On Thursday evening, a relatively unknown 21-year-old Tumblr user asked the internet for help in resolving an argument over the colour scheme of a $77 dress worn by her friend’s mother.
“Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?” wrote Caitlin McNeill on swiked.tumblr.com. “Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the f*** out.”
The image included in that post went on to become one of the most quickly and widely-shared viral images the world of social media has ever witnessed, dominating Tumblr dashboards, Twitter timelines and Facebook newsfeeds within just hours of being uploaded.
Shortly after 8 p.m., Jon Passantino of Buzzfeed (the first media outlet to jump on the dress story) announced that more than half his site’s traffic was coming from a 6:14 p.m. ET post asking readers whether the dress was black and blue or gold and white.
That post has now been seen nearly 30 million times in less than 24 hours.
"I definitely can't recall the last time I saw a single meme trend so powerfully so quickly,” said viral content expert Neetzan Zimmerman (of Gawker fame) to Motherboard in reference to a tweet in which he had called the dress trend 'the viral singularity.' "I honestly don't know what I would compare it to.”
Seriously though, the traffic this dress is generating is no fucking joke. This is the Viral Singularity.— @neetzan
Some have tried likening #TheDress to Kim Kardashian’s infamous “internet-breaking” butt photo, but when it comes to the volume of social shares the two trends don't even begin to compare.
Just over 300,000 tweets containing the terms “Kardashian” or “#BreakTheInternet” were shared within 24 hours of Kim K’s provocative photo being published.
Less than 24 hours after Buzzfeed posted about the blue and black / gold and white controversy, “#TheDress” alone has more than 1.4 million tweets, dozens of them from high-profile celebrity accounts with millions of followers themselves.
Unlike Kardashian’s well-teased nudes (or any trend born out of Super Bowl, Oscar or election coverage for that matter,) this dress came straight out of left field. Nobody was expecting an image of a dress from Tumblr to go viral last night, especially after the internet had already blessed us with a high-speed (okay, medium-speed) llama chase. But with many marketing agencies now offering 24/7 around-the-clock services (and their clients presumably making someone available for approvals outside the 9-5 block) this humble Tumblr dress prompted more branded tweets than any viral phenom we've ever seen before.
At this point, it’s safe to say that the majority of hardcore Twitter users are sick of seeing "rapid response social media marketing" tweets from brands — and with good reason. I mean, It's been two years since the Oreo Super Bowl tweet guys. Step it up. Nearly every major corporate attempt to capitalize on a viral trend is now met with at least some degree of mockery, derision, or straight-up contempt on Twitter — not to mention the amount of snarky blog posts and “social media fail” pieces they inspire.
And yet, they just don't stop — no matter how much the internet smacks down their dated attempts to be cool. Below are just a fraction of the tweets sent by brands trying to get in on the internet's latest mass kerfuffle over the past 24 hours. To see how Twitter users reacted, simply click on the tweet itself and view the replies — like this one from Twitter user Brandon Borders:
(On mobile? Click here to see all of the dress-related brand tweets.)