28 min read

Brand Building with Monday Night Brewing

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In this episode of the Mighty Roar Marketing Podcast, we're speaking with Jonathan Baker, CMO of Monday Night Brewing.

Monday Night is an Atlanta craft brewery that Jonathan and his two business partners founded in 2006. Since then their market has expanded, and they've experienced a lot of success, including winning a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, as well as placing first in a blind taste test sponsored by Paste Magazine, in which they beat out over 150 other entries.

With a motto of "Weekends Are Overrated," the Monday Night brand bills itself as a weekday beer and celebrates the white-collar background of the three co-founders.

During our conversation, we discuss building a brand from scratch, developing – and growing – a loyal customer base, managing brand reputation, and more.

We talk about building a brand from scratch, developing – and growing – a loyal customer base, and ways to manage brand reputation.

mondaynightbrewing.com

mightyroarpodcast.com

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Full Transcript

 

Kevin Smith: Hey everyone. I'm Kevin Smith from Mighty Roar and, on this episode of the podcast, we're talking with Jonathan Baker, the CMO of Monday Night Brewing. Monday Night's a craft brewery that Jonathan and his two business partners founded in 2006 here in Atlanta. As a brewery, they've seen a lot of success so far winning a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, as well as placing first in a blind taste test sponsored by Pace Magazine in which they beat out over 150 other entries. But the main reason I wanted to talk to Jonathan was because of the unique brand they've built around the beer. With a motto of weekends are overrated, the Monday Night brand bills itself as a weekday beer and celebrates the white-collar background of its three co-founders, complete with a silhouette of Joel, one of the co-founders, in a suit with a loose necktie, serving as the brand's logo.

Kevin Smith: Neckties can also be found on the tap handles and hanging on the walls of the taprooms themselves. Monday Night's a fun brand with a great personality in how they market themselves. Here's my conversation with Jonathan Baker, man in charge of it.

Kevin Smith: Just to preface, I don't know a ton about beer, but this is a marketing podcast.

Jonathan Baker: But you know that you like it.

Kevin Smith: I know that I like it and I know what I like and I know the brand behind it is what has me really interested. I guess, the way we'll start is just kind of tell me a little bit about how you got started. I've heard the story, but I'm fascinated with how you guys got into this, how you made that transition from what you used to do to what you do now.

Jonathan Baker: Sure. I have two business partners, Jeff and Joel, and we all met back in 2006 in a small Atlanta Bible study that met on Friday mornings. We were all in our mid-20s at that point, and Friday morning came very early. We communicated primarily in like grunts and groans and realized that we didn't know each other all that well when it actually came down to it, so we were looking for a social outlet. Jeff and Joel had actually both gotten, coincidentally, homebrewing kits gifted to them. So we were like, "Well, let's fire them up and see if we can make beer." And we all looked at our schedules, we all had Monday night free. We brewed that first Monday night and it kind of took off from there. Obviously very slowly, but we fell in love with the process of brewing, which t's kind of half art, half science.

Jonathan Baker: You're dealing with this living organism and there's so many ways you can screw it up and only a few ways you can get it right, but glorious if you do. We also fell in love with the community of Beer. You kind of alluded to being a beer aficionado yourself. The beautiful thing about beer I think is it is a very disarming beverage and you can be a fan and you can be into it, but you can bring your personal preferences to that. You don't have to be an expert, right?

Kevin Smith: Right.

Jonathan Baker: Unlike something like wine where it's just intimidating, there's something really disarming about beer. So, we'd invite strangers and their friends and they'd invite weirdos, and we'd have this like merry group of folks in our driveway drinking and brewing with us on Monday nights. I think that's what really propelled us forward.

Kevin Smith: Well, and I think one of the things that's kind of interesting about beer versus wine is kind of the cost of entry too. If you're smart, you can probably get less expensive wine, but if you're at dinner and you take a chance on a bottle of wine and know nothing, that's a very expensive test drive, versus I'm going to try this beer and, if I like it, then great, I know that I like it. If I don't, I'll never have it again or whatever. I've heard the Monday Night story of you guys getting together during a Bible study and deciding, we've got to get together. What I didn't know is that no one had had any brewery experience. No one had had any ...

Jonathan Baker: No.

Kevin Smith: They were gifted beer making kits. That was just it. It was ...

Jonathan Baker: I didn't even like beer.

Kevin Smith: Well, now you're stuck. Now you're stuck.

Jonathan Baker: Now I'm stuck.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. The first time, was it good? Was it horrible?

Jonathan Baker: It was in the middle. It was drinkable.

Kevin Smith: It was drinkable, but ...

Jonathan Baker: But that was enough for us to think that we were gods.

Kevin Smith: Right. We made this thing we normally pay for.

Jonathan Baker: We have made beer. Yeah.

Kevin Smith: What is your favorite Monday Night?

Jonathan Baker: We've got two breweries. Our main facility focuses a lot on IPAs and then our garage facility in southwest Atlanta focuses on barrel-aged and sour beers. And so, between those two facilities, it's actually a really wide spectrum. I personally drink seasonally, so I'll drink whatever fits the moment and my mood. I tend to like big stouts and really balanced IPAs the most. We just reformulated Blind Pirate, which is a Blood Orange IPA that we made and, I think we made some tweaks to it that are just rocking. Kudos to our brewers for seeing an opportunity to actually change a core beer recipe. And then, I'm currently drinking one of our seasonals dark subject matter, which is, it's like a 12% Imperial Stout, which is like just coffee and roast and heavy.

Kevin Smith: You just mentioned kind of a kudos to your brewers. When did you transition from you guys doing everything, and I imagine you still, technically, do a little bit of everything, but was there a point where you guys looked at each other and said, "Okay, this is a real, and we've got to hire a brewer, we've got to do X, Y, Z?" When did it become real for you guys?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, I mean there were probably many, many points where it became real. It might've become real for me first, because I was the first of the three to quit my job and do Monday Night full-time. But we contract brewed initially knowing that we didn't have the professional brewing expertise within the three of us. We outsourced the brewing to a brewery in South Carolina for a year or so. And then, while we were doing that, we could focus on the marketing, the sales, the operations, and then go and recruit a brewer. We did that, brought him in before we opened our main facility here. And then, he trained Joel on actually how to brew so that we had at least one of the owners who knew how to brew. He's not the best brewer. He's not going to listen to this, right?

Kevin Smith: No. We're not going to send it to him.

Jonathan Baker: All right, cool. But he technically knows how to do it.

Kevin Smith: Right. What was your job before Monday Night?

Jonathan Baker: I was in marketing strategy consulting. We did a lot of market research, brand positioning for fortune 500 CPG companies.

Kevin Smith: And then your co-founder, what was their background going into it?

Jonathan Baker: Jeff, our CEO was in private equity and, Joel was in operations consulting, a lot of direct to consumer brands.

Kevin Smith: Was this kind of a group epiphany or was there one person that said, "I think we can actually do this for a living?"

Jonathan Baker: Every homebrewer at some point has the dream that they can do this and they can make it big. I think Jeff and Joel will both tell you that I was the one who kept poking them about it and saying, "Guys, what if we did this?" But I was also the one like of the single guy with no kids. But yeah, I think I tended to drive it forward, but then the real epiphany came when we, I think we are sitting around, like we'd brewed beer already. It's just the three of us. It's like midnight on a Monday sitting on the front porch, relaxing. We look around and we're thinking about all three of our skillsets. We have everything but brewing. Technically, we could start a business. I remember a conversation where we were like, "Okay, well, if we do this, who's going to be CEO?" Because that's an awkward conversation with three equal partners.

Jonathan Baker: It was silent for a while. I think, it was either me or Joel, it was like, "Well, I think Jeff would be a good CEO." And then, Jeff Goes, "Oh, thank God. I really wanted to be CEO."

Kevin Smith: Well, that's good. It sounds like you guys at least had some similar kind of personality or humility going into it as to say, there wasn't necessarily a territory claim at the beginning.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. I think we all recognize that each of us is specialized and has unique strengths in the areas that we're strong, and deficiencies and other areas.

Kevin Smith: You mentioned divvying out titles, but was there a conscious effort to not necessarily have a 9:00 to 5:00 or what was some of the motivation personally behind doing that switch? It could just be, "Hey, I think we can make a lot of money doing this." Or was there something else?

Jonathan Baker: Not a beer.

Kevin Smith: Yeah.

Jonathan Baker: It's a lifestyle business. We were all working tough jobs and recognize that you spend a 30 year life at work. So, we wanted that third of our life to be something we enjoyed. We also all really enjoy work, so we probably spend more than a third of our life at work. I just love the idea of building something. I've always known I would start a business. My Dad was an entrepreneur, so I kind of grew up around it. I just never knew what it would be. I thought I'd own an ad agency or something, and here I am with a brewery, which is actually kind of half ad agency.

Kevin Smith: I was going to say, you still are kind of captain of your own marketing ship in a sense.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah.

Kevin Smith: When you think of Monday Night, or at least when I think of Monday Night, one of the first things that really comes across is the brand, and the fact that you guys had a really strong brand, it seemed right out of the gate. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because it's weaved into your story in terms of you found Monday Night was the night you could all get together, you started inviting people over. Monday Night became a thing and then it evolved into the brand. Can you talk a little bit about when you started first thinking about either cultivating that and the types of conversations and decisions that went into it?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. Well, I started thinking about it like probably day one. It's just how my brain works. I don't think we were more than a month in when I designed our first beer label, the squash [chuckler 00:11:40] IPA, the clown pirate. That one didn't make the cut. But ...

Kevin Smith: Our marketing guys always have the ideas, but they rarely make it to the end of the ...

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, fortunately, I self-edited on that one. Our initial logo was actually a monk because they used to be kind of the brewers in the community and we started out of a Bible study. So. we thought that was a fun tie in. And then, probably three years in or so to homebrewing, I recognized like if we were going to actually do this, we needed a strong cohesive brand. It felt like we had this kind of weeknight thing and then this like religious thing. I didn't think we could combine the two well. We rebranded to kind of the Necktie, because we all had white collar day jobs. We were wearing neckties to work and loosening our neck tie was kind of a symbol for us.

Jonathan Baker: I think to the extent that your logo, your brand, your name can help tell the story or even if it's just spark interest in the story so that someone can ask, I think that's a win. We decided to stick with weeknights and the white collar crowd.

Kevin Smith: When you started rolling that out or showing it to people, what were some of the reaction that you got? Because when you're small and you're starting out, there's not a lot that you can do to do focus groups. You're basically showing it to your wife, your girlfriend, your friends I would imagine.

Jonathan Baker: You'd be surprised.

Kevin Smith: Oh really?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. We started blogging in our first year of homebrewing. At one point, we were a top 20 beer blog in the nation. But we would use the blog as like a platform to interview professional brewers who had started or were starting breweries, to interview retailers who are selling beer. And then, there were just a ton of other homebrewers who are more than willing to give feedback as people on the Internet are. Which was actually pretty helpful. And then, on Monday nights, we'd have 50 people show up to drink with us. So, we would actually do A/B testing there. We'd have two versions of the same beer or two versions of the same label and ask people to vote.

Jonathan Baker: I think people actually really enjoyed being a part of the story to some degree. Right. We don't always take the feedback, but it's always considered at least.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. Well, you've kind of built that audience. Do you remember when guys decided, "Hey, let's invite some people over?" When you felt comfortable with that and how that scaled over time?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. It wasn't a comfort thing. It was, we have too much beer thing.

Kevin Smith: We have to empty out this garage.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. If we want to brew more, we have to drink more, and we're a Bible study, so there's only so much we can drink. Inviting people came pretty naturally, and we were only inviting friends and family at first. It wasn't really about the beer, it was about like, "Hey, this is something to do and it's a Monday. What else are you going do?" It took probably a year or two before we became more intentional about it and, at that point, we were making, so we thought, pretty good beer.

Kevin Smith: One of the things that I've heard a number of people in Atlanta specifically talk about is how they come here, the fun they have, the events that you guys put on. How important is that kind of community and audience and, how do you, as someone who's in charge of the marketing, focus on that and start to cultivate that?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. We're lucky in a way or spoiled that we have a tap room. It generates money, but it also is the best and easiest way for us to indoctrinate someone into the brand. We view our taprooms as kind of the entry into our story. Events, the same way. Taprooms, you're going to get a certain demographic, but events you can expand that demographic depending on the type of event. We've actually kind of segmented the market and do events, targeted towards different segments, whether that's the super beer nerd or just like the social urbanite.

Jonathan Baker: We actually have a two-person marketing team plus me, and one of them is solely focused on events.

Kevin Smith: Really?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah.

Kevin Smith: How do you look at maintaining that same type of community feel as you hopefully become bigger if that's what you want?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. That's a challenge.

Kevin Smith: Yeah.

Jonathan Baker: I don't have the answer yet. We think that taprooms are really important, so you can grow ... but if you have a taproom and a market, that becomes kind of a communal jumping off point for you, and it becomes a point of reference for people. Just a physical place I think is really important. I think to the extent that we can create personal touch points with the brand, that's a win, so that could be as simple as ... we have these events specialists which are ... it's just part-time people who go out and run a pint night or something in a bar, but you hire the right person with the right personality, someone who has a good interaction with them, gets invited to the brewery. We kind of use them to go out and be the missionaries essentially, and then hopefully, send people back to us where we can do the conversion. Yeah.

Kevin Smith: I know, recently, I think you guys redesigned your labels as well. What was that process? Was it different from how it used to be, where you kind of did it in house and showed it to a couple of people, have them vote? Or now that you guys are established a little bit, how did that change?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, we do almost everything in house. That was one of the first things we tried farming out. And so, we actually solicited like concepts from four or five different designers. And then, I threw my own in there too. We'd had just kind of a quick internal poll, and mine one.

Kevin Smith: Oh, nice.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, which was nice. We actually did all of it in house as well. I'll tell you it was hard work. It hurt my brain a lot. But ...

Kevin Smith: What drove the need for the redesign?

Jonathan Baker: The market was changing. When we launched, breweries would have four to five core beers and maybe a seasonal or two and you can get away with that. Our design had been around color, like one color, and we were frankly running out of colors as the market was changing and we were having to come out with more and more beers. So, we needed a design that could withstand multiple iterations and was more malleable. We also were dealing with ... we had cans and bottles and the discrepancy between the two. Frankly, we had softer sales as well. Let's look at design as a way to boost sales a little bit.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. When you, when you say it kind of hurt, was it because the number of stakeholders that you guys had now in terms of distributors and retail locations? Or what hurt about the redesign?

Jonathan Baker: I just take it very personally.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. It's your baby.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, it's my baby. The first one was my baby too. It hurt to come to the realization that it might not be the right baby first at the time.

Kevin Smith: Right, metaphor starts to break.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, it does. I don't want to call myself an artist, but it feels like art that you're putting out there and then you're getting critiqued whether you can want to or not. Like, "No, I'm not ready for comment. Stop. I had to kind of harden myself a little bit.

Kevin Smith: That's one of the things too, I would imagine, as you guys have grown with your importance on community, you do have to read the comments, you do have to listen to the community if you are gonna kind of be involved in the community. There's always those people who are not going to be happy. There's always the people who are going to have something to say. How do you manage expectations? How do you look at brand reputation when it comes to that?

Jonathan Baker: We try to be upfront about what we're actually looking for feedback on and what we don't want feedback on. But we do read every review. We constantly are reading the beer review sites. Yeah, you just have to go into it, stealing yourself a little bit and recognizing that, particularly in craft beer, I think people, like it's not just a product, people take this really seriously. It's their hobby. It's their passion. And so, if you can approach it from that angle and say, "Look, they're not saying super positive things, but look at how passionate they are about this. That's a win." Most of the people in the beer industry I think at least have the best intentions in mind and want you to grow. I guess you just have to approach it with some humility.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. You guys went through, during the last election cycle, I know it was one of the things that, for better or for worse, got, probably for worse, got picked up in the news, where you mentioned events being a big part of what you guys do. There was an event for, the now Governor, Brian Kemp. You guys got some blow back from I guess the community that you serve. One, was that a surprise? Did you know that going into booking that event or how did that kind of change as you guys grew and these types of things became more of a bump along the way?

Jonathan Baker: There are three owners, and we did have a discussion about this beforehand. I was the least into the idea, just because of the political angle. Yeah, it can go well, but it can go poorly, you just have to know which.

Kevin Smith: There's a chance for it to go wrong. It's probably ...

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. I think we did learn, particularly with social and political issues, that, as we've grown, we've become ... we have more responsibility as a company. It's also just a really dumb idea to have three white guys make all the decisions when it comes to politics and social things. We definitely did screw up and, I think we tried to admit that relatively quickly. We knew it would hurt us in some ways, sales in the market, visits to the taproom. We had people say they'd boycott us for life. There's going to be some of that, but I think, as long as you're upfront and honest with whatever, you want to say, and honest about the things you're not apologizing for too. I think people respect that in a company and a brand.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. Do you still see the brand as an extension of your personality? Which I imagine you probably did right at the start or has it started to kind of become something different that you now have to manage and take care of?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah I think I still see it as part of my personality. A smaller part, but it's really hard for me to disconnect the two.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. I'm curious how that factors into discussions that you guys have had in terms of future plans and growth for where you want to take this. I've heard you in the past say that you're very happy being kind of a regional brewery. Does that change on a day to day basis, year to year basis? How does the brand being that piece of you factor into those change those discussions about the future?

Jonathan Baker: I think the biggest thing is making sure that we're not putting the brand first. We put our purpose first and the brand flows out from our purpose, but our purpose is to deepen human relationships with some of the best beer in the country. There's kind of two components. It's makes them the best beer in the country and deepen human relationships. So, we look at all the big decisions and growth strategies through that lens. For example, we're actually opening a taproom. We're going to announce it soon at Birmingham.

Jonathan Baker: That is, in part, to deepen human relationships in the markets that we are in. We're only in three markets. We're in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, and we've been in Alabama for about five years now. It's gone really well and we have a growing fan base and we want to be able to support that fan base and grow it, and a tap room is an obvious way for us to do that.

Kevin Smith: You mentioned the purpose and the fact that, deepening those relationships is what you do. How do you make sure that that is within all the marketing that you do? How do you kind of instill that purpose and reinforce it?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, that is very difficult. I'd say probably my biggest job, and probably the job that I am doing the worst at, it's you have to look at it not just in about ... it's not just about the communications, it's about any kind of encounter someone has with the brand. In the taprooms for instance, we purposely have these big communal tables to try to foster conversation. We purposely don't book live music so that you don't have to try to talk over a band. People might not see that stuff. It's pretty subconscious, but we hope that over time, people build a picture in their minds of what Monday Night is. We focus on food pairings a lot because meals are really communal and beer consumed over a meal is guaranteed to have good conversation or at least interesting conversation.

Jonathan Baker: It takes working with kind of all departments. There does have to be, I think, someone who is kind of the guardian and making sure that everyone's thinking about things in the right way. I'll tell you, that's actually something we're thinking through right now and so I don't have an answer, but hopefully I will in a month or two.

Kevin Smith: What channels do you guys use? I imagine social media is a big one. In terms of when you're looking at your overarching marketing plan and you're looking at reaching out to that community outside of the events or outside of the taproom, what do you guys rely on? What have you kind of found to work and not work for you?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, starting with a blog made us really dependent on the Internet and social media from the beginning. Facebook and Instagram are really big for us. We actually view the taproom as a channel because we have 100,000 people come through a year. We view events as a channel because it's a different audience, but another touch point. And then, we cultivate press relationships and relationships with like Atlanta lifestyle, food. I hate the word influencer, but influencers, people you need to suck up to. Those are the primary means. Coming from kind of a grassroots history, we want the brand to be something that people feel like they've discovered themselves. So, we tend to shy away from print media and radio and things like that.

Kevin Smith: Beer and breweries, especially in Atlanta, I feel is very competitive. Well, at least, I'll say competitive. You guys might all be kind of friends and share stuff. I don't know. But ...

Jonathan Baker: We're frenemies.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. You're frenemies. But from a marketing standpoint, how do you look at the competition? How do you look at the other breweries in the area in terms of making the decision not to do print media, knowing that you'll have some loyalists definitely, but you probably share some of the same audience? How do you kind of look at that when you're reaching out to your community?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, we definitely share the same audience, like the craft beer drinker is notoriously disloyal. Which is just going to part of the thing. Our goal is to like, let's see if we can be in their top 10 go-to brands. Like if they don't want to try something new or they aren't super jazzed about their options on tap, they'll grab the Monday Night because I know it's going to be good quality and, maybe they've had that beer not or maybe they have, but they know it's going to be good. We view competition ... we are friends with many of them, but that said, we still want to beat them.

Kevin Smith: Do you just give them a pat on the back and on the way, pass them. That's all.

Jonathan Baker: That's right. Pat them on the back on the way to victory.

Kevin Smith: Right. Speaking of the frenemies, I guess, and it doesn't have to be one of your local frenemies, if you weren't drinking on Monday night, what are you drinking?

Jonathan Baker: Usually, it's dependent on a style of beer that we're trying to perfect. Right now we've been drinking a lot of New England IPAs from Treehouse and Trillium and the Alchemist. There are so many great breweries up in the northeast that make amazing IPAs. With our barrel aging program, we also seek out as many kind of weird sours as we can to see, because there's so many things you can do with beer now. There isn't really one brand. I think it's probably more style specific.

Kevin Smith: Got it. When the laws changed, at the end of 2017, where you could sell the beer, it didn't have to be, it used to be a six tasting or six ticket tasting for breweries in Atlanta and you can sell through the brewery. Did that change anything about how you approached the business, how you approached marketing? Or was it just, Oh, we can do this thing now?

Jonathan Baker: It did. It took a while. We were expecting the change to kind of benefit our business immediately, just financially. Sales actually went down. We talked to other breweries, and we were like, "Is this right? And they're like, "Yeah, we're seeing the same thing." I think people saw the ticket system as kind of a really cost effective way to pregame the evening. We actually lost traffic and it took a while to build that back up and we had to look at ways what do people actually want that we can give them and a variety new new beers, fresh beers kind of became the thing. I'll say the law change has actually made the focus on our taprooms even more important. Before the law change, we were open four days a week, now we're open seven days a week and for longer hours as well, because we're trying to just cultivate a better brand experience in the taprooms.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. In your particular role, what is a typical, if there is such a thing look like for the head of marketing at Monday Night?

Jonathan Baker: Well I'm fortunate that I actually have a team now because for the longest time I didn't. This is only the second year that I've had anyone else in the marketing department. But we have a brand coordinator and then an experiential events coordinator. They do a lot of the heavy lifting day to day, which allows me to have less structure. I'm still very involved in new brands, the naming of new beers, the design of new beers, even if I'm not doing the design myself, kind of creative director type of role. I'm still very involved in the taproom experience. This opening up in Birmingham for example, that's going to take a big chunk of my time, just thinking through that taproom, designing it, helping think through the beer list. The marketing plan, each one of these beer launches now has to have a marketing plan before we just shot from the hip.

Jonathan Baker: I probably spend half of my day kind of in the office. I try to have as few meetings as possible in the meetings I do have to have. I try to bunch up in certain days, because my mind, I still do have to ... my job is like the kind of creative at the brewery still. So, I have to make sure that my mind is fresh.

Kevin Smith: Right. As you moved from more of a consulting space to now, what are some of the things that you feel like your skill set has had to evolve that may have surprised you?

Jonathan Baker: There are so many things. We have a staff of 50 full-time employees now. So, just managing people was something I knew that would have to evolve. But managing the growth and dissemination of a culture, it just becomes much harder once you get past that 20 person mark. Like how do you scale a culture? That's something that I think we've had to learn.

Kevin Smith: Multiple locations too, I would imagine.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. Multiple locations and more coming. I did a lot of the accounting. At first, I was really bad at it, but I have had to develop more of an analytical slant, which has served well as we've grown. I've gotten pretty good at going over legal contracts, which is surprising. Not Fun, but ...

Kevin Smith: You mentioned getting a little bit more analytical. As you look at the marketing, what are some of the things that you focus on, from either a metrics, key performance indicators? What are some of the things that you know if we do these things we're doing well?

Jonathan Baker: Probably one of the biggest is reviews. Taproom reviews and then beer reviews as well. Beyond that, the typical kind of engagement metrics. Because we do so many events, we can measure ROI on ad spend for those pretty closely. But I think for me, it really comes down to what people think of us and the review is like the ultimate indicator of that.

Kevin Smith: What's your mentality in terms of getting reviews? Is there a certain gauge that you look for or do you just ask everyone for a review? What are your goals in terms of review? A certain star amount? How do you approach it?

Jonathan Baker: Do you think you've had five-star service from me today?

Kevin Smith: Right. Would you recommend me to a friend?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. We have tried like some of those kind of review solicitation platforms and it hasn't really driven that many more reviews. I think because we're in a space that people are so passionate about, the reviews actually flow pretty naturally for better or worse. We're obviously looking for five stars, but you're never going to get a complete five star and we would never want a 5.0 because it looks artificial.

Kevin Smith: Looks fake.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. I'd love a 4.8 or 4.9. we're I think 4.7, 4.8 right now. But the more the merrier, right? Because I think it shows that this isn't just a fluke. So, Google and Facebook are big for us. Yelp has been big, but I think it's becoming a little less relevant. Apologies to your Yelp. Sorry. They're traitful.

Kevin Smith: One of the things too is, and I forget the name of it, but there is a psychological principal also, and that if you can get someone who you gives you a one star or two star or a complaint and you can respond and make it a better experience for them, or you can respond and let them know that they're heard, they will actually be come a more loyal fan or customer or advocate of your brand than if they were a four or five star review right out the gate. Do you ever respond to reviews? Do you look at kind of reputation management when it comes to reviews in that way, or how do you approach that?

Jonathan Baker: Yeah. We do. We try to respond to every negative review, and some it's just as simple as, "That sounds like a horrible experience. I'm really sorry, we'll talk to our staff. Don't expect anything in return." But I've gone as far as, I remember there was one negative review we got from someone who owned an ad agency. I reached out to them and we grabbed lunch. I was like, "Tell me. Give me the tough stuff." We ended up like working together in the future and putting on some events together. That's the best case scenario, but it's also like super time consuming. Hard to do that every ingle time.

Kevin Smith: It's a level entry.

Jonathan Baker: We use Square as our point of sale system here and people can review us on Square as well. And if we get a negative review there, we'll read through it. If it seems founded, we'll refund their money. Tell them, "Hey, sorry about that. Hope that this helps you give us another shot at some point."

Kevin Smith: Yeah. What does the future hold for Monday Night? What do you guys ...?

Jonathan Baker: Dollar bills.

Kevin Smith: Dollar, dollar bills. What do you guys see as the next kind of, whether it's three, five, 10? What are your big business goals right now?

Jonathan Baker: We are actively working through that as well, but I think it does come down to, Jeff, Joel and I are still the three owners and we're still really involved in the business and the day to day. We're all like loving it right now. We're just really enjoying it. We want this to be something we continue to enjoy. We all are super passionate about the city of Atlanta. So we'd love to grow our roots in the city, grow our scope here.

Kevin Smith: The thinking behind the second location, around the belt line as well.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, exactly. That was part of that. I think there are other ways to do it too. You see breweries like SweetWater and Terrapin who just has been around for longer and have much more of a hold, much more brand awareness. We do a brand awareness study every year and we're still pretty low, which is encouraging in a way that there's more growth out there.

Kevin Smith: When you look at the brand awareness study, how much does that change your initiatives going into a certain year or what are kind of, if you can remember what some of the big impacts that you've made changes based off those brand awareness studies, what do you ... because a lot of times, whether they're clients or prospects that we're talking to from an agency standpoint, they'll get all this data. They'll do a brand awareness study. They may not do anything with it. They may be paralyzed by the amount of data that they actually get or the research that they get. How do you guys interpret that and actually make moves based off of it?

Jonathan Baker: Well, I use it to request more money for marketing, which actually has worked pretty well. Having real data in front of you to help tell the story that like, "Look, guys, if we want to be where the big dogs are, we're talking to ourselves in a bubble right now. This is actually the reality of things. We're gonna need to invest." But, it also shows us where to invest. We do really well in the city. We don't do as well out in the suburbs. We recently hired a brand ambassador who's going to be focused solely on towns outside of Atlanta, heading up retail accounts on the weekends and just talking to people and ...

Kevin Smith: Trying to get the word out.

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, exactly. I think it helps us primarily with amount of resources that we give to marketing as a business and then allocation of those resources. Geographically, we've looked at it. And then, we'll also look at things like where consumers are getting their beer information. It's not always where you think.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. Last question. This is going to be the hardest question. Someone's new to the area, Atlanta, Birmingham, eventually Tennessee. They're going to give Monday Night a try. They're going to try one beer. What's the beer they should try?

Jonathan Baker: Can you tell me more about this person?

Kevin Smith: They're a single mother. If someone were to say ... what's the beer that you think, I'll rephrase it this way, what's the beer that you think that you guys are most known for?

Jonathan Baker: Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale.

Kevin Smith: Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale. Was that something that you guys saw it becoming really popular and you guys were known for it, and you were like, "Yeah, that figures?" I'm just wondering what happened here.

Jonathan Baker: It was actually one of our original homebrew recipes and it was one of the two beers that we launched with. It was the beer that we launched with to basically give us street credit with beer geeks. The other beer was a really unapproachable IPA that's not around anymore because sales were horrible. But Drafty Kilt, like there weren't many, if any other breweries in the southeast with a year round Scotch Ale, it was just a relatively unknown, an underappreciated style, and so I think we helped put the style on the map for the Atlanta drinker at least.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. Cool. That's it.

Jonathan Baker: Thanks a lot.

Kevin Smith: Yeah, thank you.

Jonathan Baker: Cheers.

Kevin Smith: Yeah, cheers.

Kevin Smith: All right. That was my conversation with Jonathan Baker from Monday Night Brewing. We hope you enjoyed it. We'll put a link to their site in the show notes, but if you do get a chance to try one of their beers for the first time, let us know what you think. In the meantime, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and make sure you automatically get the next episode. And if you like what we're doing, let us know with a review. We'd appreciate it. If you do have questions or know someone that would be a great guest, let us know at podcast@mightyroar.com. Thanks for listening.

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