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The Audacious New Carlsberg Campaign -
A Case in Boldness and Consumer Insights

UPDATE 30.12.2019: The result of tapping into the deeper motivations of your target audience: Carlsberg's ‘Probably Not’ campaign has not only doubled the awareness of the brand in the UK but also has been voted as by MarketingWeek readers as the best marketing campaign of 2019.

UPDATE 09.10.2019: Liam Newton, vice president of marketing at Carlsberg Group, claimed that the on-trade rate of sale was up by 14% for the brand. Newton said: "There is a 10% difference over the last 12 weeks between Carlsberg and the standard lager performance in the on trades." The standard lager category, which includes Carlsberg, Carling and Fosters, saw its volume of sales down by 7%, Carlsberg grew by 3%. (The Drum).

"The rancid piss of Satan", "Like drinking the bathwater that your nan died in", tastes "Like stale breadsticks". A more conventional marketeer would certainly not give wide publicity to such extreme negative product reviews -let alone create a campaign out of it. However, in a bold new campaign launching its new taste, Carlsberg UK and their agency Fold7 did exactly that. The boldness, unconventionality and consumer insights of the campaign also make it interesting for marketeers worldwide to follow -and perhaps learn from. 

Carlsberg provocative campaign has already received a lot of traction on social media. Reminiscent of Jimmy Kimmel Live -a US comedy show, it shows Carlsberg employees reading out some really nasty tweets about the taste of Carlsberg.

This as part of a larger campaign highlighting the need that Carlsberg has re-brewed its beer with a new taste from "head to Hop". With this campaign, Carlsberg is also going back to its heritage and age-old positioning of "Probably the best beer in the World." With the campaign, Carlsberg also acknowledges that in the time of premiumization and the rise of kraft, the bland taste of standard lager is less and less satisfying for beer drinkers. According to Kantar Alcovision the amount of people drinking "standard" lager in the UK has fallen by 1.6 million in the past five years; and according to Glocalities data, 38% of beer drinkers worldwide drink special/craft beer at least once a month (n=20,824 beer drinkers, 2019).

Although a negative framing of a campaign is always dangerous, the Carlsberg marketeers may be on to something by both rebrewing its beer and going back to its heritage slogan - and doing it in such a brave manner and eye-catching manner. According to fresh 2019 Glocalities data, the fundamentals of the campaign are in line with the motivational values and psychological triggers of the current Carlsberg drinker.

Socio-cultural trends of Carlsberg drinkers, Glocalities 2019 (n=2,895 Carlsberg drinkers)

Carlsberg consumers are relatively more Risk-seeking – they are more likely to look for excitement and thrills. It also suggests that they are more likely to appreciate such brands and campaigns - and to take the dare to try the new Carlsberg. The data also shows that Carlsberg consumers care stronger for Brand origin: it makes sense for Carlsberg to back to its heritage.

Preferred Archetypes and Persuasion Tactics of Carlsberg consumers, Glocalities 2019 (n=2,895)

In addition, the top relative scoring archetype of the Carlsberg consumer is that of the Rebel. The narrative associated with the Rebel is one of breaking the norms, redefining the rules and not afraid to shock -very much in-line with the Carlsberg campaign. The chosen campaign set-up is further supported in the choice of implicit Persuasion tactics. Both ‘Disrupt and reframe’ and ‘Humour’ score relatively high amongst Carlsberg consumers -Carlsberg consumers appreciate the opportunity to look at something from a different angle and are highly susceptible to humour.

As such, the campaign taps brilliantly into the deeper motivations of the current Carlsberg drinkers. And it goes to show that with a fundamental understanding of your target audience, it is easier to take bold decisions that stand out and get consumers to react. Of course, the bottom line of the success of this campaign would be how the new Carlsberg brew will be perceived by beer drinkers -But we can already tell that the current customers will probably take up the dare and give it a go.


Mash Muravina

Sr. Research Consultant

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