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Tone of voice – Carlsberg’s honesty with it’s audience – the pursuit for better

Carlsberg have recently identified that they need to improve their product and have very publicly shared with their audience that they are not only improving this but also making changes throughout the organisation including becoming more environmentally friendly.

In the words of W1A’s Anna Rampton, “this in area we could be better“. If you haven’t seen W1A then that won’t make any sense, but if you have seen it, then you’ll love Shelby’s article about communications lessons from W1A.

The Pursuit of Better Beer
© Carlsberg

Right, back to Carlsberg! Essentially for a few years now, Carlsberg has had some really big brand issues. Therefore the business has made a multi-million pound investment and introduced new visual identity in order to improve brand loyalty and ultimately increase sales performance.

Changing the recipe

Anyone who drinks lager will know that Carlsberg has long been the bargain basement lager at the bar and is usually the one that’s first to be discounted in any Happy Hour. The Carlsberg sold in the UK was nothing like the Carlsberg on sale in Denmark, but was a cheaper, mass-produced products suited for the volume drinker rather than a quality drink.

However, Carlsberg noticed that the market has changed in recent years. There has been a craft beer movement slowly taking market share and with this growth, the average consumer has become more selective and has had the opportunity to try different styles of beer.

Global Data’s report on the beer market showed that 37% of global drinkers are willing to pay extra for an alcoholic drink that will bring extra levels of enjoyment and indulgence.

If you just look at a bar today, gone are the days of seeing just your Carling, Tetley’s, Carlsberg and Guinness. Today, bars are littered with smaller brands such as BrewDog and customers are willing to try new beers even if it’s not their usual. This growing reduction in brand loyalty is making it harder for mainstream brewers to remain competitive in the eyes of the changing beer drinker.

Carlsberg has listened to it’s consumers and the market as a whole and realised that something has to give in order to change the fate of it’s product as the lager style has been growing at a slower rate than other beer types in recent years.

“Consumers are looking for different drinking experiences, leading them to try different beer styles.”

“Premium and Superpremium brands are driving growth as consumers are increasingly “drinking less but drinking better”

Key Trends in the Global Beer Market – May 2018

There has also been a growth in recent year’s of beers and ciders going back to their roots in their comms – think about Thatcher’s adverts and Carling’s recent ad campaign. Therefore, Carlsberg could either sit tight in the cheap and cheerful market place or change things up and go back to it’s roots.

Carling – #MadeLocal Video
The Pursuit of Better Beer Advert
© Carlsberg

“‘Probably the best beer in the world.’ Once true, but today? Probably not. Somewhere along the line, we lost our way. We focused on brewing quantity, not quality. We became one of the cheapest, not the best.”

Copy from ‘In Pursuit of Better Beer’ Advertisement
The Pursuit of Better Beer Advert
© Carlsberg

This openness with their customers showed that Carlsberg wanted to change and almost wanted to apologise to their customers for losing focus. Later on in the copy, the advert talk’s about it being a ‘perfectly balanced Danish Pilsner’ harking back to it’s roots and where the brand is originally brewed.

A quick word count on the press release shows that the word ‘Danish’ is mentioned 15 times showing how the new Pilsner is being pushed and linked as much as possible with the brand’s roots in Denmark.

Finally, in a humorous nod to its former cock-sure promise to being “probably the best beer in the world”. The advert closes with:

“Finally, a beer that lives up to its promise? Probably.”

Copy from ‘In Pursuit of Better Beer’ Advertisement

Interestingly, reports are saying that along with the relaunch of the new brew, prices are set to increase which may lose the beer some customers, however, the brand hopes that all of the ‘betterments’ will help revitalise its flagship beer in the UK.

Carlsberg stated that initial consumer research indicates that the new Danish Pilsner has driven a significant shift in perceptions, with 68% of UK lager drinkers suggesting they prefer the taste of Carlsberg Pilsner over the current UK No. 1 mainstream lager. This is already a great sign for the brand as it shows that the changes made have already started to have an impact.

They also stated that the preference for Pilsner was most significant amongst younger and more affluent consumers suggesting that the plan to take back some of the premium market share may be achievable with the new brew.

Changing the approach

Alongside the full recipe overhaul of the Carlsberg beer, the brand also updated some of its practices, notably around the brand’s green credentials.

There has been increasing pressure placed upon organisations who produce a lot of plastic, especially since the airing of the BBC’s Blue Planet series.

The Pursuit of Better Beer
© Carlsberg

In their pursuit of better beer, Carlsberg have not just looked at their recipe but have also been very public in their efforts to reduce plastic consumption.

These innovations include a new snap pack which removes the need for plastic rings on their cans as well as the introduction of Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM silver inks on its glass bottle labels to improve recyclability.

“To make our multipacks more sustainable, we have introduced our new Snap Pack, which reduces plastic usage through innovative glue technology.”


This again is another great move by Carlsberg because it not only reduces their impact on the environment but also reassures their customers that they care about the issues that their consumer base cares about.

The Pursuit of Better Beer campaign has been a fantastic example of the changes that a business can make if they really want to. Carlsberg doesn’t intend to stop at these changes claiming that they “represent the first of a series of consumer-facing manifestations of Carlsberg Group’s sustainability programme”.

This is a great sign as it showcases the innovations the brand wants to make not only to improve its product but also the world its product sits in.

What can we learn?

So what are the key takeaways from Carlsberg’s recent innovations and changes? I think they can be summarised in three key areas.

  • Honesty – if as a business you think you’ve been doing something wrong, sometimes it’s best to just hold your hands up and be open about it. If you have a clear plan about how you’re going to make it better and acknowledge the clear reasons why you’re making the change, then your consumers deserve to know. Ultimately, if they agree with your decision and understand your reasoning then they’ll support you. Brand loyalty is a two-way street and you’ve got to be loyal to your consumers in the same way they’re loyal to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to change – change is scary, however, change can be good! Understanding your audience and the market you operate within is key and if these are telling you something is wrong then you have to be willing to accept change. Change can be seismic like Carlsberg or can be a series of smaller changes. Ultimately, change must be in consultation with all stakeholders and your senior managers need to consider the knock-on communications challenges that will come along with because not everyone will like the change.
  • Introduce a bit of heritage – finally, follow the lead of Carling, Carlsberg and Thatchers and introduce a bit of heritage into your communications. Brand loyalty is built as customers get to know your product and your brand therefore use your history and heritage to share your story with your audience.

If you have any comments or areas that you think I may have missed, please do let me know.

Follow me on Twitter for more updates . . . @BradTheCommsGuy


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