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Beyond advertising: The Carlsberg approach to digital

Priya Sharma, international brand director for premium brands Asia at Carlsberg, speaks to Marketing about how a digital-led strategy is changing its approach to marketing, from moving beyond advertising to deeper engagement via longer-form content and video.

“I believe that we are in an extremely exciting era of marketing – where all the former rules of engagement are evolving,” she said.

In this special Q&A, she speaks about how the brand is constantly reinventing and innovating its approach to digital to remain relevant.

How far has Carlsberg gone in integrating digital into your marketing plans?

There was a time when digital used to be thought of as a ‘sprinkling’ on top of traditional media plans – a nice to have. Gone are those days as digital has become one of the integral elements of brand planning. This is even more true for Carlsberg in “dark” markets where there are restrictions on advertising on mass media. At Carlsberg, we now have digital as one of our key touch points which we plan quite deliberately for – not just to drive brand engagement but also reach among our target group. We are also using digital, partnering with our customers, to deliver enhanced shopper experiences.

Do you feel you are at a good point with how you use digital for the brand? Is there more you want to do?

We are in a good place, but there’s always more to be done. I think digital media is speedily evolving – What you did a couple of years ago is already obsolete. We need to constantly reinvent and innovate on digital so we can remain relevant to our target group.
At Carlsberg we follow a “Do Learn, Do cycle”, where we try new things on digital and learn from the experience to make the next execution even better. I feel this approach works well because you always find better ways to drive engagement and reach with your campaigns.

How important has social media engagement and other areas of earned media? Is it a good tool for loyalty and customer engagement?

Social media is extremely important – quite simply because that’s where our consumers are! Also in the current day and age, what a brand says is less important for consumers than what their friends say. So for our brands, it becomes important to enable those conversations for our consumers – so they can share their great experiences. The other thing we try to do with brands like Tuborg is to provide fun and topical “Social currency” which our consumers can use to show their own fun side. This allows our brands to be part of the consumers life in a non-intrusive way.

For a brand like Carlsberg, there are opportunities for longer form content, more entertaining content and video opportunities, especially for mobile. Are you excited by these newer ideas that digital is creating?

Absolutely. One of the key trends emerging is that brands are becoming content producers rather than being merely advertisers. So whether it’s a lifestyle portal that tells consumers about the most happening bars or even just a short film which entertains people and gives them something to share and talk about – it makes for a meaningful interaction with our brands. We are also tapping into topical Meme’s and pictures to create social currency for our consumers to share. The best part about digital media is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to develop content, and if you create something that resonates with consumers – it can be a goldmine of earned media.

What challenges and opportunities can digital marketing bring to a brand like Carlsberg?

One of our key priorities as a socially responsible drinks company is to ensure that all content and digital media only targets consumers above legal drinking age. This can be challenge to enforce as digital media can be quite open, so we ensure we manage this very closely. The other challenges are of course around staying relevant for consumers while being true to our brand equity when executing in a fast paced digital environment. We need to ensure that we provide clear execution guidelines for all our brands – which allows us the agility needed to execute topical posts and campaigns, but at the same time ensures that the brand’s “tone of voice” is consistent with its equity.

What do you think the next few years hold for marketing – are you optimistic that innovation in the digital space will radically change how a brand operates?

I believe that we are in an extremely exciting era of marketing – where all the former “rules of engagement” are evolving. Ecommerce sites are changing the way people shop so where we used to have a “Fixed” concept of the 4P’s of marketing – now everything is more fluid. Consumers can choose what configuration of products they want, they can choose what price to pay, they can shop from anywhere thanks to mobile devices so the place is not fixed and also choose not to engage with promotions and advertising. These changes means that brand also need to evolve and speak the language of the millennial consumers and make them want to engage. While the digital marketing piece is still relatively nascent, I’m confident that it will actually provide rich rewards for brands that are able to adapt their marketing mix to suit.

Priya Sharma will be presenting more at this year’s Big Data & Digital Innovation conference, taking place on 24 to 25 June.

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