Mike’s Hard Lemonade Faces Hard Reality of Public Perception

It doesn’t take a public relations genius to identify the obstacles Mike’s Hard Lemonade faces when competing with more established alcohol brands. None of the other brands include “lemonade” in their names. But does that mean the brand is fighting an unwinnable battle? Let’s take a look.

When the public thinks of lemonade we imagine adorable kids in baseball caps or ponytails behind a foldout table raising money for their class trip to the science museum. Mike’s Hard Lemonade wants the 25-to 35-year-old demographic (especially the lucrative male market) to think “Lemonade? Cool. Let’s booze it up.” The most difficult public relations aspect to this PR conundrum is that lemonade holds an entrenched place in our culture, and once an image, product or event becomes part of our culture, it’s almost impossible to spin.

There is something young and innocent about lemonade, and there is something distinctly adult and mature about booze. Nevertheless, Mike’s Hard Lemonade is investing $15 to $20 million into efforts to modify this perception of lemonade, led by a new tagline: Never Not a Good Time. The brand wants to extend its product into all facets of American lifestyles and not just summer-related activities such as barbecuing in the park or backyard volleyball.

As PR people, we know this is going to be fun to watch, because the brand is being candid about its bold goals: to make a lemonade-flavored alcoholic drink more manly without losing female customers while also changing lemonade’s role in our culture. It’s a kind of like a modern, grown-up, multi-million dollar lemonade stand. But will the public buy into it?