It’s only 17 hours old, but the number one trend across the internet has been #TheDress. It is the lead story across many websites and is even being reported on by cable news networks. Colors and how we perceive them have become the water cooler talk of the day.
What’s lost in all of this hoopla over “Why am I seeing white and gold?” is that the dress in question is completely sold out. Not just the blue and black dress, but that dress in all of its color combinations. In fact, the dress has received so much buzz that Roman Originals, the retailer that carries it, have said that they might end up ordering the same dress in white and gold fabric. One picture inspired massive demand. That’s viral marketing.
A simple picture posted to a Tumblr page has created a viral sensation. Why? Because, by some chance*, the flash reflected in the mirror of the photo creates a burst of light that confuses your brain. Some people see blue and black, some see white and gold. It’s shared and commented on and then BuzzFeed gets a hold of it, and suddenly the photo becomes an international discussion.
Which brings us to the second winner of #TheDress, BuzzFeed. Celebrities, news outlets, and other bloggers all saw this story and shared it. Some offering real answers to why we see what we see and some just reported on the growing trend. JimRomensko.com posted an email from BuzzFeed’s Senior Communication Manager, who shared that as of 10:28 p.m. on February 26th, “The Dress” brought more than 670,000 users to BuzzFeed - at once.
It’s not the dress that’s viral. It wasn’t designed by a famous designer. By all accounts, it’s a normal dress. It’s the conversation and the engagement that surrounds the dress that makes this picture dynamic. What color do you see? Why do I see a different color? Why did it change before my eyes? Yes, all of these questions can be answered by science and doctors, but no one was actually looking for answers, they were looking to share their own excitement.
BuzzFeed ran with that conversation, having the bandwidth and the brand strength to repurpose a trending topic on Tumblr into a number of posts, using different keywords. Each post gave the story more opportunity to be seen and the audience to grow bigger, and soon the audience became the story.
As news outlets report on how one normal looking dress can be so popular, viewers flock to the original post, the BuzzFeed story and the retail website to see for themselves. As more people share the post, the post itself becomes such a phenomenon that other companies start to treat it as a newsjacking event.
This trend began as a snowball and turned into an avalanche of publicity and chatter. This is viral marketing at work and we’ve all been witnesses and a part of it. Last night, my wife and I spent thirty minutes discussing this dress amongst ourselves, and then slowly, friend after friend started engaging on social media about the picture too.
It’s something to think about as you and your team try to think of ideas that make your business stand out. What makes viral marketing work? It’s about creating content that will spark a discussion. The exchange of thoughts and opinions about a photo or a video is the driving force behind audience growth. The content can range from this dress, to a secret album, or a Target employee, but as long as it creates a conversation and inspires engagement - that’s what matters.
* I use the asterisk, because I’m not totally convinced that #TheDress was just an innocent photo taken. Even if this was the work of an ad agency, it doesn’t make this phenomenon any less special, because to control the conversation the way this one photo has is awe inspiring. Business Insider has a great story that has pulled at some of the strings (pun intended) of the story. Only time will tell.
Nick Pizzolato is the Marketing Content Manager at Wicked Local Media Solutions. For questions, topics for future blogs, or to share your favorite moment from the film “Back to the Future,” email him at email@example.com.