In Probably, Carlsberg has one of the most powerful advertising slogans ever. But while we are very proud of it, in the context of the all-important millennial generation who want to connect with brands that have real meaning, there’s a significant challenge when a product is perhaps better known for its advertising than for its story. This is something that we must change.
There’s another significant challenge we face, together with other international ‘big’ brewers synonymous with large-volume, standard lager brands. The truth is that lager is not connecting with 20 to 34-year-olds as a category in a way it once did, and this is an issue for not just big brewers but the entire beer market.
It is tempting to think that standard lager is being pushed aside by consumers who are switching into more interesting - and what they may regard as relevant - beers, such as world and craft. While it is true that these categories are growing and gaining new drinkers, evidence shows it is nowhere near enough to offset the drinkers beer is losing from the standard lager category. Most consumers find their way into the beer category through standard lager: it’s the gateway to beer. Yet in the past five years alone the standard lager category has lost 1.1 million drinkers (net), and if the current trend prevails the category could be facing a £500m deficit by 2020.
How are we addressing these twin, seismic challenges? For Carlsberg, we must start to tell the world the reason why we exist and why as a brand we matter. And standard lager brands in the category must do more, too. It’s time to add layers of substance to the playful, witty campaigns that have served us so well in the past.
We are enormously fortunate because Carlsberg has a very credible, real story that places us at the heart of modern beer brewing. We are able to stand by the bold claim that we invented modern lager because of the advances we were able to make in beer science more than 130 years ago in developing a consistent strain of yeast, which we shared with the world and is still used widely today. What’s more, the Carlsberg Laboratory is where the PH scale was first devised. There’s so much more too. This substance gives us a credibility and a meaningful place in the story of beer that few can match.
In a consumer category driven by brand image, the quality of our beer has been lost. We need to reaffirm our accomplishments in the art of brewing. We need to spread the word about the quality of our ingredients. And we need to sell our beer with the same knowledge and passion as the master brewers who make it.
It is also fundamentally important that we celebrate our Danish roots. This is not to jump on some hygge bandwagon but to drive a better awareness of our identity and heritage - and our home of Denmark, which studies regularly show to be one of the happiest nations on the planet, where most people strive to maintain a better work-life balance.
The dramatic change in the UK beer market requires bold action, and an even bolder approach. We must project a more meaningful image of who we are. We must tell our story.
Liam Newton is VP marketing at Carlsberg UK