If you decide to enjoy an ice-cold beer at your favourite local bar while watching a game of football, certain forces have been at work of which you may be only vaguely aware. Behind the scenes, a sophisticated brand management campaign has been in place to try and influence your choice of beer and ensure you have the best possible experience.
The process of building the beer's brand image will have involved decisions about where it is sold, how it is advertised and served, and the ambience which the bar seeks to create.
"Brand management is really the backbone of our company," says Soren Holm Jensen, managing director of Carlsberg Hong Kong Limited. He explains that this means offering consumers consistent high quality and establishing "emotional associations" with the product.
This involves a lot of details. For example, the same beer can taste quite different depending whether it is served ice-cold in a glass or warm in a can. Brand managers have to take this into account when planning their sales channels and distribution strategies. They must also know how bars and restaurants will serve the product and which have it on draft.
Regarding the emotional aspect, Carlsberg has focused internationally on creating close links with football, and all marketing initiatives must bear this in mind. "Obviously, if you did something that conflicted with the football message, you would confuse the consumer," Mr Jensen says.
Driving a particular car really says a lot about the person and so does drinking a particular beer
The central theme of that message is that watching or attending a match with your friends is a social occasion and the ideal time to drink a beer together. This gives the brand manager two things to consider: what the consumer thinks about the product and what other people associate with someone drinking a Carlsberg.
"In that sense, it is similar to the automotive industry," says Mr Jensen.
For this reason, the company's marketing activities often focus more on the type of social situations where the product is consumed. Local promotional campaigns can then target specific locations or sporting events where people are guaranteed to get together.
Though not the "official" beer of the recent World Cup, the tournament was nevertheless a great opportunity for the company to strengthen its association with football. They captured the excitement by running a 4-3-3 promotion, which sent a lucky fan and three friends to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and London.
The original idea came from the corporate head office in Copenhagen, but was given a local flavour by bringing in pop star Hacken Lee as a celebrity spokesman.
Nowadays, a brand manager's performance is evaluated by how well a marketing campaign impacts sales volumes, profits and business results. Increased awareness of the product is an advantage, but not the primary concern.
"A lot of people coming from the advertising industry think that brand managers just have to make great commercials," says Mr Jensen. "At Carlsberg, they are responsible for delivering sales results and that means understanding what a salesperson needs to sell."
Reflecting this, the company has introduced a KPI (key performance indicators) system this year to assess brand management performance and link bonuses directly to sales levels.
To succeed in the role, it is necessary to be familiar with the basics of advertising, finance, strategic planning and competition within the sector.
Fresh graduates can expect to join the marketing team and could move to the position of assistant brand manager after two to three years. They would be considered for the role of brand manager after a further three years leading a number of large projects.
"Besides being creative, candidates must be outgoing, open-minded, and generally very sociable," says Mr Jensen. "Also, they must be able to think analytically and interpret numbers."