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Why Carlsberg is spending £20 million on a ‘brave’ ad campaign

Danish brewer Carlsberg is spending £20 million on a new ad campaign, which admits its flagship lager is “probably not the best beer in the world.”

The beer giant attracted attention last week by promoting a series of tweets likening its lager to “stale breadsticks” and “p*ss”, and has now followed up with a marketing campaign that highlights a focus on “quality, not quantity.”

The announcement comes after Carlsberg recently launched a new Danish pilsner in the UK market. According to a survey of 160 lager drinkers in the UK carried out last December, some 59% of people preferred the taste of the new product to the old one.

“We are answering a request for a better beer and reigniting interest in our flagship brand,” said Lynsey Woods, Carlsberg’s UK director of marketing.

“With our new chalice glass, font and packaging we have improved our presence and our environmental footprint. By saying we’ve probably not been the best, until now.”

The brewery has recruited actor Mads Mikkelsen to head up its new campaign, extolling the premium qualities of Danish pilsners.

“We will be grabbing the attention of UK drinkers and creating compelling reasons for them to experience the changes for themselves. This is all about getting drinkers to re-trial Carlsberg.

The news comes after years of declining beer sales. In May 2018, UK beer sales dropped by 1.7% to their lowest point in two years, according to data from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

“Drinker’s interest in mainstream lager has waned because, though the world has moved on, the mainstream category hasn’t,” says Carlsberg UK’s VP marketing, Liam Newton.

“At Carlsberg UK, we lost our way. We focused on brewing quantity, not quality; we became one of the cheapest, not the best. In order to live up to our promise of being ‘probably the best beer in the world’, we had to start again. We’ve completely rebrewed Carlsberg from head to hop.”

Tom Harvey, new client director at drinks marketing agency YesMore, said the brewer’s marketers are “brave” to launch a campaign that shows a high level of interaction between consumers and the end product, but said its transparence will earn Carlsberg “kudos (and purchases)”.

“It takes a conscientious brand to realise the product they make isn’t on par with what their marketing slogans proclaim. Brands now live amongst a world of conscientious consumers, so I suspect this will earn them kudos (and purchases) from their target audience.”

“It takes a brave brand to act on insights from their audience publicly, too – particularly when putting what many see as the cold, hard, honest truth at the forefront of their marketing campaigns. All humans appreciate, and connect with, honesty from others around them – whether it’s from other humans, a government or even a conglomerate beer brand.”

“It takes a bold brand to change the way their products have been made for decades, even if it costs them more time and money in the process. This will likely earn respect and advocacy from a great portion of their target consumers.”

Harvey added that there are other reasons why Carlsberg might be drawing attention to its new, premium lager.

“It’s well researched and documented that people are drinking fewer alcoholic drinks, but at a higher quality and price. So with consumers’ tastes opting for quality products, Carlsberg are smart to recognise that selling on quantity alone won’t last.”

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