Carlsberg Tetley claimed it was aiming its new drink, Thickhead, at
young adults, but for Shirley Hanley, deputy managing director of the
Quentin Bell Organisation, the PR strategy just didn’t gel.
The launch of alcopop Thickhead generated the volume of coverage PR
companies dream of - but is it worth its weight in gold?
Thickhead won not one word of approval - from the media, the Government,
the self-regulating body or the over-18s invited to taste it.
Yet it could do very well in a market already worth pounds 250 million,
potentially because of its under-age appeal.
According to Edinburgh University, the majority of 15- and 16-year-olds
who have been drunk, voted alcopops among their favourite tipples.
Tom Wright of Carlsberg-Tetley - keen to be seen as a responsible brewer
- went to great pains to say that his company had carried out thorough
research to show that Thickhead would appeal to over-18s wanting a more
refreshing choice within their alcohol portfolio.
But he wasn’t able to back this up with any statistics of the number of
adults consuming alcopops.
However, all press coverage pointed to the seemingly obvious fact that a
product calling itself Thickhead, with a sickly sweet taste, will appeal
particularly to under-18s wanting to drink alcohol, but who don’t like
the bitter taste of conventional booze.
I’m sure all brewers can prove that 18-30s are trying alcopops...but is
it more than once? At a recent party I noticed several bottles of
Hoopers Hooch and went to try some only to find that every bottle had
been opened and discarded after one mouthful.
Carlsberg-Tetley must have expected the barrage of negative opinion, and
Tom Wright was brave to put himself in the firing line. His attempt to
persuade us that Thickhead really was for adults lacked strong evidence.
I suspect that Carlsberg-Tetley, the corporate brand, will not come
through this unscathed. As to the product’s success, the debate on
Thickhead’s positioning could leave it caught between the devil and the
deep blue sea: adults won’t buy drinks meant for teenagers, while under-
18s are turned off by coverage which says that the product is for them
(because they want products aimed at over-18s).
Maybe the Chancellor will solve the problem once and for all with his
threatened 30 per cent tax on alcopops, pricing them out of the under-18
market. Then we’ll find out who’s really drinking them.