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Carlsberg's New Ad Strategy Is to Acknowledge that Its Beer Isn't Great

The company recently promoted a tweet that compared Carlsberg to “drinking the bath water that your nan died in.”

by Bettina Makalintal
23 April 2019, 5:41am

Photo by Bernd Thissen/picture alliance via Getty Images

This article originally appeared on VICE US

Carlsberg is by no means the worst-rated beer online. That honor appears to be reserved for the 2.4% ABV, 55-calorie Budweiser Select 55, which holds a scant 1.17 out of 5 on RateBeer and a 1.62 out of 5 on Beer Advocate. Carlsberg is worlds better by comparison, with a not-too-shabby 3.03 out of 5. But that, to be fair, still doesn’t quite jive with the Danish beer’s best-known tagline: “Probably the best lager in the world,” which it used for almost 50 years.

Though the company moved away from that slogan a few years ago, it didn’t exactly lean into, well, the exact opposite sentiment, because why would they? Saying your product sucks is kind of anathema to making the sale. But we’re in 2019, when brands adopt the language of depression memes and beef with each other on Twitter—so of course Carlsberg is getting a little dark, too.

Its newest campaign reads, “Probably NOT the best beer in the world.” As people pointed out on Twitter last week, the brand had also promoted tweets trashing the beer, including one that compared Carlsberg to “drinking the bath water that your nan died in,” and called it the reason for “trust issues.” To some people, it seemed like the work of a rogue social media manager.

According to the Drinks Business, it’s actually all part of a “brave” $26 million campaign that’s meant to shift the brand’s focus to “quality, not quantity” after falling beer sales in the UK in recent years. The decision seems at least partially motivated by the fact that drinkers claimed they preferred a newly-released Carlsberg beer as opposed to the brand’s signature brew.

And as Liam Newton, vice president of marketing at Carlsberg UK, told Marketing Week, “We’ve been saying we’re ‘probably the best beer in the world’ since 1973, the issue is recently we’ve not been living up to that.” Newton added that over the years, the brand “started to focus on the wrong things” by trying to become bigger but not better. As part of its new focus, according to the ads, Carlsberg has been “completely rebrewed from head to hop.”

Millennials might not love booze as much as they used to—but they sure do like a good self-deprecating shitpost.