Carling’s new brand strategy: pissing into the wind

by thewheatandthechaff

Carling has for years proudly maintained its dual status as the UK’s biggest-selling and worst tasting beer, largely thanks to being able to shift millions of pints of their cold, fizzy trough-water, or ‘lager’, as they optimistically describe it, every year to a demographic comprised predominantly of captive audiences at gigs, hard-up students and plebs who are seemingly prepared to sacrifice any actual taste enjoyment in favour of getting obliterated as cheaply as possible every weekend.

The brand is the no-frills liquid equivalent of budget airline Ryanair and, just as many travellers mystifyingly return again and again to universally loathed tossbag Michael O’Leary’s carrier despite having endured their peculiar brand of ‘customer service’, many people are prepared to put up with Carling because, although the journey can be pretty rough, it still gets them to their chosen to destination on the cheap (whether that be a taxi stand in Sheffield town centre at 2am with piss stains on their shoes, or an airport approximately 90 miles away from the European city they thought they were flying to).

Whilst anyone with functioning taste buds will no doubt agree that Carling doesn’t win any prizes for its flavour profile, their long-running ‘know who your mates are’ ad campaigns were always difficult to dislike and, unlike the beer, won plenty of awards along the way.

Wisely steering well away from any perilous claims about the enjoyment derived from actually drinking Carling , the ads instead celebrated ‘male mateship’, following a group of friends through various scrapes who stuck together through thick and thin, and brilliantly tapped into something which everyone could relate to. They were clever, full of humour and they effectively sent up their Hollywood clichés, whether it was Space, the Wild West or a Desert Island, to promote the brand in a self-deprecating and quintessentially British manner.

This was a beer for the ‘everyman’, they seemed to say, and that it doesn’t really matter where you are or what you’re drinking, it’s who you’re drinking with.

Last summer, however, Carling announced a “repositioning” of its brand and marketing strategy, after acknowledging that the company has ‘lost ground’ over recent years. Central to this revised strategy was the launch of a ‘premium’ bottled offering called Carling Chrome.

Chrome has clearly been launched in the hope of broadening Carling’s consumer base and their target market is apparently 18-34 yr olds. In fairness to Carling, they were always likely to face an uphill battle persuading the many sceptics who have tried and tasted and disliked the original lager that the brand is capable of producing a beer even approaching ‘premium’, let alone one which they are prepared to switch to from long-established and well regarded continental varieties.

But bottled premium lager is undoubtedly incredibly popular in bars and clubs nowadays, and Carling understandably wanted a piece of the action. Chrome is their attempt to win over the kind of ‘sophisticats‘ who prefer to be seen sipping on a bottle or two of Nastro Azzuro in trendy bars which are called things like  ‘Amber’ or ‘Zoo’, before hitting the jelly vodka shots and ‘getting on it’ at Oceana later on. A pint of Carling? Get real. These stylish rogues didn’t come out dressed head-to-toe in their All Saints scoop-necks and Topman chinos just to end up looking silly standing at the bar with a pint of Carling in their hand. No way.

So, to attract a new ‘cool and stylish’ premium crowd for their new premium beer, Carling  has produced this little belter of an ad, which was first aired during the Brit Awards last month:

Yep.

There is genuinely nothing positive that can be said about this. It’s advertising by committee, led blindly by market research. It looks like the sort of ham-fisted tripe the candidates on The Apprentice would knock out in a day for one of their challenges.

What were they thinking?  Where is the idea?  Did that woman’s earring really just turn into a drop of beer?  Jesus fucking Christ.

Oh well, nevermind, at least ‘proper’ old school Carling is still doing creative, funny ads to make up for this pile of toss, right?

Oh.

I suppose at least this one looks like they spent more than £50 on it.

I get that Carling probably felt that it couldn’t just stand still, and perhaps they thought that the brand had to ‘grow up’ a bit to compete with some of their continental rivals. But with this new strategy, they’ve turned into that friend you had in college who used to be a really good laugh, until they went off travelling around Nepal building wells for a year and when they came back they’d become a hemp-wearing vegan eco-warrior who started taking themselves far too seriously and had developed a massive sense-of-humour failure.

Essentially, Carling have turned into someone you’d rather not be mates with anymore.

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