Carlsberg’s ‘Simple’ Rebrand Demonstrates Exceptional Audience Understanding

Carol Feigenbaum |
 10/10/18 |
4 min read

It’s a tricky thing to rebrand a business – and understanding audience segments makes all the difference in the world. Social media monitoring is an essential part of this process, and it starts well before the tweets mocking an ill-advised redesign go viral. Or at least it does for those brands that are successful at it . . .

Rebrands Can Be Bloody Business

Rebranding stories abound online – and most of them don’t end well. New, or merely revised, logos are criticized for being ugly, lazy, and all around awful. But the harshest criticism is reserved for those who just don’t get it. They lose sight of their basic reason for being or lose touch with the sentiment of their audience, or worse – insult them in some way. Even something that feels disingenuous won’t make the cut with consumers – like BP’s 2000 redesign:

As Canny Creative notes, “The Helios logo is meant to symbolise and represent the company’s green growth strategy by taking on the form of a sun. However, when it boils down to it, there’s nothing green about drilling oil and it seems as though BP are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It would have been better to stay away from this sort of connotation altogether.”


But at least they stuck with it. Lots of businesses launch a rebrand, call an “ooops” and return to their original offering. Which is fine, if you have a cool $100k to spare. Just ask GAP.

The sentiment around rebranding, in general, does not bode well for businesses, as we can see when searching for “rebranding” in NetBase Pro. Those brave businesses taking the plunge are starting from a deficit, at best.

The Struggle Makes Winning Sweet

But some brands are able to pull off amazing, almost awe-inspiring re-imaginings that are just as worthy of mention as those “top failures.”

And clearly, Carlsberg falls in the latter category, as the sentiment around its rebrand so far has been 100%, and on a measure of net sentiment from -100 to 100, that’s pretty fantastic:

What did they get right to accomplish this? Let’s take a look a couple of the attributes that helped:

KISS or Keep it Simple, Stupid. It may not be the kindest bit of advice, but it has certainly proven itself timeless.

Rebrands, like Carlsberg’s, that attempt a simple refocusing of the brand rather than a radical redesign that barely resembles what consumers are used to, are usually on point. In Carlsberg’s case, their goal was to make the brand more sophisticated, but without alienating its existing audience. So a thoughtful, uncomplicated approach was key. They kept it simple, and were far from stupid about it.

Sustainability. With its founding mission focused on a constant drive to do and become better, sorting out more ecologically friendly packaging was a must.

Beyond the sleeker wording, crown and hops symbols, the redesign was also physical, removing plastic ring-tops for cans with “the beer’s new “snap pack” technology” that has glue used to stick six-packs of cans together. This is a “bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste the company produces by over 1,200,000 kilograms every year.”

The labels and packaging themselves have shifted too. “A lot of excess detail and copy has been lost and is being used for descriptive text talking about Carlsberg’s new sustainability push. And the new green shade dominates, with a significantly reduced colour palette of two shades of green and white.”

Follow The Anti-trend

But the best thing the brand did was something each brand would need to determine in kind, as it applies to its own base audience, and that’s following the anti-trend.

Lots of logos undergo revision as companies evolve, and companies are evolving at an ever-faster rate. Yet few companies are taking steps to get ahead of that change and create logos that capture the current environment while allowing for growth.

Carlsberg was very clear about that. They wanted to shake things up, but with something that barely measured on the richter scale and left current customers standing, rather than a full-blown event leaving its audience fractured and unsure of what they were drinking.

The goal was longevity. The result has exceeded expectations.

Spencer Buck says: “The new design system is very much anti-trend. It’s designed to be permanent, or more permanent than any iteration of the design system has been before. There shouldn’t be any need to change this for a good long time. That’s part of the sustainable thinking that was built into the very core of the brief.”

“Carlsberg has become perceived as a very laddish lager,” says Buck. “It has had very heavy football associations and now it’s shifting. It’s growing up, it’s not playing any clever tricks and doesn’t have anything to hide – it’s just presenting itself in a simple, confident, gender-neutral and unapologetic way. It’s not a ‘man’s beer’ anymore – it’s a people’s beer.”

And being a “people’s brand” is what it’s really all about – whoever your people are.

We can help you find your people, wherever they may be online. Contact us for a demo!

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