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Dilly Dilly! How Anheuser-Busch Won Big By Trusting Its Gut

April 4, 2018

“Dilly Dilly!!” The cry echoes across the land. And it teaches us 3 important lessons:

   1. Nothing succeeds like humor in social media.

   2. Testing is good, but you have to trust your instincts and be willing to take a chance.

   3. Advertising does not necessarily translate to sales.

In case you’ve never seen a “Dilly Dilly” Bud Light television commercial, here’s the first one which aired in August 2017.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highSo what does “Dilly, Dilly” actually mean?

According to Miguel Patricio, Anheuser Busch’s chief marketing officer: “‘Dilly Dilly’ doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty of it. I think that we all need our moments of nonsense and fun. And I think that ‘Dilly Dilly,’ in a way, represents that.”

But a lot of thought must have gone into it, right?

The ad was created by Wieden + Kennedy New York. An art director and copywriter at the agency were tossing ideas back and forth. One of them said, “Dilly Dilly” and the other laughed, so “we put it in there thinking we could always come up with something else later if the client liked the script.”

The ad aired last fall during college and NFL football games, and went viral on social media. It spawned several sequels including this one which aired in Philadelphia markets just before this year’s Super Bowl. A corresponding ad was made for New England Patriots fans.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highBrands typically test their ads before airing them. Did the audience like the ad? Did they understand the message? Could they remember the brand and product names?

So we can assume the first “Dilly Dilly” ad was a hit with test audiences, right?


Anheuser Busch’s Miguel Patricio says the ad didn’t test that well:

“We did (the) ad… because the new season of Game of Thrones (was) coming, but when we tested, it didn’t test that well… (but) we said, ‘Consumers will get it,’ especially with repetition. We have a chance here for this to become big.

“So, we went against the research and we gave a chance to ‘Dilly Dilly’ and we are so happy!”

They trusted their gut– their instincts and experience. And it paid off when the ads went viral.bud lite dilly dilly parody king with beer sending analytics to pit of misery anheuser-busch went against research ad did not score well with test audiences

Did the “Dilly Dilly” ads boost sales of Bud Light?

No– at least not in the short term.

Anheuser-Busch InBev had a strong 2017 4th quarter, but its North America sales dropped 0.6%, with Bud Light declining by 0.85% for both the full year and the 4th quarter. Bud Light’s volume (hectoliters) declined 5.7% in 2017.

Sounds like the ads were a failure, sales-wise, but it’s important to establish some context: beer is in decline. Especially “Big Beer.” (Molson Coors and Anheuser-Busch InBev together control about 90% of the U.S. beer market.)

Consider these stats: In 2016, AB InBev sold 14.4 million barrels of Budweiser in the U.S. That was less than one-third the volume of the beer’s peak in 1988. Bud Light’s 2016 U.S. volume was 35.2 million barrels– but that was a drop of 15% from its 2008 high.

Why the decline? A shift from “big beer” to craft beer. More ominously perhaps, Gen Z prefers spirits and wine to beer.

Seth Godin says you have only two choices if you make a commodity and your marketplace shifts: run to a new market, or move as fast as you can to the high-end.

Big Beer has been trying to do both in a way, by buying up craft beers. It’ll be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

To end on a humorous note: I don’t think the “Dilly Dilly” ads are inclusive enough. They should exhibit more diversity. After all, there are many shades of green.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highparody of Bud Light "Dilly Dilly" television commercial dill pickle gherkin toasting each other with beer Gherky Gherky

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. I create images that get content seen and shared.

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Charles McNair Pulitzer Prize nominated author Land O' Goshen storyteller creative communicator

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2018 4:22 PM

    I shall make you happy, though you’re one of the happiest guys I know!
    I must apologize as I so rarely comment anymore while I selfishly forge ahead for that elusive acceptance – I’m like the blind pig on the truffle farm.
    First, congrats on your views – well deserved – but more importantly earned – your posts are always so very enjoyable, fun, entertaining and (this is like having a good meal with free dessert!) informative.
    You know way back when, I went to school for advertising & design. I can’t remember if I ever told you that. I fantasized working in Ogilvy & Mather. I always adored the idea of marrying art and word together. To this day, I always try to make that creative union clever enough to be original – something more and more difficult with the reverse peristalsis of social media.
    But you my friend (aka funny man), have the true gift. You are an intuitive natural. I so admire your artistic talents partnered with your ‘wordsmithing’ gold.


    • April 6, 2018 8:50 AM

      ka-BOOM-ski!! How could I not be happy after getting a comment like that?? I’m gonna take a screen shot, import it into my image-editing program, and put a gold frame around it!! Then I’m gonna print it out and sleep with it under my pillow every night!!! 💤😍

      My dear AM!! Such exquisite and hyper-flattering turns of phrase!! Have you ever considered becoming a writer?? Oh, wait– you’re one of the foremost poets, lyricists, and versifiers of this or any other age!! And to think I wound up on the receiving end of such literary profusion. Finally– I’m in the right place at the right time, as General Custer said as he parked his horse at the Little Big Horn B&B… 💘💘💘😬

      I do indeed remember your telling me you studied and worked in advertising and design. I wasn’t surprised to hear it after seeing your art and reading your companion verse. Like crossing a stick o’ dynamite with a case of black powder. “I now pronounce you T ‘n’ T …” 💥🔥🔥🔥🚒🚒🚑💨 You’re a true original all right– and so are your creations!!

      Reverse peristalsis… ha! I haven’t heard that ‘un since 7th grade science class!! Inspired– that’s social media in a porcelain nutshell… 🙊🚽

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I done a right smart thing when I joined our mutual admiration society! 👍🏆😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April 11, 2018 3:38 PM

    Dilly, dilly!

    People like to say silly, silly words. And the ads are beautifully done, I think. There’s also something nice about beers ads that don’t depend on tall blonde women wearing their Daisy Dukes and leaning on muscle cars, or 18-hand horses dragging dusty wagons.
    But, gosh – that’s amazing, how they had to get past not-so-good testing. Hooray for the short term sales bump.
    I had no idea that “big beer” was losing market share to that extent!

    One thing, sort of related:
    Sometimes the ads are so well made, so memorable, so special, that they eclipse the product. I think Geico makes great little ads. But that’s how I think of Geico: they make great little ads. Fine, if they were an ad agency. But they sell insurance. I think.
    Maybe the dilly, dillys were too standalone good and diily, dilly outshone the beer. Just a thought from someone who’s watched waaaaaaaaaaaay too many commercials.

    Wonderful post, Mark! Nothing and no one will ever outshine you!
    (PS – I’m not proofing this comment, so I hope it’s legible)


    • April 20, 2018 9:56 AM

      Not only was the comment legible, it shot my ego over the moon!! 🚀🌖 Now that’s an ego trip!! Many, many thanks, RK. You are too kind, but gee, I know ya can’t help it… 😊

      I agree with you about some ads being so entertaining, they eclipse the product being advertised. And I think it happened with the Dilly Dilly ads: they became beautiful comedy bits rather than ads.

      I suspect this effect could be prevented (or at least reduced) if more time were devoted strictly to the product at the end of the ad. Rather than, say, a ratio of 28:2– 28 seconds of comedy and 2 seconds of just the words “Bud Light,” make it 22:8, or maybe 22:6:2, cutting back for 2 seconds at the end to show the king holding a Bud Light and saying, “Dilly dilly!” You could still win huge points and stay memorable with the comedy, but you’d be giving the product more time to register with the viewer. Just my two beer-soaked cents, FWIW.

      Thanks a heap for your insightful comment, Lady King– dilly dilly!! 👑🍺😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 21, 2018 2:47 PM

        Yes! That’d be better! My idea was way too goofy: I thought they could have someone in the ad, toward the end, toast everyone, loud voice, with “Bud Light! Bud Light!!” And then have someone else, a little tipsy, maybe, mutter, “Dilly, dilly!” Then have the Bud Light toaster roll his or her eyes and grin. But that’s too long, would add miuntes and likely wouldn’t work.

        Btw, my fav commericals for clear product identity are the Energizer Bunny ones. No doubt about what the product is, why it’s good. Easy to recall. And kind of adorable. I wonder how they tested? Is info like that available anywhere? 🤪👋


        • April 26, 2018 12:09 PM

          You’ve hit on a key point, RK: mighty tough to squeeze an extra bit into such a short ad. Funny thing about ads: you don’t realize all the factors involved until you start analyzing them!

          Re the Energizer Bunny: interesting story: the concept was inspired by another battery company’s ad. I’ll quote from this Adweek story:

          “He’s still going, all right—but the Energizer Bunny’s stamina and cuteness belies its largely unknown Machiavellian side. It was actually Duracell that came up with the idea of a battery-powered pink bunny as a mascot—in 1973. But when Duracell was reportedly too slow to renew its trademark, Energizer hopped into the breach, hiring DDB Needham Worldwide to create a rabbit of its own. (The Duracell Bunny is still hopping around, but only in European countries, following a 1992 arrangement between the battery giants.)

          Whoa!– take a battery-powered walk on the dark side!! 🐰😊

          Liked by 1 person

        • May 5, 2018 1:33 PM

          Wow!! That’s fascinating!! Thank you!! Energizer doesn’t mess around!! Oh, gosh – Ad Week – that really makes me nostalgic. Back when I still had a job, I subcribed to Advertising Age & saw AdWeek occasionally. Loved those publications!! ::waves::


        • May 17, 2018 8:36 AM

          I just checked Advertising Age and Adweek’s records: they both had you down as their favorite subscriber! 👍🏆😊

          Liked by 1 person


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