Revolutionising a British icon

Following launch, Carling took the mainstream lager world by storm, defying predictions and achieving a sales growth of almost £30m (+8.7%) where competitors have declined.


Carling approached us to partner on their ambitious journey to reinvigorate Britain’s most loved lager. The brand needed to do something significant, fast. The disjointed brand spanned a growing product portfolio without clear and consistent messaging or meaning – its once prominent personality was in danger of blending into the shadows. Focus immediately shifted to how its proud yet unpretentious values could translate into a new visual brand language.


We know consumers can resist revolutionary new designs if they are not researched the right way, so we adopted a behavioural approach – our 20Twenty methodology – to capture a true response to some brave design ideas. 20Twenty explores design performance in a competitive environment, observing and subtly probing shoppers’ implicit system 1 behaviour, before deep-diving in to explore design communication and uncover rich insights.

DBA Design Effectiveness Award (Bronze)

  • £30m (+8.7%) in sales revenue with no above the line support
  • Equivalent of almost a million more pints sold
  • Considerable sales growth whilst the mainstream beer category suffered 11% decline overall; two key competitors fell by £47.9m (-11.9%) and £23.4m (-11.3%) respectively during the same period

The first phase debrief could have been a ‘bad news’ story – neither of the design concepts fully met the client’s objectives. But the important thing was to understand the exploratory role of the research at this point, not to give a green or red light.


Our behavioural techniques allowed us to see the potential in one of the concepts – a bold and disruptive design, with the capacity to develop strong memory structures. However, it needed finessing to ensure its simplicity was not misconstrued as cheap and basic. Working in partnership with the Carling team and Brand Opus, we provided guidance for these optimisations and the second round of research left us feeling even more hop-timistic about the future of Carling.


The result? A striking, revolutionary new design that remained familiar to its loyalists. The pack looks to the future with sharp and clean execution, while also nodding to the brand’s heritage; re-introducing the iconic ‘black label’ device and subtly nodding to its home of Burton-on-Trent, via the watermark. It’s more than a pack design – it’s a contemporary visual identity that stands out whether in the bar or on the billboards of Premier League stadia.


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