Depending on whom you ask, there either was or was not a list floating around the Masters last week, banning objectionable phrases from being shouted as the world’s best golfers put club to ball.
Among the items on this perhaps fictitious list was “Dilly Dilly!”, the beer rallying cry broadcast on television sets nationwide. Reporters were unable to authenticate the claim. Neither did Bud Light, which launched “Dilly Dilly” in a late-summer ad blitz last year. The Masters report fell under the category, “any news is good news.”
And there’s been a lot of news. Since the ad campaign launched, it’s been name-checked by Ben Roethlisberger at the line of scrimmage. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles referred to his team’s Super Bowl trick play as “Philly Philly.” NCAA basketball champion Villanova made shirts reading, “Villy Villy.”
And then came the Masters. The “king” of Bud Light’s imagined “Dilly Dilly” universe announced the company would send merchandise bearing the phrase to Augusta, Ga., with the rationale that if fans couldn’t exclaim “Dilly Dilly” (it’s not quite “Excalibur!”), they could at least wear it. The episode was covered by SB Nation, Golf.com, Sports Illustrated, Business Insider, Sporting News, ESPN, USA Today, the New York Daily News, Adweek, and yes, The Washington Post.
“We didn’t even think about asking to verify if it was true,” said Miles Ritenour, a Bud Light spokesman, “because it had been reported in a few places already, and we felt this was an opportunity for us to have some fun and be humorous with it.”
If anything, that is the moral of the “Dilly Dilly” campaign: the brewing company is absolutely willing to be goofy so you’ll drink its beer.
We asked Andy Goeler, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, all about “Dilly Dilly,” including how the phrase became so prominent in the sports world. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
So first, give me the backstory. How did this campaign start?
With a brand the size of Bud Light, there’s a continuing need to put out creative ad content, so we on a regular basis are reviewing creative ideas. It was about June, and we were having one of those creative sessions with our creative agency, Wieden+Kennedy, and they were reading scripts talking about different ideas. This “Dilly Dilly” script came up, and they read it, and it was one of the scripts that kind of instantly had everybody excited.
The first spot was actually called, “Banquet,” and it took place in medieval times. I think the intrigue with that one was “Game of Thrones.” It’s such a popular show. So they did that medieval world, and everybody felt connected to it because we’re all fans of [the show].
The story line was about a person bringing a six-pack of Bud Light to this banquet, and the king says, “You’re a good friend to the crown.” And the next person behind them brings a 12-pack and the king gets more excited and says, “Wow a 12-pack, you’re a better friend to the crown.” Then the third person brings a bottle of mead wine. And the day the king was unhappy and sends him to the pit of misery and all the villagers yell “Dilly Dilly,” cheers, Bud Light. And the thing that we liked was that we stand as a brand for friendship. So that whole concept of a six pack is a good friend but a 12 pack is a better friend was great.
So what exactly does “Dilly Dilly” mean?
For us it’s a cheers, a Bud Light cheers.
Can you go three feet around the office without someone saying it?
Oh my gosh. You wouldn’t believe the emails I get daily with videos. It’s incredible, and it’s permeated so many areas. Last night, for example, I had a Dilly Dilly hat on and I was boarding a Southwest flight, and the lady at the ticket counter said to me, “If you give me the Dilly Dilly hat, I’ll let you board before pre-boarders.” I laughed. I said, “Take the hat,” but I didn’t want to board or take up space for someone who needs to pre-board.
The way it’s become part of pop culture — in sports, in entertainment — is that part of the strategy for a campaign like this?
Absolutely, that’s always part of the strategy. I’m sure any brand marketer would tell you the same thing. But these consumers are inundated with so many outlets, so many ways to get content. It’s really hard to break through with a product message. It’s always your main strategy to think, “How do we break through the clutter to at least get them to watch us?” And then, if they watch us, “Is it an important enough message to them where they say, ‘I’ll try that,’ or ‘I believe that?’” And then, we get to the level we’re at where they adopt it, so they’re walking around and using it as part of their own vernacular or wearing it on their own T-shirts.
Of all the places you’ve seen it show up, what’s been the most remarkable or your favorite?
For me, it was Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On a Thursday night, I was sitting in my apartment in New York City watching the game, and all of a sudden, I hear him yell, “37! 22! Dilly Dilly!”
And I just I leaned on my couch like, “Did he just say Dilly Dilly?”
What about the Super Bowl? Or the Masters, where some people were concerned about getting kicked out if they yelled “Dilly Dilly” on the course?
It’s the best feeling in the world. I mean, when you’ve got a brand you were able to connect with consumers to that degree, it just transcends advertising. As a marketer, there is nothing better. I mean, this is what any advertiser in the world dies for, you know? It’s amazing.
How do you, as a brand, take advantage of those moments?
Well, let me give you an example. The medieval world, we think, is a good long term area for us to be in. You know, a year, two years, three years maybe, in terms of building this world, and Dilly Dilly can pop in and out whenever we need it to.
We’ve created characters like the king and the queen. We’ve got a wizard. We’ve got a “Bud Knight,” and we’re able to use them and activate them in the marketplace. So when Philadelphia won the Super Bowl, we took the Bud Knight and sent him down to Philadelphia to ride on the parade float with the Eagles, and he was also able to go into some of the local bars and buy Bud Lights for people.
We took the king to a bar in Chicago when Loyola was really at its height during the NCAA tournament. We went into a Loyola bar and we did a promotion with the king bringing in freshly tapped Bud Light.
A few days ago, we [reportedly] have the Masters release a statement saying anyone yelling “Dilly Dilly” during the event is going to be escorted off the grounds. So once again, we’re able to bring our king out and respond to it. And instead of, like, being a big branded company, the king goes out with a with a scroll and he reads a response. It’s fun and it’s respecting the Masters without being nasty.
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