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By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

March 3, 2020 | 5 min read

As Carlsberg UK's brave pilsner project enters year two, it has subverted its (in)famous Mean Tweets campaign to champion the new brew.

In April 2019, Carlsberg sowed confusion by promoting social media posts comparing its lager to “the rancid piss of Satan,” “cat piss,” “naan bread,” and “stale breadsticks” all to relaunch its lager as a pilsner.

Accompanying this last roll of the dice for a brand and category in decline as a result of increased abstinence, competition, and premiumisation, it was a take on Mean Tweets where staff hearts were broken with criticism of the mainstream lager.

The campaign racked up 1.1m views in the first 24 hours and around 15m all-in, serving a perfect springboard for a product launch. But now, negativity makes way for positivity as mean tweets become keen tweets. Liam Newton, vice president of marketing at Carlsberg UK, reflects on the campaign's transformation over the last 12 months.

“It will be quite hard to create the same impact as we did last year. It was such a new different idea. We were very brave to talk about the negative things people were saying.

“This has a different angle. It's just a nice way of landing the campaign message with a nod to what we did last year. It doesn't have quite the same shock factor that the original.”

Carlsberg isn’t trying to recapture lightning in a bottle. The language is more PG this time. Expletives are now merely hinted at - and then revealed as unorthodox praise for the new brew, much to the bemusement of staff.

They are faced with phrases like: “‘The new Carlsberg is a******* c****’’ (‘actually class’); ‘#NewBrew is s*** **!!’’ (‘spot on’) and ‘New Carlsberg a******** s****’’ (‘actually slaps’).

The comms were conceived to drive consideration of the pilsner. Newton hopes that the continuity with the famous campaign will help get the message out.

Meanwhile, brand ambassador Mads Mikkelsen makes a rare appearance outside the TV spots. He reacts to the keen tweets in a separate video in a way only he could.

Additionally, The Lake, the hero spot explaining the new brew to the public, has also been trimmed. Carlsberg’s admittance of wrong-doing is removed to now focus fully on the new brew.

Newton feels that that ad flows better with less copy, now it has “time to breathe” – unlike the old brewmaster who the ad suggests is at the bottom of the lake.

The campaign launched across TV, social, broadcast, out-of-home and digital, with media bought by Initiative.

Digital out of home formats, in particular, are making best use of the censored language reveal in video, accompanied with the ‘We’ve changed the beer. Only you can change your mind’ copy.


Sampling remains a cornerstone of the campaign. The brewery believes its recipe compares favourably against the rest of the category. It is offering 50,000 beer drinkers aged 18 years and over a chance to claim a free pint of Carlsberg Danish at select on-trade partners. Partnerships with Glastonbury, Latitude, Reading and Leeds, and O2 Academies will be vital to this.

As per Ipsos research, brand consideration, preference and recommendation scores are now “significantly” ahead of lead rivals Carling and Fosters, according to the brewer. The new brew is seeing more people consider Carlsberg as ‘their first choice’, and the frequency of consumption is growing at “significant” levels.

Newton said: "We’ve had an amazing turnaround which is testament to the quality of the new beer."

On-trade has been bumped up and has seen 3% value growth, from a stark decline before the campaign, the new glasses and fonts are helping it stand out in the pubs. 89% of shoppers who tried the Pilsner said they were likely to buy it again (summer 2019). However, the off-trade results have not been so positive.

“We've got still some work to do there around making sure we've got the right pack formats and the right price points.” Newton admitted it takes longer to crack that side of the sector.

“We need the right packs at the right price, the right promotions and we need to dial up our communication of the new brew at the point of purchase."

Newton has high hopes for the appeal of the SnapPack, its sustainable solution to cut plastic waste in its packaging, which will soon feature on Brooklyn and San Miguel.

He concluded: "The original campaign was a one-off thing. You can’t admit you weren’t living up to your mantra twice. We're not talking about that again, because we've done it. We can’t be about shock for the sake of it. We now need to be really clear on what we stand for as a brand.”

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