Mainstream beer brands have been humbled by the unexpected success of upstart craft beer brands, but mass brands have one thing that craft brands currently do not have – deep pockets that can come in handy when trying to create culturally-iconic advertising campaigns.

Along those lines, Anheuser-Busch InBev is in the process of showing how mass brands can strike back against craft beer with an advertising campaign for its Bud Light brand called ‘Dilly Dilly’ that has gone viral.

Set in medieval times, ‘Dilly Dilly’ depicts several individuals in a medieval court raising bottles of Bud Light to the celebratory phrase ‘Dilly Dilly.’ The television ad campaign has run in heavy rotation during the fall and early winter sports programming season in America and is almost certain to be the focus of AB InBev’s upcoming Super Bowl ad in February 2018.

The silly and nonsensical ‘Dilly Dilly’ phrase has quickly gone viral, leading many to ask just what it means. Inquiring minds wonder if there is a deeper meeting or perhaps medieval roots to a phrase that has captivated American television and social media.

It turns out that ‘Dilly Dilly’ doesn’t mean anything at all. AB InBev Chief Marketing Officer Miguel Patricio recently confirmed that fact in an interview with Business Insider where he remarked that the ‘Dilly Dilly’ phrase did not even test well, but the company had a gut feeling that consumers would ‘get it.’

That gut feeling was aided by the continued popularity of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ series which ‘Dilly Dilly’ seems to echo. At the time when ‘Dilly Dilly’ ads first broke, ‘Game of Thrones’ was just wrapping up its seventh season. Commenting on the campaign, Patricio noted that “’Dilly Dilly’ doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty of it,” he noted. “We all need our moments of nonsense and fun.”

How do you know that an ad campaign really connects with the public and becomes culturally iconic? According to Patricio, “one of the proofs of success, nowadays, from a cultural standpoint is when you go to Amazon and you don’t do anything (and) there are already people selling t-shirts (with your catch phrase on them).” Mission accomplished.

Social media take-up is another metric for success. At last count, the number of #DillyDilly posts on Instagram topped 37,000 in mid-December 2017. Google searches on ‘Dilly Dilly’ from October 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017 have risen nearly four-fold.

AB InBev’s craft beer competitors are even trying to cash in. Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Modist Brewing Company recently released Dilly Dilly Double IPA, described as a ‘massively dry-hopped’ double IPA brewed with English floor malted barley and a ‘dilly’ of oats. The 8% ABV drink is said to provide a ‘dilly of a good time.’

Not amused, AB InBev hit Modist Brewery with a cease and desist order. But what separated this action from the usual legal maneuvering over trademarks was the way that AB InBev chose to convey the news to Modist. AB InBev sent a ‘town crier’ actor dressed in medieval garb through the front doors of Modist to read the legal order from a roll of parchment paper. Staying in character, the town crier read the order in an old English accent, ending the session with an unusual peace offering – a pair of Super Bowl tickets in exchange for a promise that Modist sell the existing stock of Dilly Dilly Double IPA and make no more of the brew.

The entire exchange was filmed and later uploaded to social media, giving AB InBev an amusing and potentially viral retort for craft breweries and their fans that believe that the beer giant doesn’t ‘play fair.’

An amusing and easy-to-remember bar call like ‘Dilly Dilly’ matters in the beer business where the simple process of ordering a beer at a noisy bar is not as simple as it once was. Consumers faced with an explosion of choice at the bar (thanks to a flood of new craft beer offerings) may find the simplicity of saying ‘Dilly Dilly’ refreshing.

The memorable bar call also provides a lesson to new product innovators preparing for a world where digital voice assistants may soon be calling the shots. Stand-alone devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home allow consumers to state their brand preferences in natural language, removing the need to interact with a clunky website or tricky retailer app.

Direct ordering from digital voice assistants is just beginning to come on stream, and could one day be a huge disruptive force. In late-November, the Sheetz convenience store chain in the US announced that it had become the first retailer of its type to enable Amazon Alexa voice-activated ordering. Others are sure to follow.

Sheetz was also the first store of its type to implement touch-screen ordering in 1993 for its fast-food offerings, and the chain hopes to do the same for voice ordering. Once the Sheetz ordering skill’ is set up through any Alexa-enabled device, simply saying “Alexa, order my favourite from Sheez” will initiate the ordering process.

While beer ordering has more complications than fast-food ordering (age verification, for one), it is easy to see a day when FMCG shopping may be done via voice. Brands with the most memorable catchphrases will likely be much better off than brands with names that do not roll off the tongue nearly as effortlessly.

It is easy to see a day in the future when competitive battles are won or lost based on how easily a brand can be ordered by a voice command. How a brand name sounds may become a crucial component to success in the future.

The market for digital voice assistants is in its infancy, but is changing rapidly. According to a new survey on digital voice assistant usage, the Pew Research Center says that 46% of American adults say they use currently use voice assistants. 42% of respondents say they use smartphone voice assistants like Siri for Apple’s iPhone. Just 8% of American adults say they use voice assistants on stand-alone devices – a type of innovation which has been pitched for in-home use.

As is the case with many technology-based applications, younger consumers are leading the way. The Pew study found that a majority of Americans ages 18-49 – 55% – say they use voice assistants. Just 37% of consumers age 50 and older say they use them.

Voice assistants are potential game changers because they let consumers use electronic devices without using the hands. No typing or texting skill is required. Voice assistants are also seen as being easier for children to use than existing tech devices which means younger generations may go completely ‘hands free’ at some future point in time. Will FMCG brands be ready for this brave new world?

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