New Carlsberg Beer Appeals to Chinese Palates

Chill is lighter, sweeter to match local tastes

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Carlsberg has launched a new premium beer created specifically to appeal to the palate of young, cosmopolitan consumers in Greater China, who find the brewer’s flagship brand heavy and bitter to drink.

Carlsberg Chill, which is lighter-tasting and sweeter than Green Label, and therefore easier for Asian consumers to drink, is already available in Hong Kong and mainland China and may be introduced in other markets like South Korea.

The Danish beer marketer “has done its homework properly, and recognizes there are different taste preferences here. Chill is a great thing for them to have done, rather than just take a strong performer in the West and try to ram that down the throats of people here,” said Shanghai-based Darryl Andrew, managing director, China at Aegis Group’s Synovate market research firm.

Although Chill is not a “light beer,” it is positioned as light enough for consumers to drink all evening with advertising that focuses on consumers’ “ability to enjoy time with friends, the campaign really captures that spirit,” said Anders Yngwe, Carlsberg’s senior commercial development manager in Copenhagen.

The brand message for Chill may be similar in Hong Kong and China, but Carlsberg created separate print and TV campaigns for each market, which were executed by two agencies.

“The different markets needed different advertising. Our strategy worked well in Hong Kong, where consumers are more sophisticated, so the client decided to produce two films, one [by Fallon Worldwide] for China and one for Hong Kong by us,” said Ho Yen Yen, Singapore-based account director for Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

For the Hong Kong market, ads show Chill’s ability to help consumers “release a wilder side of themselves,” said Ms. Ho. “We conveyed the message in the advertising with groups of individuals who look a bit animalistic, such as a snake girl, a cat girl, and the hero, a guy who is transformed into a lion.”

In mainland China, Carlsberg markets Chill as a unique drinking experience using the slogan, “Unleash the inner you.” The spot features two male friends unleashing their “inner selves” into hip alter egos on the dance floor of a trendy club while drinking Carlsberg Chill. The two are having a blast when, to their surprise and amusement, their best friend unleashes his inner self--as a cowgirl.

“It’s a lifestyle message that should sink in and harmonize with the target audience. Young professionals in China grew up under a lot of pressure to do well in school during their teen years and after they escape that, they like cutting loose, chilling out and escaping by going to bars to unwind,” said Mr. Andrew.

The challenge, he added, will be convincing consumers to stick with Chill: “The great thing about China is that it’s not hard to get trial if you’ve got distribution, young Chinese like to try new things. It shows they’re embracing the new economy and there is prestige in trying foreign brands. The problem is repeat purchase and loyalty, getting them to buy it again and again.”

Also, Chinese often choose trendy foreign brands in bars, but off-premise, “the money side of the purchase decision kicks in and they become more likely to buy big bottles of local beers like Tsing Tao that cost less than $1.”

Carlsberg also faces strong competition in China, the world’s largest beer market in terms of volume, from Budweiser, Heineken, San Miguel and Corona as well as hundreds of local brands with provincial and regional distribution.

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