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Why Carlsberg amplified the haters with its 'Mean Tweets' campaign

160over90 won the PR category at The Drum Marketing Awards Europe 2020 with its Carlsberg 'Mean Tweets' campaign. Here, the team behind the entry reveal the challenges faced and strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

Carlsberg had a major problem; people no longer believed it was ‘Probably the best beer in the world’. It had a reputation for striving to hit volume in the on and off-trade, and as a result, and by its own admission had sacrificed on quality. To reverse declining sales, 160over90 had to find a way to appeal to a new premium millennial audience distracted by new world beers and craft options.

Campaign objectives:

• Deliver a high impact, disruptive stunt that would drive cut-through for the new brew in the UK.

• Shift consumer perception and have world beer drinkers believe the new brew is worth paying more for.

• Ultimately, drive an uplift in sales for Carlsberg’s new brew in the UK.

The strategy

To reset perception, we’d need to win over the public. This brave new brew from the brand required a disruptive comms plan to match. A traditional NPD launch wouldn’t cut it – to get people to change the way they thought about Carlsberg in the UK, we first needed to get people talking about Carlsberg. And for this, we needed to address the elephant in the room.

Introducing ‘Mean Tweets’. The campaign was built around real consumer insight, from the social sphere. After spending just ten minutes on Twitter, 160over90 discovered that there was a wealth of offensive, but also slightly amusing tweets on the brand. Everything from ‘Carlsberg tastes like stale breadsticks’ to, ‘Carlsberg tastes like a bitter divorce’ and with a scroll through the feeds, the idea was born.

The idea was to embrace the negative tweets about the brand’s old beer by creating Carlsberg Mean Tweets, a content series that captured the reactions of real employees as they read out the colourful descriptions used to describe the old beer. The original creative idea was developed by 160over90 and supported by Fold7 and Initiative.

A carefully curated roll-out strategy was developed to deliver maximum impact during phase one. To start the conversation, we trawled social media in the UK to embrace the Carlsberg haters on Twitter, promoting the most negative real-life tweets from the Carlsberg UK brand page, with support of the media agency.

The campaign

The aim of phase one was to drive conversation through consumer confusion and curiosity. We contacted each tweet author to seek their approval to use their content during phase one. We sat back and watched the conversation unfold from our promoted Tweets, as memes and consumer posts questioned the sanity levels of Carlsberg’s Social Media Manager for promoting such posts. Trade publications including The Drum debated what was to come next from the brand.

Phase two, 48 hours later, involved the release of the hero content, which was scripted and shot in partnership with Carlsberg UK’s creative agency Fold 7. The content featured real employees, reading out un-flattering comments about the brand’s old brew. This asset was the crux of the campaign, sold in as an earned media asset, with targeted social spend around the hero film to drive further conversation online.

This PR-led creative was amplified with OOH advertising ‘Probably NOT the best beer in the world’ to drive talk-ability with the support of Initiative, Carlsberg UK’s media agency. We bridged the offline and online conversation by using Influencers to ‘discover’ our posters and share with their followers, fuelling more Carlsberg conversation.

The results

Phase one delivered 330,000 engagements on the promoted negative Tweets posts alone. Phase two delivered over 250 pieces of coverage with an estimated audience of nearly 2 million. Coverage highlights included a five-minute discussion on BBC Radio 5’s Drive Time show and blanked digital media coverage of the content on national media websites. Coverage was secured with digital partners that averaged a domain authority of 59 (average is 45).

The Mean Tweets videos were viewed 9.4m times, had over 200,000 engagements and a 36% view through rate (vs. 20% benchmark).

Following the launch there was a +24% increase in shoppers buying the product in stores and Carlsberg’s rate of sale increased by 14% in pubs. Consumer awareness doubled to 10.5 on YouGov BrandIndex during the campaign’s first four months.

Andrew Roache, head of corporate affairs, Carlsberg UK –

“As a cross-marketing discipline, Carlsberg UK always works channel agnostic, we think creative first – we don’t care whether it comes from our advertising agency, our PR agency or our brewery! With a client brief to disrupt the category with our first new brew for 25 years,160over90 challenged us to be honest with media and consumers and tackle the negative sentiment that surrounded our brand and liquid head on. Carlsberg Mean Tweets was a collaborative campaign rooted in PR with messaging that was direct, 160over90’s relentless pursuit of delivering coverage is testament to the campaign results and the commercial impact the campaign had.”

This project was a winner at The Drum Marketing Awards Europe 2020. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entries, click here.

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