The most Danish lager in the world…

When I say the word ‘probably’, I’d wager that a good proportion of you reading this would think of Carlsberg. ‘Probably the best lager in the world’ is one of the most famous, and most often quoted, brand slogans of our times. Truth be told however, Carlsberg has had a tough time of it of late. With a seemingly endless array of exotic world and craft beers arriving on the scene, it’s been struggling to live up to such a bold claim.

Something needed to be done in order to reignite interest in this great brand. Something that would rekindle the love we’ve all had for it over the years and re-build its credibility. In short, something that encouraged consumers to believe, once again, that Carlsberg is the best lager in the world…probably! 

That’s where Razor came in. Working closely with Carlsberg – and with their creative agencies (branding, design, and comms) over an 18-month time period – we embarked on a collective mission to help consumers fall back in love with Carlsberg. Pivotal to this was the need to create a more authentic and relevant brand story.

As luck would have it, there’s recently been a huge appetite and intrigue in all things Scandi in the UK. The Danish concept of hygge for example has been everywhere – in bookshops, in newspaper supplements, coffee houses and fashion stores up and down the country. But back when it was a mere glint in the eye of publishing editors, we were busy exploring what it meant to consumers – together with the other aspects of ‘Danishness’. 

So, we had ‘Scandimania’ sweeping the nation and we had a Danish beer brand currently not well known for its Danish roots. It wasn’t too difficult to join the dots and see the opportunity. Consumer research firmly validated the enormous potential for a provenance-based platform for Carlsberg. The question was…how could we best activate it?

We decided to run a ‘cultural intelligence session’. This involved bringing together a group of Danes based in London – people with enough experience of both cultures – to help enrich our understanding of the Danish way of life and, importantly, how it compares and contrasts to life in the UK. This was an informal workshop session which included clients and agency folk over a few beers (and gluten-free Danish snacks). Not only was the workshop immensely illuminating, throwing up dimensions of Danish-ness we’d not even conceived, but we also got to hang out with a bunch of cool people! If you’ve never met one, the Danish are thoroughly, thoroughly nice people!

Next up was a further round of consumer research in the UK. Turns out that most Brits struggle to tell the difference between Denmark and Sweden, can’t tell you what Denmark’s landscape looks like (clue: it isn’t mountainous), nor what culture they’ve exported to the world (no Lars von Tier, no Vinterberg). That said, the UK has a very positive view of Scandi people; smart, well educated, happy, forthright, and stylish. In fact, two phrases that really hit the spot when trying to sum them up were ‘effortlessly stylish’ and ‘refreshingly direct’; both of which were deemed to have potential for aligning with Carlsberg.   

Once the Scandi platform was confirmed, it was agreed that Carlsberg Export would be the best vehicle for the new positioning. Despite falling off the radar somewhat with consumers, it was still seen as a premium brand with a known Danish backstory (derived from historic advertising). It commands a great deal of respect in terms of product and consistently outperforms many of its rivals in blind taste tests. This ‘diamond in the rough’ was therefore felt to be the perfect solution to leverage the provenance story most effectively.

It was clear that if Carlsberg Export and the Carlsberg brand stood any chance of being reappraised, it would need a radically new visual identity and comms platform for the brand. Research involved us testing various executions of font, bottle, and glassware evoking the minimalist beauty and style of Scandinavia (using various iterations of wood, wood-effects, pure white backdrops, brushed steel etc). This led to the creation of a final design route that has gone way beyond expectations in terms of delivering authenticity and quality cues, whilst carving out a truly differentiated positioning for the brand. In tandem with this, Carlsberg also developed a launch advertising campaign.

As the Carlsberg team prepares to introduce its new Danish positioning, we at Razor are immensely proud to have had a hand in the development of its new identity. We’ve used research creatively and flexibly throughout the journey, listening carefully to consumers and applying insights sensitively.   

We’re really hoping the Danish positioning will re-ignite some love for the brand. In fact, we think it’s a winner. Probably.


Meditation…in moderation

I’ve always been drawn towards the idea of meditation. Not so much for the spiritual side of it, but more with a view to quieting the mind and gaining greater focus on what’s right in front of me. Like all budding qualitative researchers I go from moderating groups, to writing debriefs, and jumping between projects. I consider meditation an invaluable skill in our line of work.

A few months back I attended a weekend course on Vedic meditation with 20 other individuals. We all signed up for different reasons, but shared an eagerness to learn how to make meditation part of our everyday lives. Since then, I have slowly developed my own practice. It’s still inconsistent – and there are days I don’t manage to find time for it – but I’ve realised that, as with all important things, you have to prioritise it. So I now get out of bed earlier or nip into one of the phone booths at work during lunch. I’ve noticed that when I do this my mind is clearer and I feel even more engaged with what I am doing.

Throughout this process I’ve started to wonder whether there are techniques or tools that could be derived from meditation, or indeed mindfulness, which could be used in qualitative research.

While I can’t imagine any scenario where we would ask respondents to sit and meditate before a group(!), I did attend AQR Spark’s Stop, Breathe, and Be (a mindfulness for moderators workshop). There we were asked to close our eyes while eating a piece of popcorn and to focus our thoughts on what we were experiencing. Going around the group afterwards, many felt they were recalling a deeper response where they were able to more clearly articulate their thoughts on the experience. I left feeling that there might be potential to incorporate similar techniques into our qualitative work. For example, focussing the minds of respondents on the task or topic at hand, or perhaps using it as a warm-up task in client workshops.

But the courage is in having the conviction to try it out! While meditation and mindfulness have a greater awareness and presence in today’s mainstream consciousness, there is a sense (I would argue) that it’s still something associated with ‘hippy’ culture. Thus it would be hard to sell to clients as a qualitative technique or a valid thing to spend five minutes of a focus group on. My hope is that, over time, we will start to draw in techniques from other similar disciplines to enhance the quality of the conversations we have and, ultimately, the insights we deliver to our clients.

crystal ball


The brew-tal truth

The Americans go with volume. To be a craft brewer in the US, you must brew fewer than 6 million barrels of beer a year. Only a short time ago it was 2 million. As a growing category, it’s only fair that the volume threshold should lift accordingly.

But, as a definition, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story – notwithstanding the obvious issues around moving goalposts.

Because craft is about so much more than the size of the breweries. UK brewers have made attempts at broader, more nuanced definitions (incorporating commitments to ‘authenticity’ and ‘honesty’) but their interest in protecting craft rather than defining it somewhat clouded the endeavour. Hence why they found it so difficult.

What all these definitions have in common is that they’re exclusively from the perspective of the brewer, not the consumer. Craft was never purely a supply-side phenomenon so why should it be defined as such?

When attempting to define it for themselves, consumers reach for a variety of different adjectives: ‘independent’, ‘local’, ‘small batch’, ‘brewed with passion’, ‘bold flavours’, ‘high in ABV’, ‘hipster’, and so on…

But, arguably, the core of the appeal – the reason it continues to grow apace – is that first adjective; independence. Not simply their freedom from major brewers (though that is part of it) but their independent spirit, their unbounded individuality – as expressed through their brewing style and branding.

That’s why – save the most ardent craft drinkers – most people don’t care whether the brewer is actually independent or not. A feeling of independence is usually enough.

The most successful craft brands are those that express this best. Brewdog’s punk posturing, Beavertown’s trip-inducing psychedelia, and The Kernal’s raw minimalism. All fiercely, wildly individual.  

I’m not pretending for a second that this is anything new. Rather, that this is the most illuminating way to understand craft. It explains why so-called ‘crafty’ brands (owned or part-owned by major brewers) can happily co-exist with the genuinely independent in the mind of the consumer.

Those who seek to protect it, rather than define it, deny the reality of craft. It’s time to include the consumer in the discussion.

Hipster Friends In Fast Food Rastaurant Taking Selfie

(James Heaney)