawn upon from my 20+ years in the business. My final thought is a glimpse inside my personal challenges and struggles with managing the stress that many of us face in what must be the most competitive era of the bev-alc industry. Get Your Brands Straight PLEASE UNDERSTAND: A two-month advertising campaign will not change a brand’s trends. Brand building doesn’t work like that. If you’re desperate to grow the business and have $200K in your pocket and want to launch a digital advertising campaign to turn the numbers around, go hit some golf balls and get your mind on something else. That will save you $199,970. The painful truth is that brand building takes time … like YEARS. If you can’t wait YEARS, spend your money on short-term tactics like sampling, POS, sales incentives. Those activities might prop up sales for a bit. You’re not going to be the next Voodoo Ranger because you got a million impressions on Instagram. Brand building DOES work if you have the patience and the budget. Take Shiner: Every year, Gambrinus runs a strong media campaign, which always includes outdoor billboards in the major metros of Texas. They were doing it when I moved to Austin in 2000, and I’m pretty sure they’re doing it this summer too. The results are in their numbers. Shiner continues to be a strong brand in its core market because they have patiently and methodically built a strong brand. If you want to be a long-term participant in this business, at some point you will need to build a brand. If you’re short on budgets, start with an extremely small footprint or a small segment of consumers and build on it. Be OK with not seeing the ROI immediately, but have the discipline to build your brand consistently over a long period of time. And keep in mind, your brand building tactics don’t need to be traditional media, but there is a lot of merit to being consistent in what you say, how you say it and where you say it … like those Shiner billboards in Texas. Get Your Expectations Straight I get it. Everyone understands the growing importance of building strong brands in national accounts, so it’s only natural for strategic planning or board meeting conversations to revolve around ways to “crack the code” in this channel. Unfortunately, every conversation on this topic ends up in the same place when someone says, (insert know it all voice) “Can we find the person with the rolodex of contacts and the right relationships with the key decision makers? I don’t care if we have to pay them more than the CEO. If they deliver, it will be a net win!” Just stop. I heard this conversation dozens of times, and I’ve had friends in the industry ask me about it too. This person does not exist. And if they do, one of the large breweries has them locked up with a phenomenal lifetime contract. Furthermore, if they did exist, they would laugh at how much your CEO makes. Here’s the deal: Chain buyers are as sophisticated as anyone in the business. They make decisions based on data for your brand, your competitors’ brands and even other categories. They know what they are doing. Fixing your national accounts distribution issue requires patience and strategy. You get two cracks to fix it per year – really, one – and when you don’t get it done, it’s probably because you didn’t provide the right training, have enough data or have the right portfolio proposition. Instead of trying to hire the elusive rainmaker (that again, doesn’t exist), hire Tom Fox to train your team how to effectively present to buyers. Hire Bump Williams to train your team how to read the data. Contrary to the rainmaker, both of those guys are legit and actually exist. Get Your Head Straight Upon my departure from Deschutes a few months ago, I had plenty of time to reflect on my time in the beer biz and quite honestly, it was a painful process. I discovered two things. First, my self-identity was wrapped far too tightly with my profession. My primary identity was my job. I wasn’t “Neal, the husband” or “Uncle Neal.” I was “Neal, the beer guy” or “Neal, the (insert one of the 47 breweries I’ve worked for) guy.” I was enamored with that identity and my ego needed it. Second, I really think I was addicted to stress. I’ve done some research and although “stress addiction” is not a clinical term, it is known that stress causes the brain to release cortisol and dopamine. Cortisol is typically released when we are in “fight or flight” mode. Dopamine is released when we are happy. If these two chemicals are released to relieve stress over and over, it’s easy to understand how we get addicted to stress. When my life suddenly changed from 70 hours a week of non-stop calls, meetings and thinking about the business, to silence, I didn’t know how to react. Where is that damn cortisol and dopamine cocktail? Don’t we have that in RTD skinny cans yet? I’m not the only person in this industry who struggles with this challenge, and I’m sure there are lots of people in other industries that deal with this as well. I just happen to know the beer biz, and many people who work in it, and I have a suspicion that we may over-index. The beer biz can be really fun, and it can easily seep into our personal lives because we’re so damn proud to be in it. But when it becomes all-consuming and the laptop starts to emit a magnetic pull toward us so we hammer out a few more emails or polish that PowerPoint deck, it can start to negatively impact our lives and our health. As I depart the industry to take on some new opportunities, I want to encourage those of you out there who may be struggling with a similar work-related stress and life imbalance to take some time to recalibrate. By no means am I saying “get out of the beer biz for your own good!” I know there are people in this business who have struck that “balance” and if you’re in a less than desirable place right now, you can fix it too, but I do think it takes a heavy dose of self-reflection and mindfulness to start the path to recovery. If this any of this sounds familiar, be on the lookout for a few signs: A sense of boredom when you’re not stressed (that was a definite “yes” for me); Physical pain, specifically headaches, neck pain and back pain (check that box for me again); Repeatedly putting yourself in stressful situations (yep, I rarely ever turned down a challenge); Deprioritizing self-care, vacations, exercise, etc. (I commonly used work as an excuse for avoiding all of those things). If this resonates with you, I have a few suggestions. First, if the stress or mental issue is affecting you in ways that make you feel out of control, or like you are in a really dark place, please seek professional help. Your employer may even provide free services for this situation. Second, give yourself permission to take that vacation and absolutely disconnect from work. No one cares or will remember that you took a meeting, responded to emails or knocked out a project when you were on PTO. Your desire for that to be your legacy is a false narrative. Finally, realize that everyone is wired differently – including YOU. The beer business is highly competitive and has been built by some of the best entrepreneurs of all time and you probably work with one of them. Keep in mind that these entrepreneurs are also wired differently and that they have a special skill set and unique perspective on the business and the world in general. You may have an entrepreneurial mindset, but you may not be the consummate entrepreneur that they are and you can’t beat yourself up over that. Working more hours or sending more emails won’t change that. You have a different skill set, a different perspective and others around you surely respect and appreciate that. Unfortunately, it’s often US that loads the guilt, pressure and stress on ourselves that leads us down a path of poor mental health. For years, my wife told me that I was too personally connected to work. I denied it and hid behind an excuse of hard work, high expectations and tight deadlines. I hope that by sharing some of my personal challenges I may help you avoid the same pitfalls or even take the first step in realizing some issues may exist. A few months ago, none of this was showing up for me, but life has a way of presenting us with new perspectives and it’s up to us whether we want to see and act on it or not. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn . Even if the only thing we share in common is the beer industry, I’m willing to lend an ear over a beer at any time.

  • When was Mike's Hard Lemonade founded?

    Mike's Hard Lemonade was founded in 1999.

  • Where is Mike's Hard Lemonade's headquarters?

    Mike's Hard Lemonade's headquarters is located at Chicago.

  • What is Mike's Hard Lemonade's latest funding round?

    Mike's Hard Lemonade's latest funding round is Acquired.

  • Who are the investors of Mike's Hard Lemonade?

    Investors of Mike's Hard Lemonade include Anheuser-Busch InBev.

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