Carlsberg: They deliver more, don't you know

By Claire Dodd Claire

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Carlsberg, Licensees, Public house

It's a well-known fact that big companies like to speak in marketing jargon to doggedly push their brands. While phrases such as "we have created a...

It's a well-known fact that big companies like to speak in marketing jargon to doggedly push their brands. While phrases such as "we have created a 360-degree brand experience" presumably make the guys in suits feel clever, they tend to make the rest of us feel irate.

Logic would tell that it's a bad idea to talk to the most straight-talking of professionals - licensees - in this way. Yet they still do. Lots.

So I nearly fall off my chair when Dave Scott, trade marketing director at Carlsberg, says: "All that branded activity doesn't have a place. It doesn't do anything.

"The stuff suppliers came to talk to pubs about was all very brand-centric. It was all about how can you switch a consumer from a Bacardi spirit to a Diageo spirit. But that doesn't really help somebody grow their business, does it?"

Recognising that everyone else was busy bombarding the nation's pubs with free T-shirts and promotional key rings, Scott spotted a gap for Carlsberg to make a name for itself by offering free, credible, independent licensee support. The plan was to help pubs to grow their overall trade, not just sales of Carlsberg products.

In March 2009, with Scott at the helm, We Deliver More (WDM) was born. As we speak at Carlsberg's Northampton offices, he is both adamant it has revolutionised how the brewer does business and excited by future plans to increase support.

Licensees at the heart of it

"As the on-trade became more challenging, everything became about driving footfall, driving average spend and creating occasions and reasons for people to go to the pub," he says.

"No-one in the brewing industry was really putting licensees at the heart of everything they do.

"After all, customers don't go to a pub because they have Carlsberg on the bar. Brand choice is really low on the list of consumers' priorities."

The scheme offers business advice such as how to create regular trade, how to grow food sales and how to plan for events such as sporting fixtures, with particular attention paid in 2010 to the World Cup.

There is also free HR advice through HR specialist Croner, tools to create and order personalised point-of-sale (PoS) material and a database of more than 26 million consumers who licensees can direct-mail, available through the WDM website:

But the scheme also offers financial savings. Independent business rates advice has saved licensees thousands. And it's not just online. After the 'sell-out' World Cup roadshow came six Christmas trade shows held across the UK during September and October.

Licensees were able to speak directly and get special rates from 'savings suppliers' including Lavazza, Britvic, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Diageo, Percy Fox, Maxxium, Pernod Ricard, Budvar, Cellar Trends, Wells & Young's, First Drinks, Global Brands, Shepherd Neame and Greene King. "Some licensees save £125 on a garden bench, some save thousands on their utility bills," says Scott.

It's a commitment to the trade that Scott has very much driven, pointing out that it wasn't too hard to convince Carlsberg to let him run with the idea.

The £500,000 that the scheme costs annually to implement has come from funds previously used to churn out T-shirt PoS kits that ended up as probably the best dusters in the world.

Mutually beneficial

But the point is this is a mutually beneficial business relationship. When recessionary beer sales slumped, it was clear some independent pubs needed support to keep going. However, the scheme has also helped Carlsberg attract big listings worth millions of pounds from pub companies that want to make use of the tool for their own licensees.

St Austell, JW Lees and Adnams are all signed up. And in June, Carlsberg signed an agreement with Punch Taverns to continue as its exclusive drinks distribution provider until 2017.

At the time, then Punch chief executive Giles Thorley said: "The difference between Carlsberg UK and other logistics providers in the market is quite simply that they understand beer and pubs." WDM can't have done it any harm here.

Scott doesn't shy away from the fact WDM has been good for business - it's not an entirely altruistic venture. Nor does he shy away from the fact that it has led to some more difficult conversations with licensees. Carlsberg sends mystery shoppers to pubs that have used the training as a way of measuring its impact.

"We don't use it to beat the licensee up, but they get an impartial view of what consumers think of their business. Some embrace it, some find it a little more challenging. If something is wrong with the pub, you need to tell them," he explains. "Initially it was a very different approach to what we had taken before."

But have licensees really embraced it? Currently, despite all of this support, out of the 30,000 registered users on WDM's website, the site had just 7,500 unique visitors in 2010, though an extra 1,000 attended the trade shows, including the sold-out World Cup events. And spend through the site is currently £500,000. Is there still more work to do?

"We are trying to enhance that number," says Scott. "I don't think enough people know about it, or that we have shouted loud enough about the benefits available.

"We have 40 saving suppliers at the moment, but plan to grow that in 2011 to nearer 70.

"And we've focused a lot on rates appeals. It's taken a long time to come through, but customers are now starting to see some savings."

He adds: "Knowing what we know now, we would have done things slightly differently. It takes constant communication to get the penny to really drop.

"But this is a long journey and it's something we've not finished. We have to keep talking about it. We have to keep reinventing it and keep making it new."

This is certainly the plan for 2011. A new website will launch on January 13 with more content, more savings suppliers and crucially, trial access for non-registered licensees (see What's new?, below).

A mystery high-profile ambassador has also been signed up to boost the scheme's profile.

"We are putting much more meat on the bones on how licensees need to approach business planning," says Scott. "Consumers still love the pub. They just have a bigger choice of what they can do now than ever before.

"The on-trade has to work much harder to give people reasons to visit - every day of the week and for special occasions. That's our focus. Not how to pour the perfect pint."

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