Carlsberg’s Rebrand, What Should Have Been The Best In The World

Brands are more important than they have ever been. They are the cornerstone of all marketing.  They combine psychology, business, culture and science to create a promise to the customer.

A brand conveys experience, quality and credibility. Click To Tweet

The process of establishing an international brand is long and costly and a rebrand even more so. Which makes us wonder. Why would you take a well recognised, established and successful product down the long and costly road of rebranding?

Carlsberg’s rebrand in 2011 is a lesson in thinking carefully before choosing that road. In this article, we’ll be going through the brand, rebrand and why they thought that called for a change.


A rebrand is taking a well recognised, established and successful brand or product  down a long and costly road. This road entails creating a new look or feel for an already established product or company. It generally aims to influence customer’s perception about your brand or product, by tailoring it to a specific set of customer needs or wants.

Carlsberg's Rebrand


There are many reasons why a company would want to rebrand and can usually be classed as either proactive or reactive reasons.


Proactive rebranding involves a company seeing the rebrand as an opportunity. This usually involves them voluntarily taking the first steps to take advantage of a favourable situation or avoiding potential future problems.

Some reasons for Proactive rebranding include:

  • Expansion:
    When a company expects to expand into new markets, it may have to adapt its products to suit the new markets they enter or consolidate the brand across all markets. A perfect example of this is what Carlsberg tried to do, something that will be explained further down.
  • Customer base:
    Companies looking to appeal to new audiences may seek a rebrand to do so. Rebranding doesn’t have to involve changing logos and design. In this case, advertising efforts may change to appeal to different demographics.
    Lucozade were a brand that did this exceptionally well. Lucozade began as a product used in hospitals to replenish energy of sick patients. They then made minor changes and re-marketed it as a sports drink.
  • Popularity:
    Products and brands can lose relevance over time in the mind of the consumers, making companies consider a rebrand. One of my favourite rebrands experienced just this. Old Spice, transformed themselves from a dated, older men’s deodorant to a relevant, young and humorous brand. The new approach involved American Footballer Isaiah Mustafa describing to female viewers in a flirtatious manner how their partners could be like him if they used old spice. The ad was an instant hit and sales soared.  


Reactive branding for the most part is not driven by positive reasons and includes issues like:

  • Bad PR:
    Controversy is something that isn’t scarce since the popularisation of the smart phone. Only recently American Airlines received a lot of backlash over how they handled an overbooked flight. Employees of the airline forcefully removed a passenger from an over booked flight resulting in Bad PR. Incidents as severe as this may cause for a rebrand as you attempt to erase the events from the memory of your customer base.
  • Outside Influence:
    The action of your competitors can also kick start an effort to rebrand. A competitors product may either hold or gain dominant market share and force you to change something in order to reposition to gain market share. We saw something similar when Apple released the first iPhone. Competitors were quick to drop the traditional screen layout and swap it for a touch panel like Apple.

Proactive or reactive, all of these reasons for a rebrand have one factor in common. All of these reasons can be in someway linked to financial performance or opportunity.

In this case, Carlsberg looked to expand into Asian and Russian markets. Calling for a rebrand.


When you think of Carlsberg you will “probably” think that it is the best beer in the world. Carlsberg is a danish beer, brewed by the Carlsberg group who were founded in 1847. The company’s flagship product is of course, Carlsberg beer. However it isn’t the quality of the product we’re here to talk about today, but the brand itself and the attempted rebrand.

Carlsberg's rebrand

After years of marketing the whole world was accustomed to Carlsberg “probably” being the best lager in the world. In fact those ads made us all smile especially how innovative they were.


Carlsberg's rebrand


Carlsberg's rebrand


Carlsberg's rebrand


In 2011, marketing officials from the Danish beer company decided to turn the  world of alcohol on its head and come up with a new Carlsberg slogan and ad campaign. Effectively, rebranding the product.

Why would you dare to change a marketing campaign that has your product at the forefront of everyone’s mind when the word “probably” is mentioned? As the old saying goes, if it’s not broke why fix it?

The answer in this case is clear – Expansion.

carlsberg's rebrand


There’s a word that describes the assumptions made in this campaign – monosemic.

Monosemic basically means a word with only one meaning.

But even though words may be classed as monosemic, they may still be picked up differently depending on the context or the manner in which it is said. 

This variation is even more noticeable across cultures.

Carlsberg wanted to break into Russian and Asian markets. And this was a factor that heavily affected Carlsberg’s efforts here.

“Probably” is not perceived well by natives of Russia and Asia. The fact that it is branded as probably the best beer and isn’t classed as the best  beer casts doubt over their minds and signals weakness.

Carlsberg’s Rebrand in a Tagline

The new campaign boasted a tag-line of “That Calls For A Carlsberg”.

Carlsberg’s rebrand involved participants in the adverts facing monumental challenges. The new tagline was built into the adverts and pitched as a reward for achievement.

The Carlsberg ads involved Astronauts picnicking on the moon, relaxing with a Carlsberg after the long journey to it. Also featured were people climbing mount Everest and conquering other miraculous feats.


Carlsberg's rebrand


The company announced on the 5th of April 2011 that a fresh, new look marketing campaign was to be rolled out across 140 markets and ran across TV, outdoor, point of sale and social networks.

  • A total of 350 different creative materials were used, including cinema adverts and POS panels, which would be available to Carlsberg marketers worldwide.
  • The introduction of updated pack graphics and an embossed bottle led to 55 production lines across the globe being specially adapted to suit local preferences
  • The brewer also created its own soundtrack that would be used in different styles and tempos across all media channels that can cost upwards £250,000 a song.


Carlsberg's rebrand


While Carlsberg’s ‘glocal’ approach is based on a single-brand strategy, the campaign had the flexibility to be tailored to different markets.

Many speculated and thought that replacing the “Probably” campaign was a major risk.

While the benefits of being successful in markets as big as Asia and Russia are endless, they did run the risk of upsetting the UK market. A market that accumulated to 40% of their sales.

Carlsberg's rebrand


After taking the brand through the long road of rebranding, Carlsberg reverted to “Probably” being the best beer in the world. But why?

Why would Carlsberg make a u-turn after investing massive sums of money and time in trying to rebrand themselves?

A Brand Positioning that was “Too Loved”.

The way the original phrase was used almost ingrained it into pop culture, something that marketers running a campaign can only dream of.

Carlsberg hit the mark with their humour in adverts. Carlsberg was able to use this slogan to hijack current events and constantly have Carlsberg on the consumers mind.

Carlsberg's rebrand

As pictured above they used Liverpool Football Club icon, Steven Gerrard’s announcement he was leaving to again stay relevant.

The “Probably” campaign was too loved and ingrained into culture to leave behind, hence the return. Its adaptability and hilarious versions over the years don’t seem to age and doesn’t look like it will anytime soon.

Consumer language is critical, but it’s even more critical that you listen to your customers.

Allan Solomon (Global marketing director for Carlsberg Group) said that the word “Probably” remained a part of consumer language be it vocally or in generated content.

Basically it never went away.

It couldn’t be replaced by something else, no matter what the company did.

So while Carlsberg’s rebrand probably wasn’t the best in the world, it’s original tagline was.

Perhaps the lesson is

Carlsberg has... Probably the Best Tagline in the World. Click To Tweet

What do you think?

I love to work with businesses, both large and small to help them create sustainable business dreams... Brand and Strategy are at the heart of everything I do and that gets rolled out digitally and across any channel where your customer lives.

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