Content Marketing and The Great Dress Debacle

Reading time: 2 min

dress Yesterday, a picture of a gold and white and/or black and blue dress was posted on the Internet – and it’s still circulating. WIRED, Times, Yahoo, BuzzFeed, Reddit, ABC, Business Insider, … they’ve all joined in the conversation. So what’s going on here? Lots of experts have weighed in to explain the phenomenon. Designers, neurologists, psychologists as well as health and vision professionals have spoken up, explaining that it’s just an optical illusion, albeit a very impressive one. Our eyes and brains can fool us depending on a lot of factors, some understood and some not. black blue white gold dress There’s one thing we do understand, though, and it’s that this was a very successful marketing ploy, intentional or not. Search for “gold and white” or “black and blue” and Google will return over 800 million results. Search in the news section and it will still return over 46 million today. The circulation of this image was so successful that we can’t help but imagine that maybe it was all a conspiracy in the first place… So for the sake of argument, let’s pretend it was all on purpose. What can you, as a marketer, learn from the Great Dress Debacle? How could you reproduce this campaign for your own content, perhaps even with a different dress design – say, a black and red dress versus a white and purple one?


It always starts with content. First, you’d generate two versions of dresses, one in black and red, one in white and purple. You’d make two photos – one professional photo to sit calmly on your website and one that’s more homemade looking and authentic – for people to share. You’d make sure everything else about the images was identical, especially exposure and white balance. It’s not so uncommon for dresses to come in separate colors, so this has to be convincing.

Dispute, not debate

You’d make the colors you chose so undeniably opposite that there’d be no room for discussion or middle ground. It’s not a debate, it’s a dispute. No one would bother to argue about different shades of grey or even different hues of the same shade. Make the difference so clear that if someone were to see the dress in one color, they’d become absolutely infuriated to imagine that it could possibly be another in reality. No one wants to believe they’re going crazy.

Randomization of who sees what

Start by posting just the professional photo on your own website, nonchalantly, and use logic to show half of your users the one dress and half of them the other. No one will think twice, until…

Credible, offline validation

The blue and black and/or white and gold dress phenomenon started when Scottish singer Caitlin McNeill shared the photo on her Tumblr. Her friend’s mother had been wearing the dress at a wedding and people in real time witnessed the dress in two different colors simultaneously. People don’t trust the Internet blindly, but you’d only need a few people to vouch for you. Find someone credible, with somewhat of a following, to share your post along with their own homemade-looking photo, and bend the truth.


Off it goes. Vote up, participate, poll, share, like, favorite… It’s all content marketing! And for the record, it’s white and gold. [Editor’s note: No, it’s blue and black.]  black blue dress

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