Just before this year's Super Bowl, I asked David Sutton, president and CEO of TopRight, a transformational marketing firm that represents Global 2000 brands, to name the best Super Bowl ads of all time--and to explain why they were so exceptional.
His analysis provided insight about why certain ads work, and others don't...so I asked Dave to dissect popular ad campaigns.
This month's subject: The Bud Light "Dilly Dilly" campaign.
Haden: The first time I saw a "Dilly Dilly" commercial, I thought it was odd. But then they grew on me. But running a campaign as quirky as that seems like a huge risk.
Sutton: Bud Light is in a unique position. Only certain brands can pull that kind of thing off.
Keep in mind Bud Light is the category leader. Say as a brand you create a movement: like the frogs or the Clydesdales for Budweiser. Or "Dilly Dilly" and the implicit tie-in with Game of Thrones for Bud Light--I was at an event and people were toasting each other by saying "Dilly Dilly" and none of us were drinking Bud Light.
When the category leader creates more demand, the category leader get the lion's share of that increase in demand. If you're a smaller player like Sierra Nevada and you create category demand, you're not going to get much of it. If I'm a craft brewer, I'll get a tiny lift, but the majority of the incremental demand goes to the category leader.
Bud can play that game. Miller tried to play that game in the lite beer category, but whenever they or anyone else ran a "bikinis on the beach" ad, people gave credit to Bud even though it wasn't a Bud ad.
"Dilly Dilly" puts a cultural stake in the ground that drives category demand, or overall demand for beer. Bud Light, the largest brand, will get the lion's share of the increase.
They have the resources to play the long game. If I'm a craft brewery, I can't compete at that level.
Another common marketing saying is that when you position a brand, you don't just position your brand--you also position every other brand. You can't just be a great tasting beer or a great fitting floor mat; you have to position every other alternative, so consumers can make a clear distinction between what you stand for and everyone else.
When you advertise, you're not just telling your own story. You're telling consumers what you are not--and what your competition represents.
Where Anheuser-Busch has been masterful over the years is at creating category demand.
But what if I am a smaller player and manage to create a cultural movement of sorts. Won't that benefit me?
Yes and no. Again, say you're a small brand like Sierra Nevada. You may create something like "Chug Chug," people may like it, it may take off...but the problem is, most consumers are still going to buy Bud Light. It's the category captain, the category leader. Whenever you generate primary demand, all boats rise...but the big boats rise more.
If you go to the grocery store and think about "Dilly Dilly," you're probably going to automatically go to the beer that is top of mind--one of the top three market share brands.
A small beer would have to create selective demand, which means to give consumers a reason to pick their beer over everything else available. Selective demand might be "cool Nevada mountain streams," "amazing hops"...that's creating selective demand.
If a consumer wants that package of benefits, they'll pick that beer over all the others. That's beer against beer.
That's why most advertising is focused on creating selective demand. You have to be the largest player in the category to pull off category level demand.
Still, I see a lot of brands try to create category demand, even though they're nowhere near the largest players.
A perfect example of that is Turkish Airlines. I've beaten them up two years in a row. [Laughs.] They're notorious for it.
The first year they had Morgan Freeman and spent a ton of money on effects to fill the plane with a bunch of Morgan Freemans.
Basically, they were trying to follow the Bud playbook: If we show people how wonderful international travel is, that they may run into Morgan on the plane...that will help us put more butts in seats.
The problem is, the only time the brand is shown is for a few seconds of that classic "airplane shot," and then at the very end. And that means most people who remember it will think of it as "the Morgan Freeman ad."
The ad creates category demand: See amazing places, travel overseas...but which airline will you fly? If you live in Chicago, you'll probably fly United. If you live in Atlanta, you'll probably fly Delta. If you live in Frankfurt, you'll probably fly Lufthansa.
Turkish created primary demand--travel to see amazing places--but they didn't create greater demand for flying Turkish Airlines specifically.
Do that once, and wouldn't you decide not to do that again?
Nope. This year Turkish Airlines did the same thing except they used Dr. Oz. He was their spokesperson, he takes you on a journey that uses your five senses...and again, the tag line is "Widen your world."
But that's creating category level demand. Maybe that commercial did make you think about taking a great summer vacation. But very little of that demand goes to the actual brand. You can "widen your world" with another airline, or on a cruise ship, or with Amtrak, or with a rental car....
Let's go back to "Dilly Dilly." Clearly it worked, but it still had to feel like a huge risk. It could have easily fallen flat and been a huge waste of time and money.
Let's talk about how that process plays out. I'll use Bud as an example, but you can plug any major brand into this scenario.
There's a person at Anheuser-Busch that "owns" Bud Light as a brand. A-B develops a creative brief that gives direction to the ad agency: What demographic you want to reach, what markets, what attributes...basically a how-to blueprint for who will drink Bud Light and how you can sell millions of cases.
The agency says, "What does that target audience do?" Well, many of them are watching Game of Thrones. "What are the drinking occasions?" Well, many of them go to parties.
So let's use a metaphor for something they already like: Game of Thrones. And let's speak to a common problem: If you're the host or you're a guest, what beer do you bring? That creates a lot of stress. So let's solve that while speaking to the target audience. And let's have fun with it.
And then they test and test and test it.
Remember the "Wassup?" campaign? When that came out I thought it was awful. But they had concept tested it with their target audience.
Sometimes you see an ad and it doesn't make sense to you...but you're not the target for that product. Like you with "Dilly Dilly." That ad wasn't intended for you. That's why it had to grow on you.
Ads are like movies. Studios constantly test concepts before the full film ever sees the light of day. Advertising goes through the same process.
The "Wassup?" campaign turned out to be pretty funny.
True. But while creating entertaining ads is great, in that case they still had to help sell beer. (Which those ads did.)
There have been plenty of campaigns that were extremely funny...but sales actually went down.
Great story without sales is art. Great story with strategy is marketing.