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When you think of brands on the cutting edge of marketing, a flavored alcohol drink company probably doesn’t come to mind. So, what can Mike’s Hard Lemonade teach us about why you need a digital marketing and PR strategy?

It seems fitting that Mike’s incorporates a fist into its logo, because it seems to be preparing for what AdAge characterizes as its “biggest challenge yet.” Mike’s is the long-time leader of the flavored malt beverage (FMB) market, and now it’s getting into the ring with its increasingly prominent competitors. Mike’s didn’t face any significant threats to its FMB market dominance until recently. But, as of January, Mike’s had actually lost the FMB market share lead to the Bud Light Lime family (which includes the Lime-a-Rita drink) and continues to face a threat from MillerCoors’ Redd’s Apple Ale. Still, Mike’s director of marketing activation, Sanjiv Gajiwala, doesn’t seem overly concerned, telling AdAge:

Anything that encourages consumers to try and consider the malt beverage segment is great for us.”

So it’s interesting timing that the company has decided to take all marketing efforts exclusively digital, just as it celebrates its 15th birthday. That means out with TV advertisements, in with social media and digital advertisements and videos.

The brand spent nearly $19 million on TV ads between 2012 and 2013, and now some of those funds will be added to the $6.5 million Mike’s spent on digital advertisements last year.

Mike’s already makes good use of Facebook and Twitter, and uses Vine videos to promote specific products and events, like SXSW. And what would an all-digital campaign be without a dedicated Twitter hashtag? The #mikes15 birthday thread has yet to attract much attention, but maybe tweet volume around the topic will pick up as we get closer to peak Mike’s-consuming hours over this weekend.

A Walk Down Mike’s Lane

This isn’t the first time Mike’s has faced issues related to its public standing. The move to go all-digital comes just one year after the New York Times reported about Mike’s $15-$20 million marketing effort to expand the brand’s core consumer base to include more men, primarily through a TV ad buy on ESPN, Comedy Central and the NBC Sports Network, featuring actor Martin Landau and rapper Coolio.

While a skeptic may say that Mike’s made an abrupt shift from TV to digital advertising out of panic, you could also argue that the flavored beverage company is trying to stay ahead of the curve and find a marketing sweet spot.

Digital marketing budgets are expected to climb to $135 billion this year and digital advertising will take up one-quarter of the ad market by next year, according to WebDAM.

Mike’s is facing the same digital opportunities – and challenges – as all brands. At March, we see these strategic shifts all the time as clients increasingly request digital tech PR services, from videos and paid social media campaigns to lead generation and content marketing. Clients are finding out why you need a digital marketing and PR strategy and it’s the point where a dedicated PR agency can make a huge deal of a difference, starting with market research and down to the very deliverables.

As we all know, summer is right around the corner, and then we’ll be able to really tell if Mike’s all-digital strategy has worked. Will barbecue-goers crack open a Mike’s or will it be another flavored malt drink that keeps them cool?



This post was first published by James Young on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.