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Brand Insight: If Carlsberg Did Advertising…



Dharmesh Rana, senior brand manager at Carlsberg on shopping trolleys, Protein World and that iconic strapline

Brand Insight: If Carlsberg Did Advertising…

Carlsberg is a brand with such a strong voice and proposition that when its ‘If Carslberg did’ strapline was retired, the public never quite let go. Something about the rhythm of the copy and the daydream fantasy lodged the line into consumers’ collective consciousness. That’s why last year the brand revived the ‘ICD’ line after just four years on the bench. Since then, they’ve taken the concept into the real world, with an increasingly playful, experiential and responsive approach. The moments and stunts helped broaden the brand’s appeal beyond the traditional core of football fans, while the agile ‘newsroom’ approach plonked itself right in the middle of current events. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with senior brand manager, Dharmesh Rana.


LBB> How would you characterise Carlsberg as a brand?

DR> In the UK, we are all about quality entertainment, intelligent wit and delivering the unexpected.


LBB> How long have you been working for Carlsberg? And on a personal level, what’s it like marketing a brand that’s got quite a playful vibe?

DR> I have been working on the Carlsberg brand for just over five years now and I’ve been fortunate to see our approach to marketing evolve considerably over the last couple of years. The playful vibe is what makes Carlsberg the brand it is, we’re really lucky that we have such a versatile brand idea that’s all about creating entertainment. 

LBB> One of your recent campaigns was the creation of a Carlsberg shopping trolley. What was the starting point for this idea? Of all the things to Carlsberg-ify, why was that the thing to do?

DR> One of our key areas of focus this year is getting closer to the point of consumer purchase and leveraging our customer relationships for mutually beneficial activations. Shopping for groceries isn't always the most exciting thing to do, so we wanted to add a little If Carlsberg Did magic to the process and address the insights we receive, such as wonky trolley wheels and struggling to find the right supermarket aisle, to make the experience of purchasing our products more enjoyable for our customers.

LBB> How much of the construction of the trolley did you get to see? And what was your reaction when you saw the finished thing?

DR> After working up the creative mock-ups of the trolley with two of our agencies, Fold7 and Clifford French, and briefing the various customisations, we visited the team at Yiannimize five times. We wanted to ensure that all aspects of the trolley, including the electric engine, beer cooling system and satellite navigation, were in place and that the trolley was produced to a premium standard.


LBB> You trundled along to Asda in Clapham – what was the experience of the shoot like? Any particularly memorable reactions from the public?

DR> We had plenty of looks of amazement from employees, shoppers and passers-by as it was unloaded from the lorry and throughout the day, as you’d expect! Clearly, there were a number of regulatory and legal hurdles to address prior to the shoot, so on the day when consumers identified with the campaign strapline and asked if it was an “If Carlsberg Did” stunt we were really happy with the reaction. We used a YouTube influencer, Anto Sharp, to drive the trolley for our content and this really helped increase its engagement rate.  

LBB> Last year Carlsberg resurrected the ‘If Carlsberg did…’ line after a four-year break. What was the decision behind bringing it back? 

DR> It never really went away, all you needed to do was look on social media and people were using 'Probably' and 'ICD' organically so we decided against our brand strategy to embrace it and bring it to life in a different way. That’s why we created the newsroom.  

LBB> In its current incarnation, ‘If Carlsberg did…’ has involved a lot of projects that have been about bringing the Carlsberg fantasy to reality. (The billboard that poured pints last year and now the shopping trolley.) Why have you taken this approach and how have the public responded to you? 

DR> Our aim is to broaden the appeal beyond football and reach new audiences. Experiential marketing creates a more engaging experience for our consumers, it allows the brand to develop transactional relationships and the consumer to get closer to the brand. The beer-dispensing poster was a perfect example of this, it allowed consumers to live/see/touch the brand, enriching the consumer experience. The important factor for us with all our experiential activity is ensuring we’re able to bring it to life through other channels for consumers that aren’t able to experience it in real-life – this year we’re hoping to take advantage of new channels and different innovation to push this even further.

LBB> One of our very, very favourite things from Carlsberg last year was the Beer Body Ready poster on the London Underground, poking fun at the Protein World ads. Talk about moment marketing! It must have been a pretty fast turnaround – how long was it from idea to display? And why was the Protein World controversy something you wanted to comment on as a brand?

DR> The Protein World controversy was something which captured global media attention, and being totally transparent we saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate the wit and humour our brand carries. We’re not precious about ideas having to fit within a set of parameters; if it’s credible and engaging we’re lucky enough to have the freedom to activate it.

Credit has to go to our all-agency team for this, the original idea came from media agency OMD – within 20 hours the creative had been worked up (Fold7), the ad was placed alongside Protein world ads on the underground (OMD), captured and seeded into media (Clifford French) and managed through our social channels (TMS). We all worked through the night to ensure the delivery of the idea was as timely and responsive as possible.


LBB> In terms of developing the creative, how do you prefer to work with your creative agencies and partners? Do you do anything in house? 

DR> A good idea can come from anywhere and when you’re working with such a versatile property like ICD we’re lucky as the ideas come in thick and fast. We don’t produce creative in house, we set the creative agenda and put structure and focus behind the creative process. I believe that our newsroom set up works well because we have four agencies from four specialist disciplines that can all add a different perspective, which for me ultimately results in great creative output.


LBB> What are the main marketing challenges for beer brands today?

DR> The beer industry is an extremely competitive place if you want to get your message across. For us we need to find different and engaging ways to communicate with consumers, which is our main challenge in such a competitive environment.

We’re seeing traditional forms of marketing for beer brands (sponsorship activation, on-trade activation) being supplemented by more digitally led, nuanced tactics such as influencer engagement. Moving forward, this is something that we’ll definitely be doing more of.


LBB> In terms of demographics I’d guess that your main audience is men in the 18-40-something range? But how are Carlsberg drinkers evolving? And are there any particularly distinct audience segments – if so how do you reach or target them differently?

DR> Target audience is broad but as you’d expect we do target sub segments and different characteristics outside of age. However the main change is the way audiences consume media – this has changed and continues to change – hence our decision to move our focus to digital and social media rather than traditional media. Traditional media stills plays a role but the broad reach means you can’t be as targeted.


LBB> What’s on the cards for Carlsberg in 2016?

DR> Carlsberg is stepping into its busiest year of football sponsorship ever in 2016 as the Official Beer of Euro 2016, whilst obviously continuing the Premier League sponsorship. The Newsroom team are leading the way by continuing to generate innovative and engaging activations whilst taking an entirely different approach to the previous 20 years of traditional football sponsorship. ‘If Carlsberg Did’ will, of course, underpin the entire campaign, and we are promising consumers engaging, witty and intelligent content – and hopefully plenty more award wins!

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Categories: Beers, Alcoholic Beverages

LBB Editorial, Wed, 02 Mar 2016 17:40:03 GMT