Published: 28 September 2018

A few months ago, I was reading through my feed of digital marketing blogs and I saw a post that talked about the making of the popular “Dilly Dilly” campaign. It asked “Have you ever wondered how ‘Dilly Dilly’ came to be?

I thought to myself, “not really, no.”

Surely the more important question was “did it sell any beer?”

The campaign did feature in the UK, but if you’ve never seen it, I strongly recommend taking 30 seconds to watch the above ad - but just in case you can’t, I’ll briefly explain: “Dilly Dilly” was an ad campaign from Bud Light beers, premise focusing on a medieval king’s court hall. If a pleb presented the king with some Bud Light, he was proclaimed “a friend of the crown”, and all the attendees yell “Dilly Dilly”! That's about it.

Oh wait, there's a bit where someone brings the king a craft beer, and he's sent to the dungeon. Hmm.

Moving on.

The Fundamentals of Brand Awareness

Brand Awareness is the extent to which a brand is recognised by potential customers, and is correctly associated with a particular product. Expressed usually as a percentage of the target market, brand awareness is the primary goal of advertising in the early months or years of a product's introduction.”

Or as I like to put it, “me know brand sell thing”!

Occasionally during chats down the pub with non-marketing types, after asking what I do for a living, some plucky contrarian will challenge me by saying “yeah well advertising doesn’t work on me”. In a somewhat cheeky and little-bit-prideful way, I like respond by asking them to complete the phrase “vorsprung durch”, to which they inevitably respond “technik”. And for a bonus point, I ask them to name the brand. It doesn’t mean they’re about to go and buy an Audi whenever they hear those magic words, but it proves that brand awareness (“me know Audi sell car”) has been established. The idea is that brand ads like this will raise awareness of the brand, and may result in a sale later - even decades after the fact - some people spend all their lives pining after or saving for Lamborghinis or other high-end sports cars, remember.

As a PPC specialist, I can attest to the preference of direct-sale-traffic, and how brand awareness campaigns can be overlooked, most often due to their lack of direct, instant, trackable return on investment. But even working on a platform that optimises for direct ROI, I know the importance of “betting on brand”. Which brings us back to that now meme’d drinking slogan, “Dilly Dilly”!

Does “Dilly Dilly” Count as Brand Awareness?

Well, sort of. From the start, “Dilly Dilly” was always intended to sell a movement, to cultivate a culture, rather than sell beer. Sure, the ad agency may have dressed it up as brand awareness, but in truth, they wanted to create a meme - Something people would yell in pubs and bars and sports events across America. And it worked.

Image from

Image from

All across the states, people were going crazy over “Dilly Dilly” - in pubs, bars, sports events, even in conversation. It picked up particular momentum in Philadelphia for rhyming with the shorthand - Philly.

The meme was so solidified, in fact, that at the Grandmasters, people had to be explicitly warned NOT to yell “Dilly Dilly” as the golfers took their swing, and several people were banned from the event for doing just that.

Speaking after the campaign, the VP of Bud Light certainly thinks it was a roaring success, “I was around and live through when we had “Whassup” as a campaign” he said. “You knew you had something very, very special. I have the same feeling here as we’re going through this ‘Dilly Dilly’ phenomenon, that it’s the next ‘Whassup’ and it will be a permanent piece of what people talk about for the brand moving forward.”

Head of Marketing, Andy Goeler was also very proud of the campaign, “People are talking about Bud Light again right now”

After a very flattering piece from the NYTimes praising the campaign, Goeler went on to push these stats to show the success of “Dilly Dilly”:

100k Google Searches!
45k YouTube Searches Per Week!

However the all-important question: “What were those searches for?”

Quick hint: You might have noticed that the sign and shirt above make no mention of the brand name...

Let's look closer.

The Impact of The Culture vs The Brand/Product

Google Trends data allows us to see the impact of “Dilly Dilly” vs other search terms. We’ll explore a wide variety of opposing search terms to get an idea of the relative popularity, before seeing if it generated a “brand lift” in awareness.

First up, let’s see how it stacks up against a generic non-brand term like “car insurance”.

Looking here, it's very obvious when the campaign took place and the effect it had afterwards. Aside from a small spike in early 2018, the residual effect seems to be surprisingly low. Maybe not quite the next long-lasting meme “whassup”, but it certainly had an impact for its time.

Next up, “Dilly Dilly” vs a brand name, and a real American institution - Taylor Swift.

Amazingly, “Dilly Dilly” actually surpassed searches for the great TaySway at some point, judging by that little red spike passing the blue line. Bravo!

Now for a hybrid brand and product name - iPhone 8

This isn’t a fair comparison, but it gives an idea of relative volume. It’s not surprising it didn’t come close to touching iPhone 8’s popularity.

Next up, we’ll start to get into niche terms that should align more with “Dilly Dilly”’s intent.

To overtake “beer” would have been nothing short of miraculous, so let's get even more niche. Let's try “Bud Light” vs “Dilly Dilly”.

Now, THIS is interesting. Going by Goeler’s claim, “people are talking about Bud Light again”, that blue line should be far higher after “Dilly Dilly” had its day. In fact, it barely even moved during the campaign - that's even more worrying.

Here's the same comparison over a 5-year timeline. Again, “Bud Light” hasn’t really budged after “Dilly Dilly”. It didn’t even beat the previous record set in late 2013.

Fine, But What About Actual Sales?

We now come back to the all-important question asked at the beginning of this blog. Did “Dilly Dilly” sell any beer?

Short answer, no.

According to Beer Business Daily, Bud Light has continued to flounder and it is actually going through its worst-ever year - Sales declined by a staggering 8.6% on a year-on-year comparison.

But what about in the future? Could “Dilly Dilly” have some kind of delayed-activation, and perhaps bring about some brand growth in years to come?

According to Dan Fox, Beer-Ad Creative veteran, no. All because Bud Light focused on selling culture over their brand and product. Speaking about “Dilly Dilly”, he writes: “Either advertising reverses sales declines or its worthless. There is a complete void of anything about Bud Light Beer; nothing at all to suggest the beer is distinctive in any way. There is absolutely nothing said or shown here to cause the audience to want to buy or drink Bud Light.”

Yikes. Tell us how you really feel, Dan. He is right though. Although I’ve only been in marketing for about 5 years, I can see that there is virtually nothing promoting the beer. When watching the ad, all I can see (apart from the forced meme of yelling “Dilly Dilly”) is an attempt at tearing-down of craft beer, negatively attacking those who are fond of something a bit more artisan and “meaty” than a simple light beer. In short, they’re not selling anyone on their product, but trying to say, don’t drink that product. There's no follow-up statement of drink our product instead - just throw anyone who likes craft beer in the “dungeon”. It's all very cynical when you think about it.

Brands Need to Stop Chasing “Viral”

At least in regards to selling culture, anyway.

In the over-saturated and ad-blocked world of marketing, chasing “viral” or creating a meme can be very tempting. Bud Light wished to be the next “whassup”, and for a time, they were. Their mistake was not asking themselves what being the next “whassup” actually means for their business.

While “whassup” did become a phenomenon, just like “Dilly Dilly”, it had zero effect on sales for Budweiser. Dan Fox states again: “though they garnered tons of "talk value" and became a part of pop culture, “whassup” had absolutely no effect on the brand's market share decline at the time”

Is this what Bud Light wanted, do you think? Somewhere along the line, the key question “yes, but how much beer did “whassup” sell?” was not asked. And Bud Light spent a lot of money on creating a fun thing to yell in pubs, as a result.

Greg Butler, Marketing Exec for Miller Lite agrees: "I get a ton of people saying, 'Are you going to do something like Dilly Dilly?' And I'm like 'No, I have to sell beer, not sell a meme. “Dilly Dilly” has become a new phrase for cheersing, but it's actually not driving Bud Light volume. My job is actually not to sell culture, it's actually to sell beer. And the reality is it's not selling beer."

So, What Should Brands Do Instead?

Well for one, the key part in creating a brand awareness campaign is to not forget to focus on the brand in the blimmin ad. But to talk long-term, exchanging awareness for YouTube views or going “viral” is a deal with the devil, and in my opinion, not one worth making.

When creating your next brand awareness campaign, ask yourself the following questions.

At a fundamental level:

  • Do you want your customers to say “me know brand sell thing”, or do you want your customers to yell something in a pub?

With regards to your ad:

  • Does this ad make people aware of my brand?
  • Does this ad reinforce affection/loyalty to my brand?
  • Does this reference the product/service at all?

The harsh reality is, marketing is a grind. Brand awareness and familiarity with the product comes from repetition, reinforcement, cultivating trust and eventually moving into engendering loyalty. None of that will come from going “viral” (trust me, I know from experience). At most, you’ll have a flash-in-the-pan success, but it isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme.

Have faith in your brand. Work at making it stronger. Don’t sell it out for a meme.

Header image from Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” video campaign.

Want to learn more about how to increase your brand’s awareness? Get in touch with a member of our digital team today on 01233 467 800 or

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