CAN WE REALLY CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL ALL THESE WEEKS LATER?
Indeed, we can.
Because here, we are not about the hype and the glory.
We are about smart thinking, which is not fleeting and faddish, but timeless.
And sometimes, you get that timeless thinking in Super Bowl advertising.
And while, on the face of it, there may not be anything smart about it, we're going to say, "Dilly, Dilly!"
There is so much to be learned from Bud Light's ridiculous advertising campaign that originally began as a one-off celebration of the season premiere of Game Of Thrones, and has since become a cultural phenomenon--including epic Super Bowl glory with extravagant production, throngs of extras, and CGI effects.
What's to be learned?
ONE THING TO BE LEARNED IS COURAGE
How on earth did this thing happen?
And how did the People In Charge let it?
So far, there's not a lot of press about the creative process.
But you can learn a lot from a big, gregarious and amusing Portuguese gentleman by the name of Miguel Patricio, Chief Marketing Officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev.
When asked what "Dilly, Dilly" means, he replied, "It doesn't mean anything. We all need our moments of nonsense and fun."
Nonsense and fun?
THIS IS A C-SUITE-ER FROM A $258 BILLION COMPANY
And he has no problem recognizing the need for nonsense and fun?
But it gets better.
He says, "A lot of people ask me, 'How did you approve that?' We didn't expect it to be that successful. It didn't test that well."
OK. One of the world's most powerful Chief Marketing Officers is happy to go against the research.
People don't like it? I don't care!
THAT IS KNOWN AS GOING WITH YOUR GUT
And I applaud the man.
He further says, "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."
And here's a phrase that matters.
Mr. Patricio says there's a test you can do. He went to Amazon and did a search and, without Bud Light doing any kind of merchandising, he found all kinds of "Dilly Dilly" related items.
He says, "It becomes cultural currency."
YOU MEAN, LIKE, "GOT MILK"?
Or, "We'll leave the light on for you"?
Or even, "Real men of genius"?
It was disappointing that Bud Light killed that latter campaign.
And yes, it was wildly successful, making the product a category leader and keeping it there for years.
But Bud Light seems to have a new cultural currency that has turned into another juggernaut.
But, there's also a really important question to ask.
IS IT SELLING ANY BEER?
That's hard to know.
But here's what we can tell you.
According to Ted Marzilli, leader of the BrandIndex global business unit of YouGov dot com, Bud Light's perception with men is at an 18-month high.
We just don't know what "Dilly, Dilly!" has to do with that, as there is other advertising running out there.
And as we all know, perception doesn't necessarily lead to sales.
THAT NOTWITHSTANDING, YOU HAVE TO ADMIRE THE NERVE
Selling beer is a multi-million-dollar proposition.
People live and die by tiny movements of the needle and in the balance sheets.
And to go with the gut in a situation like this is admirable.
Which, for us, is one of the solid takeaways from Señor Patricio: Having the courage to go with your gut is one of the unsung characteristics of emotional intelligence.
There are numbers that tell you it isn't necessarily the best way to go--and you go there anyway.
AND UNDERSTAND, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT GOING WITH YOUR EGO
There's a difference.
Going with your ego is all about you.
Going with your gut is about the world outside you.
How can you tell the difference?
Going with your ego makes you feel good.
Going with your gut makes you feel a little nervous.
And it doesn't always work.
But it usually works better than going with your ego.
SO WHAT IS THE TAKEAWAY?
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Have courage.
Marketing can be a scary thing. You're putting a message out there in the world and you can't be sure how it's going to be perceived.
The more impactful the message, the more scary it can feel.
The first time I won a Radio Mercury Award, it was with a message that was scary--because I knew it was good enough to win a cutthroat national competition with a huge cash prize attached.
It was a sweaty palms moment. I was also afraid the client would reject it, making it ineligible. (They did not.)
AND WHEN YOU'RE DEVISING YOUR MESSAGE, FEEL FREE TO PLAY
We all need our moments of nonsense and fun.
Maybe your business can't market with nonsense and fun.
Like if you have a mortuary.
Of course, if you listen to the enormously impactful "Celebrate a life" campaign from Forest Lawn mortuaries, you can hear how fun really does have a place in marketing a business like that.
Not words you think of when you think of the mortuary business.
Unless you work in a funeral home, where I'm told the motto is "The first three letters in 'funeral' spell 'fun.'"
BUT I DIGRESS
Have courage. Go with your gut. Feel free to play.
And don't always believe the research.
It doesn't prove anything beyond what happened in the room.
If you focus group an advertisement with a hundred people, you can get 100 reasons why not to run it.
It helps to understand what they're saying and why they're saying it.
And it helps to realize that focus groups are unnatural.
Just because something doesn't test well doesn't mean it won't fly.
It could just be a sleeper.
I don't test well at all.
And I can fly. And I don't even wear a cape.
You know what else flies? The CoupleCo podcast, available at www.TheCoupleCoPodcast.com
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
IS BUD LIGHT STILL THE REAL BREW OF GENIUS?
Because beer always makes you smarter.
The Bud Light Real Men Of Genius radio campaign went away in 2008 after 7 inspired years.
It was epic, it made the brand a market leader, and was parodied endlessly (and badly) in small-business, local-radio advertising.
Since then, But Light has not had such a juggernaut--but today, they may be on the brink.
This morning, I was confronted with a video of a town crier standing inside a craft brewery in Minneapolis. He was reading a "Hear ye! Hear ye!" to everyone in the place.
It was a cease & desist letter from Bud Light to the craft brewer.
So, I thought, "Hold my beer. Watch this. I'm going to find out more."
The story is interesting, and it's a useful brand advertising lesson--even for the small-business owner.
Have you heard that? Have you said it?
I hadn't until this morning. I haven't been watching a lot of commercial TV lately.
But it seems that Bud Light and their agency, Wieden + Kennedy, is drafting off of the zeitgeist. In this particular case, it's the mania around Game of Thrones.
They've done it with a commercial that shows a royal banquet room, and a line of subjects paying obeisance to the king. As people step up and offer sixes and cases of Bud Light to the king, the king raises his own Bud Light and proclaims each person, "A true friend of the crown! Dilly, dilly!"
And everyone in the banquet room responds by raising their own Bud Lights and crying, "Dilly, dilly!"
This happens a couple of times, and then another gentleman steps up and offers a large brown bottle, without a label, and sealed with red wax. He puts it in front of the king, who says, "What, um, what is that?"
"This is a spiced honey mead wine that I have really been into lately."
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A LONG, UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE
Then, the king says to the gent, "Please follow Sir Brad. He's going to give you a private tour of the Pit of Misery."
The hapless fellow is hauled off while everyone happily toasts, "To the misery! Dilly, dilly!"
The announcer chimes in over a shot of the Bud Light logo rendered in rice, barley, hops, and the head of a beer: "Here's to the friends you can always count on. Bud Light, brewed to be America's favorite light lager."
Oh, boy. Ya know what's going on here?
This is an attack ad.
Very funny. Really well produced.
But it's an attack ad.
IT'S TAPPING INTO THE GAME OF THRONES ZEITGEIST AND ATTACKING CRAFT BREWING
If you don't know, craft brewing has become HUGE.
It's huge enough that there are now three fundamental problems.
One, craft brewers are having a hard time competing with one another because there's so much competition and a limited market.
Two, consumers are suffering from FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. When they look at a wall of craft beers in the liquor store, they become anxious and don't know what to buy, fearing they may be missing something better than what they'll choose.
And three, craft brewers are eating into big brewers' market share.
And I've got to be honest, as a guy who's been a fan of craft beers since they began bubbling up in the 1990s, even I'm over it. There are plenty of great beers out there. But the preciousness and the overtness and the slam-you-in-the-face-ness of so many of these beers is out of hand.
AND YES, I'M THE GUY WHO LAST WEEK THREW LAURELS TO A NANO-BREWER
Mad Fritz, the Napa Valley nano-brewery, is a brilliant brand.
It's not precious. It's intelligent and arcane and balanced and specialized and scarce.
But so many craft brewers are so clever and working so hard for people who are so pretentious about their beer.
I get it. This is the pendulum swinging the other way after decades of mega-brewery domination.
So...where's the attack?
One, the subject presents a precious bottle of spiced mead (which, if you don't know, is a honey wine).
Two, he presents the bottle with the cliché qualifier, "That I've really been into lately."
And three, the announcer says, "Here's to the friends you can always count on. Bud Light, brewed to be America's favorite light lager."
A POX ON CRAFT BREW HEADS!
Long live the light lager!
Can you imagine any big brewer even five years ago using a line like, "America's favorite light lager."
They'd say, "Beer."
They'd use modifiers like, "light," or "crisp," or "refreshing."
They might say something unqualified like, "Beechwood aged!" (I once read an article by a reporter who called Budweiser to find out what "Beachwood aged" actually meant. The reply from the person at the other end was essentially, "Well, you know, beechwood. It's beechwood aged!")
Beer has been a commodity product.
AND NOW, COMMODITY THINKING IS BEING UNDERMINED BY ARTISAN THINKING
Regardless of how you feel about craft beer (I feel it's a good thing), it's not hard to see how this happened.
A landscape of fizzy yellow beers was infected by variety and flavor and choice and surprise.
Yes, craft beers are surprising. Not always in a good way. A top-fermented, dry-hopped ale that tastes of rosebuds, garlic and old gym socks may not be a good surprise.
Nonetheless, it has become a pervasive threat to the market dominance of brands like Bud Light, a brand whose core, die-hard fan is intolerant of things like craft beer. I know people like this. They are single-beer fanatics and they are angry at craft brewing.
Bud Light is shooting fish in a barrel--and being really funny.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TOWN CRIER?
Back to the brewery in Minneapolis.
The brewery is called Modist. Not sure how you pronounce it.
Modist very recently released a brew called, "Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA."
Mosiac is a strain of hops. It is known for its complex and broad aromas backed by a clean bittering. If you care.
Modist put this brew in their taproom only. They did not release it widely.
They created a logo that said, "Dilly Dilly" in a blatant rip-off of the Bud Light swirl logo.
ON NOVEMBER 28, THEY ANNOUNCED IT ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE
They posted that they were releasing it on December 1.
The same day they released it, they posted a video of the town crier standing in their lobby, reading the cease & desist "proclamation" aloud.
The town crier's message included a request to make sure this ale was a one-time-only occurrence, and offers the brewery two free tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
They next day, Modist posted a picture of the town crier's scroll and the "Dilly Dilly" ripoff logo, with the message, "Come drink this beer before we rename it 'Coat Tails.'"
I smell a publicity stunt cooked up by Anheuser Busch, whose parent company is not known for being so kind with its C&Ds.
Nonetheless, it's fun, it's well-crafted, it bears retelling, it's good advertising, and a good stunt for the press.
WHAT'S THE TAKEAWAY FOR YOU?
One, no business of any size is too small for a publicity stunt. I've done it with a tiny business, getting them coverage in a major metropolitan daily. You need to be creative, relevant, and interesting.
Two, your business can be a threat to the bigger market leaders. You just need to understand how to be different and resonant and offer your core customer a better reality.
And three, never discount the value of making the prospect feel the right thing. "Here's to friends you can count on." That is a simple, unsophisticated, artless sentiment--and it's going to sell a lot more beer than it deserves. It's also part of the Famous Among Friends conceit that Bud Light has been using for over 30 years.
BUD LIGHT APPEARED AT MODIST WITH GREAT ALACRITY
The town crier was on the scene so quickly, and Modist was so on top of the situation, that it smacks of benign collusion.
And the fact that Bud Light is acknowledging Modist in this way (and likely partnering with them) demonstrates that they probably aren't as down on craft beer as their advertising might imply.
Instead, they could be preparing to invest in Modist, if not preparing to buy them outright.
Tell that to craft brewers Goose Island, Blue Point, Breckenridge, Golden Road, Four Peaks, 10 Barrel, Devils Backbone and Karbach--all of whom have been acquired by Anheuser Busch.
Your brand is also never too small to be acquired by a giant.
For a peek at "Dilly Dilly," Click here: https://youtu.be/D8Cb5Wk2t-8
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.