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26 February 2015

How a private label can turn into a lovebrand. The story of Cara Pils.

A few weeks ago. Drama. The Retailer Colruyt, when working on a rebranding strategy for its private labels, announced that the name of their private label beer, Cara Pils, would be changed to Everyday Pils, in line with hundreds of other Colruyt private label products.


What followed was a real media storm with thousands of Cara Pils fans on the barricades. Petitions were started, protest groups were founded on Facebook, the hashtag #savecara became trending, newspapers, radio & TV-shows picked up the topic, …

In the event of highly emotional A-brands – can you imagine Nutella announcing a name-change? – this kind of reaction would not be that surprising. But why such a commotion for a private label beer that has the reputation of being a cheap, low-quality beer? Beer websites and ratings are clear: Cara Pils is only worth drinking when all other beer is sold out.

The explanation is simple: Cara Pils is an exception, in the sense that it’s a highly emotional brand. Many of us will remember those times when we were students, consciously managing our weekly budget. Nightshops – frequently buying their stocks at Colruyt – are selling huge quantities of Cara Pils for only 50 cents per can.

And Cara is not only linked to students. Also for youth movements & youth clubs, during baptisms or while celebrating carnival, this pils cannot be missed. This makes Cara Pils our best friend during what we will often call ‘the best time of our life’. Such an emotional, nostalgic value cannot be ignored.

Can we conclude that Colruyt has made a mistake to involve Cara Pils in its private label rebranding strategy? Yes. They have clearly underestimated the power of their own private label pils, and have failed to make any distinction with their other private labels. But doesn’t every company make a mistake from time to time?

In case this kind of situation happens, it’s key to show agility of reaction. And that’s what Colruyt has done. It became clear very quickly that a high number of people did not agree with the name-change, so Colruyt quickly decided to stay with the current name. They even went one step further, and took this momentum as a great opportunity for involving the Cara Pils fans in the co-creation of some new packaging. In the end, Colruyt can look back to a very successful PR-campaign for their private label.

I’m sure this case will show up in many presentations on future marketing congresses, because it’s a great example of how to turn a crisis situation into a marketing opportunity. Well done, Colruyt marketers!