Carlsberg Transforms its Brand Image with ‘Probably Not’ Campaign

Rapport , InitiativeFold 7 and Clifford French won ‘Best National Campaign’ at The Drum Out of Home Awards 2019 with the ‘Probably Not’ campaign for Carlsberg. Here, they reveal the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this transformative, unorthodox campaign for the Danish beer giant.

The Challenge

Carlsberg was in trouble. People no longer believed it was ‘Probably the best beer in the world’.

To reverse declining sales and turn Carlsberg brand love into Carlsberg beer love, we had to find a way to appeal to both our existing audience as well as a new one who had come to expect more taste and more quality from a pint.

Our Solution

Carlsberg acknowledged that in the UK they had fallen below their own high brewing standards and so took the brave decision to go back to the brew-house in pursuit of better. They emerged with a New Danish Pilsner – completely re-brewed from head to hop.

But to reset perception, we’d need to win in the court of public opinion. This brave new brew required an even braver campaign. For Carlsberg to win, a traditional campaign wouldn’t cut it – to get people to change the way they thought about Carlsberg, we first needed to get people talking about Carlsberg. And for this, we needed to address the elephant in the room.

Introducing… Probably not the best campaign in the world.

To start people talking, Carlsberg unthinkably trawled social media to embrace the Carlsberg haters on Twitter, promoting the most negative tweets about Carlsberg they could find!

To support the buzz on social media, OOH was used to amplify this further. Using the public nature of the channel to drive fame and talk-ability, we ran probably not the best outdoor campaign – that was noticed for all the wrong reasons!

We bridged the offline and online conversation by using Influencers to ‘discover’ our posters and share with their followers, fuelling more Carlsberg chat. Staff at Carlsberg were so worried they even changed their LinkedIn profiles to “looking for new opportunities”.

And once we were sure everyone was talking about it, the rug was pulled with a national media campaign that announced new Carlsberg Danish Pilsner, re-brewed from head to hop: a new dawn for the Carlsberg brand and most importantly – a new brew.

The new Carlsberg Danish Pilsner was launched using national high impact OOH. A combination of roadside, rail and underground billboards were used – a blend of classic and digital to maximise reach and engagement.

Once sufficient awareness had been built, we adopted different tactics to drive trial. Using our audience management platform (AMP), a powerful combination of data and programmatic media was used to ensure that everyone who had seen our brutally honest campaign was introduced to our New Danish Pilsner – across OOH as well as TV, Print & Digital. And of course, where it all started, Twitter.

That was just the beginning. We had to prove ourselves with our very worst critics. So, each and every social media comment was replied to, settling the debate the only way we knew how – by buying them a pint of our new Danish Pilsner, closing the loop on the conversations we started.

For the OOH element, we adopted a data-driven Advanced Digital OOH (ADOOH) approach to reach our target audience segments as efficiently as possible. Using AMP, we blended a combination of YouGov, Route, and mobile location data, to create three bespoke High Value Audiences (HVA’s) – to determine DOOH screens that over-indexed against our trade up/across audiences, in key drinking areas and moments.

These screens were then geo-fenced to enable mobile ads and the ability to serve people free pint vouchers straight to their phones while they travelled to the pub.


Well, the campaign was certainly talked about!

It made a mountain of newspaper headlines – with coverage from the likes of The Sun, Metro and Independent – and it even got David Mitchell, of Mitchell & Webb fame, talking about it for The Guardian!

More importantly though, it succeeded in getting people to re-appraise Carlsberg.

Building our OOH campaign using AMP audience data in YouGov meant we could pull our target audience segments directly into YouGov’s BrandIndex to track the impact on Carlsberg’s brand health.

Since launching the campaign, Carlsberg’s Quality score with our AMP audiences saw a double-digit increase, 1.5 times that of the general adult population.

Even more importantly, Consideration increased by around a third and Purchase Intent saw a three-digit increase, far outstripping the wider population gains.

On trade rate of sale is up double digits YoY in key national retailers since campaign launch.

We got the nation talking and importantly, they seem to be liking the new brew! A risk worth taking? Probably.

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