We admit, we’re totally mystified by the beer industry. Research has shown that women make up a whopping 25% of the beer market. And yet, with rare exception, brewers seem dead set on portraying themselves as testosterone in a bottle, whether it’s hilariously butch packaging or ads extolling the virtues of Swedish bikini volleyball (or, in most cases, some variation on both). Leave it to Denmark, one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, to mount what might be the world’s first truly gender-neutral beer marketing campaign.
Carlsberg is set to introduce Copenhagen, a light, 4.5% alcohol beer in beautifully simple, typographic packaging. The bottle and label were created in-house and have the slick, minimal, and, yeah, androgynous, look of classic Danish design, which was precisely the point. “[T]he design is rooted in Copenhagen as an international city of fashion and design,” Carlsberg says in a press release on its website. “Copenhagen is intended for modern women and men, who appreciate a refreshing taste delivered in a stylish design.”
Note the reference to “design” three times in two sentences. (We count another five mentions in the rest of the press release.) So there you have it: high design as a gender equalizer, fighting a pitched battle against the Swedish bikini team. It’s interesting to note that Carlsberg is clearly targeting women here. As Carlsberg’s Jeanette Elgaard Carlsson says: “We can see that there are a number of consumers, especially women, who are very aware of design when they choose beverage products. There may be situations where they are standing in a bar and want their drinks to match their style. In this case, they may well reject a beer if the design does not appeal to them.”
But the brewer has smartly refrained from flogging a Ladies Beer — from resorting to the usual strategies marketers deploy on women. It does not, for instance, bill itself as low cal. It is not pink. Contrast Carlsberg to Molson Coors, one of the big brewers marketing explicitly to women with a campaign called the Bittersweet Partnership. The partnership is aimed at making it “OK [for women] to love beer” and has a salmon-pink website complete with a flowery heart logo! Recipes! News updates (?It’s national doughnut week!?)! A Facebook promotion featuring the silky silhouette of four women and the question: ?Are you a beer angel??! We haven’t seen anything so patronizingly femme-y since the last time we watched a tampon commercial.
The design blog Below The Clouds worries that Copenhagen is just shtick: “[T]he question is if the trendy people will fall for yet another marketing ploy or stick to their smart, obscure IPAs.” Frankly, that’s beside the point. All beer brewed outside of your basement is marketing. Who knows if Copenhagen will succeed — it’ll be released in Denmark this year and the rest of Europe and parts of Asia next year, though not, apparently, in the U.S. (wtf?) — but it’s a promising development in an industry that’s spent too many years getting drunk on tired gender stereotypes.
[Top image via Below The Clouds; bottom image via Carlsberg]