Wednesday, 11 March 2015

THE Dress & Leveraging Viral News Stories

You’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about ‘the dress’, because from now onwards any talk about the colour combinations ‘black and blue’ and ‘white and gold’ will always whittle back to this one item of clothing. To catch you up, a picture of a seemingly plain dress went viral last week after sparking heated debate on Tumblr (not a hard feat to achieve) about its colour. A range of scientists, celebrities and ordinary people have weighed in, and it seems that there is still a significant divide between the people who see it as a white and gold dress, as opposed to those who see it as clearly black and blue.

Now we won’t get into the scientific details of this dilemma, but instead I wanted to focus on how brands have bought into the hype of this debate. Although most brands have taken the tongue in cheek approach of questioning the colour of their products (L’Oreal put their gold and blue eye shadows head to head), only one has really used this debate to spark a much greater one about domestic abuse. Playing off the connotations of ‘black and blue’, the South African arm of The Salvation Army (TSA) put out a campaign featuring the dress in question (see below), and instantaneously had us questioning our willingness to talk about something so trivial, in lieu of discussing real social issues.

TSA Campaign Image One (Source: SMH)

TSA Campaign Image Two (Source: SMH)

I think there will always be a camp of people that will find brands leveraging off viral news stories as a fickle way to gain engagement, and although it is, I do believe that the means justify the ends in this case. TSA has created a really compelling message out of this previously trivial issue, and although the imagery is confronting, it probably needed to be to really get the message across. The dress in this instance becomes the prop to the overall campaign, and in doing so it became less about the dress, and more about the issue and it’s relevance to society (they quoted that 1 in 6 women are victims of domestic abuse).

This isn’t the first campaign of its kind, but it was a welcome one amidst all the tired jokes and internet-memes surrounding ‘the dress.’ Hopefully other brands will take a page from TSA’s books and leverage viral stories in a more socially responsible manner – there will always be an opportunity to talk about your products, but to impart an important social message leaves a much more lasting impression.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

No comments:

Post a Comment