The year was 1829. Andrew Jackson became the seventh United States President, early versions of the typewriter were being patented and the first modern hotel opened in Boston. This was also a milestone year for America in the beer brewing industry. David Yuengling, a German immigrant, settled in Pottsville, Pennsylvania and founded what would go on to become America’s oldest brewery still in existence. Although that title comes with bragging rights, it’s even more impressive that the brewery has been in the Yuengling family for five generations.
Although the brand is extraordinarily successful, it wasn’t always that easy in the beginning. From Prohibition in the early 20th century to a fire that burned the original building to the ground, the Yuengling family faced many challenges that could have resulted in the brewery’s demise. However, with innovative thinking and an open mind, the family-owned brewery withstood the test of time.
Even though brands today are not the same as they were in 1829, we can all reflect on three important tactics that has kept America’s first brewery afloat for nearly two centuries.
1) Adaptation is key.
Prohibition was a difficult time to be in the alcoholic beverage business in America. For some companies, this was the end, but for Yuengling Brewery, this was an opportunity for adaptation. This family knew that people were counting on their jobs at the brewery to make ends meet, so they got creative with their products. The family began selling non-alcoholic beer and even opened an ice cream shop across the street. The Yuengling family recognized that adaptation was the only way to survive, so they did what they had to do to keep the business going, even if they weren’t just selling beer – clearly it paid off.
2) Take risks when the time is right.
Once Prohibition was repealed and the beer business began to pick up again, Yuengling Brewery faced yet another challenge – their competition. Bigger breweries were monopolizing the market with their manufacturing productivity, and the brand needed to find a way to make up for the manpower that it desperately needed. Dick Yuengling, grandson of the brand’s founder, decided to take a financial risk and assist the packaging process with machinery. He found that doing so boosted production by nearly 300 percent, and the company was then able to commandeer the consumers of nearby failing breweries. Had they not decided to take calculated risks to modernize the company, Yuengling would have become just another name swept into the past. The benefits outweighed the costs in the long run, allowing the brand to maintain its status as a top competitor.
3) Follow industry trends to keep your brand relevant.
A trend that began in the 1980s and is still alive today is the craft beer phenomenon. Yuengling’s competitors in Boston began manufacturing these products that proved to be wildly successful among consumers. Although Yuengling’s Traditional Lager was well liked, Dick realized that this new trend is what the public wanted. The brewery began experimenting and created their Summer Wheat, their Bock and their Oktoberfest ales. The Yuengling family knew it was important to stay fresh in consumers’ minds, and although the Traditional Lager is their most popular product, experimentation with industry trends has sharpened their competitive edge.
If longevity is your goal, take it from a brand like Yuengling, whose flexibility has led it through almost two centuries of existence. It’s important for your brand to have an open mind as industry trends come and go, and by being open to adaptation, your brand has a higher likelihood of success. The willingness to adapt will also make it much easier for you to stay relevant to consumers. It’s also important to find ways to maintain your role as a competitor in your industry, even if it means taking risks, as long as those risks are worth it in the long run. Overall flexibility as a company is the key to not only Yuengling Brewery’s longevity, but also yours.
If you’re looking for help with your brand’s strategy, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you out.