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Carlsberg pours its heart out with Pilsner relaunch, admits it ‘Probably' wasn't the best


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

April 15, 2019 | 5 min read

Carlsberg UK has admitted it was ‘probably’ not the best beer in the world after all. But it has promised to correct that.


Carlsberg relaunches beer after ‘piss’ tweets and admits ‘Probably’ wasn’t honest enough

The brewer recently promoted a slurry of critical tweets likening Carlsberg to “piss” - a bold scheme to draw attention to “quantity to quality” repositioning behind its new Pilsner.

Mads Mikkelsen has been leading up the brand's marketing efforts with ‘The Danish Way’ campaign discussing the premium qualities of the Danish beer, the brewer has made an admission that perhaps its product hasn’t been the best after all.

A campaign, sparked by the negative tweets, will now live across social out of home and digital with Mikkelsen set to return to TVs during the Bank Holiday in May.

The £20m campaign from agency partners Fold7, Clifford French and Initiative was launched to highlight the upmarket Carlsberg Danish Pilsner beer which it says is ‘perfectly balanced’.

The reasoning driving the campaign is as follows: “By acknowledging the 'truth' about the quality of Carlsberg in the UK to date, the brewer hopes to challenge a generation of drinkers to re-appraise and re-trial Carlsberg.”

Carlsberg contextualises the move saying that interest in lager is at an all-time low and that as consumption continues to decline across the board, as a result, it has made a premium play.

Liam Newton, Carlsberg UK vice president marketing, said: "Drinker's interest in mainstream lager has waned because, though the world has moved on, the mainstream category hasn't.

"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."

In taste tests, 59% of respondents said they prefer the new Carlsberg Danish Pilsner over “the current UK No.1 mainstream lager”. No word on how it fared against the old Carlsberg recipe, however.

Lynsey Woods, director of marketing at Carlsberg UK, said the brand has returned to the legacy of founder JC Jacobsen.

“We have upgraded every touchpoint of our brand and launched our innovative ‘Snap Pack’ multipacks to enable us to deliver a reduction in the plastic of up to 50% from brewery to store. These were significant undertakings, but the biggest challenge is letting UK drinkers know we have changed and got them to fall back in love with Carlsberg again.”

Fold7’s managing partner, James Joice hinted that claiming that Carlsberg was ‘probably’ the best beer in the world may not be honest enough for modern consumers - its latest campaign admits there was a schism between what the brand was saying and what it was delivering.

“Today, the value of brand honesty to consumers is more powerful than ever. But it is still rare to see brands hold their hands up when they don't live up to their promise. Carlsberg has not only been brave enough to do this but have done something about it.

"By re-brewing Carlsberg Pilsner, and using the campaign efforts to focus on re-appraisal, we hope in time, UK drinkers will recall the quality of Carlsberg's beer as fondly as they recall the advertising."

Over the last few years, the brand has repositioned itself as ‘premium’ in the UK with the 'The Danish Way' campaign fronted by Mikkelsen - the original run cost at least £15m. At first, the brand may not have had the product to connect with the message at the time although it has laid down the foundations for an upmarket launch.

The stunt is reminiscent of a campaign from KFC late in November. The fast-food brand promoted tweets criticizing its fries – before unveiling a new recipe in a UK-wide advertising campaign. Alas, several tabloids reported that customers hated the new recipe too, showing how dangerous a play Carlsberg has embraced.

UPDATE: The Drum can confirm a new marketing campaign around the Carlsberg Pilsner. Read here.

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