White and gold, black and blue; science project or social media marvel – whatever it was, #thedress took the world by storm in recent weeks as people hotly debated the color of an otherwise inconsequential frock.
Why did something so random get so much attention? It wasn’t the dress of a famous person. It wasn’t even a picture of a whole dress. It wasn’t even a nicely composed photograph.
It was simply an image that was open to interpretation over the simple matter of what color the garment was.
And that’s what made it appealing.
Consider two things about the world we live in. First, we are divided. Recent events and all the media spin that comes with them continue to polarize the way we see things racially, politically and socially. Second, we all have a platform to speak from. Whether you’re tweeting, sharing a status update or posting in any of the hundreds of other digital forums available to you, you have a place to put your voice front and center.
I think we can all agree that we’ve seen examples of these “things” intersecting in a bad way. On Facebook, people regularly weed out their friends list when the news feed gets too packed with passionate statements from people who share opinions on controversial or sensitive topics. The spirit of debate rarely survives the social media thread that devolves to utterly insensitive statements or outright trolling. But when it came to the “the dress,” the difference in opinion actually created fun rather than fury.
We didn’t see the “white/gold” camp referring to the “blue/black” camp as idiots with flawed vision, we saw people claim how “interesting” it was that we all see something different. We saw scientists weigh in with articles on how vision works. We saw regular people share their perspective on the photograph by walking us through an analysis of color filters in Photoshop.
I think we saw a population that was refreshed to have a discussion of contrasting opinions based on something other than race, politics or social status.
Let’s face it — nobody really cares about #thedress, but I believe it’s the insignificance of it all that attracted people. We got to play by the rules of the world we live in (pick your side, then share your stance), without drumming up any stress in our lives.
There’s an important takeaway here that I think marketers can borrow from — give people an easy subject to discuss, and you’ll be more likely to inspire conversation. Steer clear of the three no-no’s (sex, money and religion) and don’t worry about making it something of great substance.
For the record, I believe the dress was white and gold. And super ugly.