“Blue and black? Or white and gold?”
We’re all sick of hearing about The Dress by now. But let’s be honest: while this viral phenomenon might not be as entertaining as Katy Perry’s Left Shark, #TheDress really does have some money-making potential.
How on earth did something as simple as a two-colored dress take over our Facebook feeds, online newspapers and pretty much the entire Internet?
It started with a Tumblr blogger named Swiked, who posted a picture of a lacy dress. It seemed harmless enough, except she mentioned in the update that she was spooked because she saw one color and her friends saw another. Then BuzzFeed picked it up, which sparked waves of traffic and controversy. Many people online clearly saw a gold and white dress, while others swore it was blue and black or blue and brown. (For the record, I see blue and brown.) Wired even ran an article on the science behind why we see different colors.
The whole thing seems rather innocuous — unless you wasted half your workday in the break room, discussing the merits of blue and black vs. gold and white — but the impact on social media was astounding. In fact, because of this infamous dress, yesterday was one of the most viral days ever on social media.
What does this mean for a savvy young entrepreneur? Every time something unusual captures the attention of the online world at large, you have a real opportunity to capitalize and earn a meaningful income in a short amount of time.
Here’s how some individuals and brands are banking on #TheDress and how you might do the same:
1. Extend the 15 Minutes of Fame
If you’re lucky enough to be the person who created the viral product or video, be armed and ready to extend your 15 minutes of fame. In this bizarre controversy over The Dress, it doesn’t seem like Caitlin McNeill, who took the original photo, really capitalized on it. She might have talked to a few people in the media, but she could have booked interviews for the entire week while the story was still hot. She could have written a post about it for a respected publication or given exclusive interviews for a high fee. She also might have worked with the company who created the dress on some sort of publicity partnership.
The makers of the dress, on the other hand, a women’s clothing company called Roman, embraced this heartily. Completely ignoring everyone who called the dress was ugly, Roman proudly altered its cover photo on Facebook to feature the dress and is running a contest to give away the outfit to someone who shares its version of the photo.
While the company didn’t respond to our requests for information, The Daily News reported Roman saw record sales on Friday. The company sold out of the dress in the first 30 minutes of business on Friday, and they saw a 2,000% increase in website traffic, according to The Daily News. And that web traffic translated to foot traffic, too; shoppers visited their brick-and-mortar stores all day asking about the famous dress.
Ultimately, Roman has enjoyed a massive amount free advertising from this viral photo, and they took smart steps to translate that interest into sales.
UPDATE: Roman got back to us after this article published and confirmed those sales figures, likening sales to Black Friday. “People are loving the dress, all the colors it comes in and also the other styles we sell,” said Ian Johnson, Roman’s creative manager.
2. Create Hilarious Products
If you weren’t the person who created the viral idea to begin with, don’t worry; there are numerous other ways to make a profit. You should always take into account copyright laws when creating products that resemble other people’s work, but if you’re able to take your own photo of the dress or get a likeness of it, you’ll have a lot to work with.
For example, one creative soul recently created t-shirts on CafePress that say, “Team Black and Blue,” though the shirts are, ironically, gold and white. They’re also selling “Team Gold and White” versions, and the shirts sell for $34.
If this route appeals to you, check out our post on how to create wearable art that brings in cash. The trick is to choose a product you can create quickly, so you can ride the viral wave right from the beginning and for as long as possible.
3. Sell Look-Alikes
We now know #TheDress is out of stock, so a savvy entrepreneur and seamstress might start sewing lookalikes and selling them, perhaps on Etsy, preferably for a lower rate than what Roman charges ($77 USD). You could also alter the pattern behind The Dress so it works with different styles, like a fuller skirt, for example.
We don’t see anyone doing this yet, but we’re confident look-alike options will flood the web in the next few weeks!
4. Give It Some Personality
We all get a kick out of when a viral product or idea becomes its own personality. #TheDress could have a Twitter feed or Facebook page where it offers commentary about going viral, being worn to a wedding, and having its feelings hurt because so many people are saying it’s not the prettiest dress they’ve ever seen.
The clever person who comes up with this account could certainly make money if the social media account grows in popularity. Remember how popular Angelina Jolie’s right leg was on Twitter a few years back? And the Tumblr account Texts from Hillary (Clinton)?
If you create a hilarious account that gains a high number of followers, leverage that by signing up for SponsoredTweets, so you can get paid to share sponsored updates. If you’re able to grow a YouTube channel around the meme, you have even more options for monetizing, including using affiliate links.
5. Extend the Meme to Whatever You Create or Sell
If you own a company yourself, simply joining the conversation could rally your community and even turn lucrative.
Large companies from Burger King to Dunkin Donuts took to social media on Friday to share images of their own food with cheeky commentary, like Burger King saying their gold crown was actually blue. Small businesses took part, too, with startup Eone Timepieces sharing a photo on Facebook that compared two straps of its tactile watch, asking followers the color question that had by then become ubiquitous.
Taking a playful approach allowed these brands to drive traffic to their own products, show some personality, and benefit from the virality.
So here’s the lesson: Stop fighting with your spouse over the color of the dress. (You know it’s blue and brown anyway.) Instead, put your heads together to find a way to profit off this viral photo… and make a plan to act quickly the next time something this ridiculous takes over the Internet.
Catherine Alford is an award winning personal finance writer and full time blogger. She writes about how to balance life and a budget all across the web including her own site, Budget Blonde.