Carlsberg aims to reverse declining sales with premium rebrand

Carlsberg hopes a focus on its Danish heritage and relaunch of its ‘Export’ brand will help it stand out in the “mainstream” lager market and have a “halo effect” on the wider brand.

Carlsberg rebrand

Carlsberg is relaunching its Carlsberg Export product in a bid to ‘premiumise’ the brand and fight declining lager sales.

The beer brand says this is the “first step” towards revitalising its Carlsberg flagship brand with the relaunch, planned for February 2017, accompanied by a £15m marketing push designed to connect with millennial drinkers.

The campaign will celebrate the brand’s Danish heritage and tap into consumer demand for authenticity and the trend towards premiumisation in the beer category. Experiential will also remain an important part of its marketing mix.

The look and feel of Carlsberg Export will also be changed with a new design that reflects the brand’s Danish heritage. The changes are influenced by the Danish flag, while the signature of its founder and the word ‘København’ – Danish for Copenhagen – underline the brand’s roots.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Carlsberg UK’s vice-president of marketing Liam Newton says his team undertook a year-long research project to discover how the current beer market is changing. It found that 1.1 million stopped drinking lager over the past five years, and that “fewer people are drinking on less occasions”.

Mintel figures back up his claims. Overall, beer volumes in the UK have been broadly flat since 2012, around the 4.2 billion litres mark. But lager is struggling, with volume sales falling from 3.18 billion litres in 2014 to 3.15 billion litres in 2015.

“We now have a situation where people tend to trade up to something more premium. It’s a bit more special, and you might not have bought it if you were drinking more frequently,” explains Newton.

“We see this in the world and craft beer segment and we expect them to continue to grow. That’s important because standard and premium lager is the key recruitment ground for people who ultimately trade up into premium.”

Carlsberg is not the only brand to be going down this route. Peroni has been looking to focus on “Italian style” and avoiding promotions to establish itself as a premium brand. Meanwhile, AB InBev bought Camden Town Brewery to enter the craft market.

This [rebrand] is a significant bold step to try and address this serious challenge. That’s the key thing – we haven’t evolved in line with consumer needs.

Liam Newton, Carlsberg

But Carlsberg believes it can differentiate by talking up its Danish and craft roots. It hopes that will help in the battle against public perceptions of mainstream lager brands being unexciting.

READ MORE: Carlsberg considers reselling a 133-year-old lager as it looks to reclaim its ‘craft beer’ heritage

“One of the perceptions of the brand in the UK is that all mainstream lagers look and taste the same. Within the overall beer segment and when you look at mainstream brands, they haven’t evolved very much,” says Newton.


“At the same time, people know our advertising and enjoy that side of the brand, but you don’t have to scratch too far beyond the surface to realise that people don’t know much more about the brand or its 179-year history. This [rebrand] is not just a tweak, it’s a significant bold step to try and address this serious challenge. That’s the key thing – we haven’t evolved in line with consumer needs.”

Carlsberg hopes to drive awareness and attract a new set of consumers who otherwise would not have considered purchasing the brand.

Newton also hopes its Export rebrand will have a halo effect on the overall Carlsberg brand.

He concludes: “This is about elevating Export but also wanting it to have a halo effect on the Carlsberg brand. Whatever form of Carlsberg they’re drinking, we want [consumers] to be aware of our heritage and history.”