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Carlsberg hopes to turnaround company by admitting its beer sucks

Dominick Suzanne-Mayer Apr 15, 2019. 17 comments

Since 1973, the Danish mainstay Carlsberg has referred to itself publicly as “probably the best beer in the world.” If you’ve happened to come across that slogan in more recent years, and found yourself disappointed as a result, at least it appears that Carlsberg would agree.

Marketing Week reports that Carlsberg is kicking off a major overhaul of both its marketing campaign and its brewing process, in an attempt to get back to living up to its onetime reputation. Among other things, the changes to the former will involve admitting to the world that it’s been turning out substandard beer for some time now.

Bold strategy, Cotton. Then again, it’s not as though they’re the first struggling company to roll the dice on conceding their own failures as part one of a comeback story; for example, in recent years, Domino’s pizza fortunes have rebounded after a 2010 campaign that admitted as much: “Yes, we suck.” CBS News described it “self-flagellation as corporate strategy.” It worked—now, their comeback has “outpaced Google,” according to Quartz. (Domino’s has also done everything not in the pizza realm, from delivering anywhere to starting a baby registry tofixing potholes , in the service of regaining customer trust.)

For Carlsberg, that means going back to square one in a market now flooded with quality, affordable pilsners. While the price will be going up by an amount undetermined as of this article’s publication, the new-look campaign will also include updated packaging (said to reduce plastic waste by 50%) and an overhauled brewing process.

In remarking on the logic behind the changes, Carlsberg UK vice president of marketing Liam Newton noted that the beer has to shake off its staid reputation:

We believe in the UK we lost our way. We started to focus on the wrong things and perhaps got preoccupied with being the biggest rather than the best ... When I see these brands like Foster’s, Carling and Carlsberg, I see them in an old man’s pub so that for me is a good example of the world moving on but this category not moving on; it feels a bit rusty, a bit dated. The quality of the beers here feel low-quality; cheap and cheerful kinds of brands and brews.

“Cheap and cheerful” isn’t a death sentence out of hands, especially when it comes to beers, but Carlsberg seems to have acknowledged that there’s a right and wrong way to go about being that, and knows which side it’s fallen onto. After all, the first step to healing is realizing that you have a problem in the first place.

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