Lagunitas throws a bone to the four-legged heroes of COVID lockdowns

Lagunitas throws a bone to the four-legged heroes of COVID lockdowns

Following its long history of dog-friendly service, the brewer is bringing its love of man’s best friend to the internet for a summer contest and giveaway.

For brands eager to engage their audiences this summer, there is a need to bridge the pain and loss of the last year to the hopeful jubilance of the current moment.

As lockdown restrictions ease and people resume filling up bars, restaurants, concerts and sporting events—California-based beer company Lagunitas is helping its customers throw a party.

Yet, in a nod to the furry companions that helped so many endure the suffering of the pandemic, Lagunitas is putting its spin on a party sweepstakes: it has to be a dog party.

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“For over a year now, dogs all across the country have been supporting their humans during some pretty tough times,” said Lagunitas BrewMonster Jeremy Marshall in a press release shared with PR Daily. “That’s why Lagunitas wants to help fuel dog appreciation parties, or as we call them, ‘Doggy Boondoggles.’ We’re super excited to be giving a few of our lucky fans the opportunity to host something special for their pup, their friends, their pup’s friends, and everyone in between this summer.”

The contest will award 100 winners from across the country with a $300 gift card they can use to purchase food and Lagunitas beer to fuel their “Doggy Boondoggle,” along with tons of party supplies and dog swag from Lagunitas for their celebrations. The contest is scheduled to coincide with International Dog Day (Thursday, Aug. 26).

Dog days of summer

The idea to celebrate dogs comes as part of Lagunitas’ history of celebrating pooches.

“Dogs have been on our labels since we started brewing,” says Paige Guzman, CMO for Lagunitas. “Employees have been bringing their dogs to the brewery and within the offices. When we first opened our tap room, we never said we were dog friendly. People just assumed we were, and they started showing up with dogs.” Even the prized fermenters used to create the company’s brews are named after dogs from the brewing team who have “gone up to the big dog park in the sky.”

Paige Guzman, CMO, Lagunitas

And it’s the love for these pets that enables Lagunitas to have something unique to offer in the quest to mark the turning point after more than a year of COVID-19 hardship.

“A lot of us have said, we don’t know how we would’ve survived COVID without our dogs,” Guzman says. “So for me, my dog got us out on a walk. … So combining the fact that it’s intrinsic part of our DNA with how much they contributed to so many people’s lives over the last 15-16 months, we’re like: ‘You know what, it’s time to throw these dogs a party.’”

Listening to your customers

Dogs might be a proven commodity when it comes to social media engagement (look no further than the WeRateDogs account), but an effort like Lagunitas’ must also rely on consumer data and listening to understand if a campaign will resonate.

“When we look at all of the various ways that consumers engage with our brands, one of the things that is the most unique or ownable for us is our association with dogs,” explains Guzman.

“As a marketer, you’re always looking at what sets you apart from other brands and companies,” she says. “And for us, we keep seeing in all of our brand health trackers and when we do qualitative research, consumers feed it back to us: ‘I love Lagunitas. I love dogs. You guys are so approachable; I’ve been to your brewery, and I brought my dog.’

It’s that customer engagement and listening that allows Lagunitas to understand its brand strengths and capitalize on them. “We just are known as a very welcoming place for dogs and the people that love them,” Guzman says. “So for us, connecting those two just made perfect sense.”

The value of authenticity

Being authentic has become such well-worn advice as to make some roll their eyes, but Lagunitas stresses that it’s an essential element of a contest or other social media campaign.

For other organizations looking to generate buzz with a social media contest, Guzman warns that it’s crucial to stay true to the brand.

“You have to find an idea that makes sense and is authentic to who you are,” she says. “Social media contests are like viral videos of 10 years ago.” A request for a senior leader for a viral video was the bane of a comms pro’s existence a decade ago and now Guzman says the social media contest has taken its place.

And beyond authenticity, you must get creative. “Just like there were a million viral videos back in the day before TikTok, there’s a ton of social media contests,” Guzman says.

One secret ingredient in breaking through online these days: joy. “It’s how are we going to bring a smile to people’s faces,” Guzman says. “We can’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re a beer company. We love dogs.” Simple.

Platforms of choice

Lagunitas is focusing its efforts on Twitter and Instagram, because that’s where its consumers are most engaged.

“We’re on several different social media platforms, but there’s a high amount of engagement, especially on Instagram,” says Guzman. Facebook’s platform, for technical reasons, makes doing the contest really difficult, according to Guzman, especially when the team is not going to market with a big paid media spend to announce the contest.

When it comes to measuring the success of the campaign, Guzman looks for reach and brand awareness. “For us, it’s getting Lagunitas on the tips of the tongues of a broader consumer base than maybe we have focused on in the past,” she says. And it’s about throwing awesome parties for dogs.

The social media effort is something that is relatively new for Lagunitas, so the team is anxiously waiting to see how many video submissions and fan creations come through.

Guzman adds that it’s about helping animals in need, too. The brand is donating $20,000 to the Best Friends Animal Society, a reminder that there’s trust and goodwill to be gained by making your big brand efforts this summer about more than pure profit.

Most won’t mind if you make a lot of money this year, but if you want to make some news, what else can you do? For Lagunitas, the answer comes back to dogs.

“If you’re not authentic, people can sniff it out pretty quickly,” Guzman says.

Make sure your brand campaigns this year pass the nose test for humans—and for their furry friends, too.


Gain more social media strategies at Ragan’s Sept. 9-10 Social Media Conference at Walt Disney World.

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