Carlsberg lager brand Tuborg has invested in its Open campaign for the third year. But this year, it’s looking to be more ‘local’ in APAC, where growth is in the double digits.
Tuborg first launched the Open campaign in 2017. Like many booze brands, it saw music as a solid in with young drinkers and so its plan was to attach itself to global artists and festivals as a way to help people ‘explore’ new genres.
The campaign runs in yearly seasons and activates around unique, eye-catching executions, mainly focused on Eastern Europe and Asia. The work crosses experiential, PR stunts and branded tracks like DJ Diplo’s ‘Stay Open’ below.
It’s been successful, with Tuborg seeing an 11% sales rise globally in the year to November 2018. But with its strongest growth coming from China and India (up 12%), the return of the campaign this year has seen the brand “flip the concept” and have it driven by smaller, local musicians.
It will still have the global artists involved; this year that comes in the shape of Grammy award winners Clean Bandit who will front a series of events and initiatives both on and offline.
But one key component of the plan this year has seen the group travel to local Asian markets where emerging artists will then partner with them to highlight what’s going on in the music scene in that region and co-create new music.
“We’ve really cracked a global and local model that works at scale where every market can come on board and really drive local relevance,” explained Ashvin George, Carlsberg Group’s marketing director for Asia.
Part of “cracking” this model has been the move away from a pay-to-play sponsorship model in the region. Where APAC might have had a handful of festivals that Tuborg could sponsor and see a decent level of awareness and, as a result, sales the overwhelming rise in festivals cropping up has meant there are simply too many to stand out.
“They are great but actually delivering an experience which is getting more and more difficult. It can be a very expensive affair with very little ROI,” continued George.
“So, in totality maybe some of our sponsorship values have gone down but what we are doing is working more with local artists and increasing outreach on digital.”
This has resulted in “a huge mind shift” for its local marketing teams who are no longer responsible for just slapping a logo on a stage, but rather “going deeper” into the market, finding the right local artists to partner with and – most importantly – building relationships with the local music platforms.
“Each of these markets has their own ecosystems. In China, there are music platforms that don’t exist anywhere else and in India, you have partners like Salmon while Spotify has only just come in in the last few months.
“A lot of our markets we’re really open to partnerships but our strategy is more on a local level, especially on content and distribution. We need to understand those cultural nuances.”
The shift to a more content-led approach has also seen Tuborg’s teams try to figure out an approach to working with both global and local agencies. It still needs the scale of a global media shop for distribution of global content, but increasingly wants a local team to support on the more nuanced executions.
The success of this strategy is based on somewhat vague metrics of “emotional affinity” towards the brand. “That’s really important for us,” said George. But sales do come into it and promisingly, in the past two years, Tuborg in Asia has been growing double digits.
“Our measures are all improving year on year. It’s extremely positive and it’s as a result of this campaign. So, we’re in a much better place.”
In the UK, Carlsberg’s recent rebrew shows just how competitive the mainstream beer market is. Conspiracy theories and confusion reigned as one of the nation’s best-selling beers started promoting social media posts comparing its own lager recipe to ‘piss’. But there was a method in the madness.