We got an email from someone at a public relations firm asking as to share our thoughts about a lager brand they’re working with.
We said no because, frankly, what’s in it for us? But we had to admit, the questions were thought-provoking, especially one about how the lager in question could be made to ‘seem more premium’.
Note that word seem: presumably, any change in the way the product is manufactured is out of the question — this is an exercise in presentation.
In the days when brewers could conceal the strength, composition and origin of their lagers, implying ‘premium-ness’ was a lot easier: foil, embossing, heraldry, and the name of a foreign country on the label.
Increasingly, however, punters want to know why you’re charging them extra for a product, and have a right to know. Tesco’s ‘Finest’ pasta, for example, isn’t just in a fancy-looking packet — the blurb makes clear that it was cut with bronze dies (apparently that’s better) and is packaged by a particular family firm in Italy.
If you really can’t come up with a story like that — if you’ve spent decades streamlining any romance out of the process to compete on cost, and don’t want to launch a genuinely decent sub-brand for the sake of the ‘halo effect’ – what options are left? Complete transparency –embracing the fact that your product is made in Britain, despite its livery — seems to us to be the only available route.
As we’ve learned while researching the career of early microbrewer Bill Urquhart, Carlsberg has been produced in Northampton since the early nineteen-seventies. If we were Carlsberg, we’d hire the bloke who made this to produce a beautiful film about the building of the then state-of-the-art brewery, and its grand opening by Princess Benedikte of Denmark. We’d get twinkly-eyed retired brewers and ex-pat Danish technical experts who came over with the plant to talk about their work together. Carlsberg, as we in the UK know it, is Danish, but also British — and has been for forty years.
Telling that story won’t make the beer taste better, but being honest about it might make the brand more likeable, which is half the battle.
The PR firm who approached us aren’t working with Carlsberg, unfortunately, so they’re screwed.