COMMENT: Carlsberg - the price of fame
The recent launch of two beers in Bangladesh serves to demonstrate the power of international branding. Crown Beverages' new beers have faithfully copied both Foster's and Carlsberg's branding in order to make a splash with consumers. The tactic is a shrewd one since it plays on consumers' perceptions of glamour and prestige.
Two opportunistic new beers launched in Bangladesh highlight the value of international branding, and the importance of protecting it even where no market exists. Crown Beverages has released two new beers (Crown and Hunter) onto the Bangladeshi market by taking advantage of a loophole in the country's anti-alcohol legislation.
The 1990 Drug Control Act outlaws beer in the country, but in order to permit the use of medical alcohol, beer is defined as a brewed malt and hops based drink containing - crucially - between 5% and 8.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). Crown Beverages has simply produced a beer with less than 5% ABV, technically making it a malt beverage.
Despite the reaction of the country's Islamic parties, the beers are selling out as rapidly as they can be supplied. Part of the reason for this is that, despite being newly launched, the beers benefit from high brand recognition. Their packaging mimics, in all but name, the branding of the internationally famous Foster's and Carlsberg beers. Although they have never been sold in Bangladesh, the power of international media means that Bangladeshis can easily identify the new beers; associating them not only with the illicit, but also with cosmopolitanism and international success. These factors have been crucial to Crown's popularity.
In response, Carlsberg has already announced that it sees the appropriation of its branding as a violation of its trademark and is looking to take legal action. It believes that sufficiently well-known trademarks are protected around the world even in countries where they have not been registered. The underlying reasons for this are clear: if the copied branding did not have prestigious and advantageous associations for Bangladesh's nascent beer consumers, why did Crown Beverages decide to use it?
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