Magazine article Marketing

Still Best after 25 Years?

Magazine article Marketing

Still Best after 25 Years?

Article excerpt

Carlsberg has a quarter-century pedigree and probably the most widely recognised tagline in the world. But can that stand up to a world of premium lagers?

It's 25 years since Carlsberg came up with its 'Probably the best lager in the world' line, which it has used continuously for a quarter of a century. It appears in a new burst of ads breaking this week.

By way of coincidence, 1973 also marked the debut of Heineken's long-lived refreshment of the parts other beers couldn't reach, but Carlsberg's slogan is the only one to have survived unchanged.

The new ad is set in Copenhagen in 1883, with Carlsberg employee Emil Hansen trying to sell his invention of Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis, the yeast that all modern lagers are based on.

Original and best

Passers-by ignore him as he peddles his wares in the street; then the ad cuts to the present day, with people across the world drinking Carlsberg. It is the latest clement of a consistent 25-year strategy to position Carlsberg as the 'original and best' lager.

When the so-called 'blonde beers', like Carlsberg, were first marketed in the UK, they were aimed at women. The thinking was that these lighter beers would appeal to the female palate.

UK market share (vol)

                    1996(%)          1997(%)

Carlsberg
Export                  1.9              2.1

Carlsberg
Pilsner                 4.3              4.5

Carlsberg
Special Brew            1.5              1.4

Source: Datamonitor

The plan failed, however. So Saatchi & Saatchi, with a little help from Carlsberg's chief executive, came up with the tag, 'Probably the best lager in the world', and the rest is history.

Today, the ad agency is still Saatchis and the slogan remains the same. Advertising spend has increased, however, and Carlsberg Lager is certainly not aimed at women. "Our key target is 18- to 35-year-old males," says Murray Pannell, account supervisor at Saatchis. "They are fun-loving: out for a good time, a session."

But as to the truth of that original slogan, Pete Brown, a planner at Lowe Howard-Spink on rival accounts Stella and Heineken, and author of You should have seen me last night, a history of British beer drinking - claims it is now something of an empty boast.

"At the time Carlsberg was first advertised, keg beers were so atrocious that people started drinking lager because of its better and more consistent quality," he says. "Even if the slogan wasn't rational, they still believed it was a quality lager."

However, according to Brown, the slogan is now in danger of backfiring. With a new and burgeoning sector of premium lagers now available, "People know it's not a premium, SO the slogan can't possibly be true," he says.

But for the time being at least, Carlsberg will not be following Heineken's example, which cast off its beloved slogan 'Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach' earlier this year. Instead, it will stick with the style it knows best.

Still standing

"Our point of difference has always been the combining of outstanding global quality and the understated confidence of the 'Probably' line. It's been consistent for the past 25 years and still stands up," says Doug Clydesdale, marketing director across the Carlsberg portfolio. Provided the ad's feel is contemporary, he says, the line and its heritage remain relevant. …

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