Dilly Dilly: Bud Light Sparks More Than Just An Internet Meme

For marketers and advertisers aiming to create the next viral sensation, Bud Light’s silly catchphrase, “Dilly Dilly,” is worth a closer examination. How exactly did the brand manage to put the words on the lips of everyone from NFL players to college students? Is there some kind of a secret formula?

In a recent interview with the creative team behind the ad, the New York Times attributed the success of the campaign largely to Bud Light’s partnership with the NFL. And while the NFL partnership certainly provided the platform for Dilly Dilly to become a success, the talk-ability of that particular ad provided something special. After all, Bud Light is not only facing a highly fragmented beverage market, in which new craft beers appear on shelves every day, but also a highly fragmented media market as it’s tougher than ever for brands to cut through the noise. 



So, what does Bud Light know about creating viral ads that other brands may not? We’ve been tracking consumer conversations about the brand for the last several years, and as a result, we can pinpoint exactly what Bud Light did, and when, to turn this into a cultural phenomenon. Here are a few of the factors we uncovered during our research that make this ad especially talk-worthy:

  • It taps into a cultural touchpoint. Timed to coincide with a cultural event — the season 7 finale of Game of Thrones — the creative makes a visual connection to the beloved series. By bringing viewers into a fictional medieval banquet hall they’re likely to recognize, it captured their attention instantly. Prior to the airing of this ad, only 7.5% of offline conversations about Bud Light referenced its TV ads. That number has since tripled.
  • It expertly leverages a significant partnership.Bud Light is also the official sponsor of the NFL, and it used that relationship to its advantage. In another stroke of excellent timing, the first commercial aired just as the football season got underway and the baseball season was winding down. It was the perfect nexus on which to swing. The NFL partnership, as the New York Times notes, is a big platform, reaching millions of households with great frequency. Bud Light smartly plans to take “Dilly Dilly” to the Super Bowl in a 60-second spot.
  • It uses humor to capture attention.A major reason for the campaign’s popularity is the phrase itself, which is not only funny, but fun for viewers to say. It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d say to a friend or family member sitting next to you — and be guaranteed a laugh. That makes it all the more appealing when people are watching TV events together.
  • Sports events are conversation gold. This is the coup de grace. More than any other setting, sports encourages social engagement and word-of-mouth conversations about brands. There’s ample evidence showing that as fans gather to co-view events, conversation about commercials increases. Co-viewing of television represents an under-appreciated opportunity to give consumers something to talk about, whether as a prompt to share their own stories about a brand experience, or simply by helping to fill a conversation void. Programming that tends to get high levels of co-viewing — such as sports, children’s programs, soap operas, and reality shows — deserve to have advertising designed to prompt conversation. It’s notable that offline sentiment, which indicates consumers are speaking positively about the brand, for Bud Light dramatically improved among sports fans, with the biggest improvements among NFL and MLB fans. 

Although consumer conversations about the “Dilly Dilly” commercial have increased steadily over the last several months, the biggest impact has been not in social media, as one might expect, but in offline, face-to-face, conversations. But as the brand drives toward the Super Bowl, there’s enormous opportunity for it improve its performance by developing creative that sparks social engagement online. 

Last month, Bud Light showed what was possible when it issued a comical “Cease and Desist” letter to a Minneapolis brewery, requesting that it stop brewing “Dilly Dilly” beer. This effort created the largest spike in online conversations about “Dilly Dilly.” During that week, the catchphrase appeared in nearly a third of social media conversations about the brand.

Clearly, there’s more at play here for Bud Light than simply a major partnership. Both talk-worthy creative and timing are also key elements, as well as an understanding of what motivates consumers to talk about brands. This formula worked well for Bud Light, and it’s one that other brands looking to create their own viral sensation can and should replicate.

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