#TheDress, also known as #DressGate and spread under further hashtags such as #WhiteandGold and #BlackandBlue, hit the internet on Tumblr just under a week ago and it’s still being talked about now. It’s being claimed that #TheDress “broke the internet” even more than Kim Kardashian did back in November with her NSFW photo shoot for Paper Magazine.

The dress broke the Internet. pic.twitter.com/KytsKvSyZq

— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) February 27, 2015

It leapt right off our screens, so that people were talking about it in real life too, making connections and bonding with each other over this little thing or offending each other. Friday morning in the Bronco office was partially spent with half the team gathered around a single computer trying to figure out whether the others were trying to pull one over on the rest of us, we couldn’t really be seeing different things, could we? So we kept an eye on it throughout the day and watched its boom across social media.
But why? What made a simple,single image, and one that’s not even great quality, spread across social media so quickly that it hit the headlines of national news outlets around the world?

It was easy to get involved in

People of the modern world digest information in small bites – with the huge amounts of information available in seconds at our fingertips, we don’t want to waste time on the trivial things. #TheDress is a single image with a simple question: “What colours do you see?”. It’s quick and easy to get involved with; all you need is the ability to see colour to be able to give your opinion on it. And people like to feel they’re involved, having the support of one side of the argument or the other just like they did with #TeamEdward and #TeamJacob with the Twilight franchise.

Influencers started sharing it

I don't understand this odd dress debate and I feel like it's a trick somehow. I'm confused and scared. PS it's OBVIOUSLY BLUE AND BLACK

— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) February 27, 2015

And for everyone asking I see blue and black

— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) February 27, 2015

If that's not White and Gold the universe is falling apart. Seriously what is happening????

— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) February 27, 2015

Celebrities around the world even got in on the debate. Not only were we “regular people” trying to figure out what was going on with our eyes, the elite around the world couldn’t make up their minds either, from Taylor Swift being “confused and scared” to Justin Bieber staking out the blue and black camp, whereas Anna Kendrick was firmly on the white and gold side. And then the brands got in on it too; everybody wanted a piece of it and latched on to its viral trail creating parodies of it:

Fashionably late? #TheDress pic.twitter.com/qGVecgt4mz

— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 27, 2015

So do you think this is #whiteandgold too? pic.twitter.com/C829igRjVq

— Xbox (@Xbox) February 27, 2015

Once you’ve got one major influencer sharing a piece of content, others begin to pick up on it, and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a viral piece on your hands.

It created conflict

What color is that dress? I see white & gold. Kanye sees black & blue, who is color blind?

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 27, 2015

We all like a bit of conflict, especially if it’s confined to the internet where we’re essentially faceless when giving across our opinions, and even more so if it’s trivial enough to cause debates but not offend anybody. The internet essentially thrives on conflict. If Kim Kardashian and Kanye couldn’t agree on the colours of a dress, then who can?! Competition is a natural instinct in humans, it motivates us to become better people and to get more involved in something. Everyone wants to stick to their side and get their point heard, and with something so straightforward, it’s easy to do that.

It elicits emotion

Buzzsumo recently published some research on why content goes viral at the Huffington Post showing that you need to invoke awe, amusement or laughter in consumers, and it also needs to appeal to their narcissism. #TheDress somehow manages to tick both these boxes, despite it not having a content plan behind it, nor an objective to reach certain people. It’s just a simple image, with a simple question, but it allows people to talk about themselves and their experience of the photo. People felt awe since the person next to them might be experiencing something entirely different from them – how can someone in the exact same situation and setting be seeing something else?! Humans are curious creatures naturally, we want to know why this is happening, so others attempted to explain it and solve the mystery (why do you think crime series are so popular?), following up with articles and blog posts delving into everything from an actual scientific explanation (the dress really is blue and black, but the optical illusion causes our brains to interpret it differently apparently) to theories that everyone on the other side is simply trying to mess with our minds, and this only serves to expand the viral reach even further.

What can we learn from this from a marketing point of view?

And so, there’s only one question left to ask, what colour do I see the dress? Well, it might not be controversial, but I’m #TeamWhiteandGold all the way!

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