Carlsberg embraces disparaging tweets in bold advertising campaign

Posted on April 18, 2019


As part of a rebrand and to advertise its new recipe, Carlsberg is promoting uncomplimentary tweets about its lager, and even getting its staff to read them out in social media ads.

The Danish brewer has long used the advertising slogan ‘Probably the best lager in the world’, but following a reported fall in sales, it now concedes that this is no longer the case, with Vice President of Marketing Liam Newton saying:

“At Carlsberg UK, we lost our way. We focused on brewing quantity, not quality; we became one of the cheapest, not the best.”

In rebranding its beer as Carlsberg Danish Pilsner, the company appears to be trying to tempt a new market of drinker who might previously have steered clear of the product. Rather daringly, though, it has even gone as far as to ridicule its own former flagship beer, hoping that doing so will connect with those who disagreed with the assertion of its well-known advertising campaign.

The CarlsbergUK Twitter account (which had previously not tweeted since last October) heralded the rebrand with this brief tweet last Thursday:

Since then, it has shared a couple of short videos of ‘Mean Tweets’, where Carlsberg staff read out and react to Twitter users comparing the beer to camel urine, toilet disinfectants and “bathwater your nan died in”.

The move certainly shows that the brand has a sense of humour, and could be compared to a section on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show where celebrities read out unpleasant and often offensive comments people have tweeted about them, thereby owning the insult.

The big risk Carlsberg is taking here is that it seems to be undermining a product that it had promoted for decades as being the best of its kind. We all accept that adverts promote an idealised version of a brand, but we also expect them to be honest. With Carlsberg now accepting that it is/was “probably not” the best lager, a consumer might ask why we should believe that the new campaign is truthful.

This acknowledgement about the “truth” (as Carlsberg puts it) of its previous beverage may attract new drinkers to give it a try, but it also risks alienating existing drinkers who may now feel they have been fed an inferior product under the pretence of it being one of the elite.

Time will tell how successful the campaign is, but it’s one of the most audacious pieces of social media marketing we’ve seen…probably.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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