Launched in August of 2017, Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” campaign was an almost immediate sensation. As the campaign has evolved, it’s become clear that the brand (and their agency, Wieden+Kennedy) have done a masterful job of tapping into cultural meaning as a way to speak directly with the target audience.
The campaign taps into a deep cultural sense of belonging. The spots position Bud Light as the “everyman/everywoman beer;” a beer for you and me – not for the “snobbish elite” who prefer craft ales. Andy Goeler, Bud Light’s VP of Marketing, acknowledges that this is an effort to target the competitive growth of microbrews and regional brewers, and to position Bud Light as the opposite.
How do they do this? They communicate this cultural message by use of visuals, stylistic choices, even verbal cues that, taken together, evoke what they doubtless know from research are their audience’s associations with craft beer drinkers: effete, self-centered boors who care more about their own experiences than they do about having fun and being social.
In the spot “Bud Lights for Everyone,” the king orders a round of Bud Lights for the bar. It’s only the one patron, sitting isolated from the group (and speaking with a distinctly posh accent) who declines, and instead requests a “malty and full-bodied autumnal mead.” For me, it’s the king’s evident head-shaking exasperation that clinches the cultural connection: it’s the response I imagine so many people having to rarified language and specialty vocabulary around beverages.
Another spot (“One Sip”) introduces Count Pamplemousse (La Croix, anyone?) as an effete, fanciful party guest who, while refusing to try the king’s favorite drink, insists on foisting his own favorite (a mead with “an amazing mouth feel”). The drinking is more about the elaborate rituals and flavors (“you’ll notice a tinge of sour cream!”) than it is about using beer as a way to a shared experience of connection. Everything about the count screams that he doesn’t belong with the rest of the group: his dress, his vocabulary, and his mannerisms.
Bud Light has unearthed culture: the shared meaning that exists around different beer moments. One moment is a culture of beer strengthening friendships and enabling a fun time out. Beer is a means to an end. A second is of beer as an end in itself – the rituals of savoring are the desired experience. Bud Light has firmly aligned themselves with the former and has successfully given life to these two cultures to distinguish further where they play.
This is the first in a planned series sharing examples of culture “in action” and takeaways for organizations hoping to leverage culture (“shared meaning”) to create deeper connections with target audiences.
And, in doing so, they’ve seen some indication of positive bottom line impact. Despite MillerCoors’ dismissal of the campaign earlier this year (“MillerCoors Exec Slams Bud Light’s ‘Dilly Dilly’”) , Morgan Stanley hypothesized that the “Dilly Dilly” campaign was a driver to slowing the category decline, with Anheuser-Busch InBev gaining market share for the first time since 2011.
Whatever the long-term impact of the campaign, it’s clear that the brand’s ability to identify deep-seated meaning struck a nerve and led to an incredibly successful string of TV ads. It’s clear that Bud Light has spent time understanding their audience: not only their drinking habits and brand preferences, but also the deeply-held values and needs that inform those habits and preferences. The “Dilly Dilly” spots perfectly evoke these values and needs through each execution. This is culture, and they’ve played it beautifully.
But culture isn’t just expressed through ads and campaigns. Companies have successfully leveraged cultural understanding to develop new products and services, strategies, and lines of business. We believe this approach is crucial to successfully connecting with a target audience, and we look forward to showcasing other examples of culture in action.
For more insight into culture in action, be sure to also read our related post: Colin Kaepernick: Culture in Action – and What We Can Learn From Nike.