“That calls for a Carlsberg.”
The quote is one of world-leading Danish brewing company Carlsberg Group’s taglines. It was introduced only a handful of years ago but is part of the effort to make Carlsberg one of the best brands in the world. That means brands that consumers can identify themselves with; brands that have a consistent look and feel worldwide; and brands that are so well-crafted that consumers are willing to pay a little extra for that special something. That special product. That special story. That indefinable something.
In order to complete the quest of finding out what that indefinable something is, we spoke with the people accountable for big parts of Carlsberg’s branding activities. One of them is Bo Linnemann, who is the design director and co-founder of Danish strategic design and brand agency Kontrapunkt. When asked what branding is actually about, this is how he replied:
“Well, there are one hundred different explanations and definitions of what branding is and what it does. But, in my sense, it is the emotional link between a sender and recipient – the relationship between a company’s product and the user. That is what branding is about, and then of course it is about creating loyalty between a sender and a recipient.”
Pioneer of sharing
Linnemann, who founded Kontrapunkt in 1985 together with designer Kim Meyer Andersen, states that the emotional relationship works both ways. And everything from a company’s product to how it acts in public affairs affects the brand continuously.
“When you are creating loyalty and empathy through branding, you are mobilising the goodwill among your stakeholders, including your customers. The more goodwill you have, the more you can raise your earnings”, states Linnemann.
Kontrapunkt has been working for Carlsberg for more than twelve years. The agency’s main responsibility is to create quality and consistency in all of Carlsberg’s contact surfaces, ranging from labels and packaging to how the Carlsberg Group act in public matters and how they communicate on the whole.
“It is our responsibility to present a true picture of Carlsberg. Carlsberg already has a significant advantage, in that the company has a long history and even has a trust deed, which says that Carlsberg has to give some of its earnings back to society. It has been like this for more than 100 years, so in a way Carlsberg’s founder, I.C. Jacobsen, was also a pioneer when it comes to the shareware mindset”, says Linnemann.
To digitalise beers
Another company that helps Carlsberg Group with deliberate branding is the Danish digital design studio Spring/Summer. As a rising star of the Danish design scene, Spring/Summer helps Carlsberg produce digital experiences that help shape the brand. Founder and creative director, Pelle Martin, and his team have helped Carlsberg with the company’s online activities.
“On a general level, we help Carlsberg Group with two things. First, we created a digital online platform for its more than 500 sub-brands. Second, we made the Carlsberg.com website. Historically, Carlsberg have had customised corporate websites for different markets, but in an effort to make things more effective, we created a site for them that can adapt to different markets”, says Pelle Martin.
Through user involvement, Spring/Summer has given Carlsberg employees a common understanding of the branding process. For example, it is becoming harder for Carlsberg to introduce new products in to the Danish market now because of its traditions and the long history of the original beers.
“We had to support this challenge of presenting new products when we were designing the overall design structure at carlsberg.com. We had to make a site that covered the broad spectrum of Carlsberg, while at the same time offering a unique level of dynamics in the look and feel of the site”, says Pelle Martin.
The goal of branding
But why is it that a global concern like Carlsberg Group asks others for help. According to the Global Marketing Director for the Carlsberg Brand, Didrik Fjeldstad, Carlsberg specialises in brewing, while other companies, such as Kontrapunkt and Spring/Summer, specialise in their own fields of competences, such as branding and design, typography, etc.
“Although Carlsberg Group is a big corporation with thousands of employees with a lot of different skills, we mainly see ourselves as a brewing company. And we believe that folks should do what they do best, which in our case is brewing beers”, says Didrik Fjeldstad.
Kontrapunkt’s Bo Linnemann agrees and defines the purpose of branding as being to create an opportunity for companies to charge a little extra for their products. Didrik Fjeldstad says utilising “social currency” is a key ingredient in making this opportunity possible and describes the term as thus:
“When we are at our best, we can see our taglines and our advertising universe be brought to life by our consumers on social media. When you google our tagline ‘Probably the best beer in the world’, you will see a lot more user-generated content and communication than Carlsberg have ever created. We have become part of the social jargon, and that is social currency”.
In addition, Fjeldstad believes that Carlsberg is great at balancing a high quality product with a genuine story of a company that started out with only one brewer to become the giant it is now. He believes that Carlsberg has many unique stories to tell, including the invention of the pH-scale, and when he and his team are able to push stories with depth to consumers, it is something that is helping to create Carlsberg’s brand and keeping it relevant for consumers.
A secret spice
So, what is the secret ingredient in successful branding? That indefinable something? According to Bo Linnemann from Kontrapunkt, emotions are a main part of making a brand flourish.
“Logos, typefaces and all the other elements should create an emotional experience for the recipient. The communication should go past your rational thinking capability and talk directly to your feelings. It just has to be cool. As a user, you ought to feel a need for using the product”, states Linnemann.
There is not an answer book for these things, according to Linnemann but there has to be an interplay between the brand elements and communication in general. Pelle Martin from Spring/Summer believes that the secret ingredient to a successful brand is progression. Things do not stand still, and a brand has to continuously adjust to new times, new customers and new stories.
“Branding is not static. You can thrive by having some static elements, such as colour, typefaces and so on, but there are a lot of things that you will have to change along the way. You have to adapt to a world in motion”, says Pelle Martin.