Well Done Carlsberg – Honesty ‘Probably’ is the Best Policy

Nearly half a century since it first boasted that its beer was ‘probably the best beer in the world’, Carlsberg has admitted that ‘probably’ isn’t the case anymore.

On the 15 April 2019, Carlsberg UK launched its most ambitious and honest consumer-facing campaign ever in a bid to drive a reappraisal of its beer brand.

Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen, has been leading up the brand’s marketing efforts with ‘The Danish Way’ campaign discussing that the brewer has made an admission that perhaps its product hasn’t been as good as they said.

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. The beer market has been forced to accept the prevailing winds of decreased consumption, with 1.6m fewer drinkers than five years ago, alongside the emergence of craft beer — with its new flavours and brand tribalism grabbing drinkers attention.

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 №1 mainstream lager’. No word on how it fared against the old Carlsberg recipe, however. The brand has a fairly poor reputation amongst enlightened beer drinkers; the products scores 1.76/5 on ratebeer.com. Clearly, something has to be done.

“We have 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 getting them to fall back in love with Carlsberg again.” said Lynsey Woods, Director of Marketing at Carlsberg UK.

The £20m campaign from agency partners Fold7, Clifford French and Initiative was launched to highlight the upmarket Carlsberg Danish Pilsner beer. Fold7’s managing partner, James Joice said that by Carlsberg hinting it was ‘probably’ the best beer in the world may not be honest enough for modern consumers — its latest campaign admits there was a divide in opinion 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.”

Last year KFC built a marketing campaign off the back of strong consumer feedback, responding to a tweet reading: ‘Dear KFC, no one likes your fries. Yours Sincerely, The Entire World.’

Instead of shying away from the cutting feedback from a Twitter user, KFC spent money promoting the tweet, and numerous other harsh remarks, across social media and out-of-home advertising.

This is identical to Carlsberg’s recent campaign.

It’s powerful and extremely clever how they have turned such a negative into a positive campaign. It is rare to see brands hold themselves accountable for not living up to their promises. Look how much publicity the brand has received from this!

It has been a huge risk with many tweeters, naturally, responding to the promotion, expressing their view of both the new beverage and Carlsberg’s new approach — with mixed views.

A lot of people chose not to mince their words:


In saying this, a lot of users had respect for the move and enjoyed the taste:


They have addressed the issue publicly which the public love and warm too. It shows the brand can be transparent about their product and the majority of their audience/consumers respect them.
It’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them — just proves Carlsberg’s point, “still and always in pursuit of better.”

Fair play Carlsberg for admitting defeat!