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Amazon, JCPenney respond to ?The Dress? color debate on Twitter

Amazon and JCPenney are two of the top retailers that quickly responded to the worldwide social media buzz concerning a post about a dress that provoked a debate late last week over the color of the garment's stripes, underscoring how mobile moments can help brands connect with today's consumers. 

Late last week, Twitter and Facebook were barreled by posts from users trying to convince each other that the striped dress was black-and-blue or white-and-gold, prompting an intense debate that led to many memes, GIFs and jokes. Many retailers also joined in on the fun by posting their own products in the same colors as the dress and taking a stance on its true shades, providing an optimal opportunity to drive awareness of items.

?While viral moments can?t be planned for, retail brands should always be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities,? said Jodi Phillips, vice president of media strategy at BLiNQ Media, Atlanta, GA. ?Having a content strategy that plans for reactive right time/real-time moments is important.

?As a brand you should have listening being applied for terminology and trends that have to do with your brand and your audience that you can leverage at all times, heightened around specific events such as the Super Bowl or the Oscars,? she said. ?There should be a consideration around events that you can expect potential spikes in commentary that might very well relate to your brand and attempt to have a copy or creative prepared.?

Clever Tweets
Several brands were able to think quickly and release cleverly worded Tweets that commented on ?The Dress? situation and also highlighted their products. Xbox got in on the action by posting a photo of its blue video game console with the caption ?So do you think this is #whiteandgold too??

PlayStation cheekily responded to the debate with a vote for ?Blue and black.?

Meanwhile, Amazon showcased a blue-patterned sleeveless dress with a black belt, labeling it ?#TeamBlue? with a hyperlink to the product page.

JCPenney fired back with a similar Tweet of a blue-and-black dress, teasing consumers by saying ?We promise, we aren't messing with you. This dress is blue and black. #TheDress #Blueandblack #WhiteandGold.?

Victoria?s Secret tapped the real-time debate by pushing awareness of its first-ever VS Swim Special, which was airing on television on Thursday night. The brand posted a message to fuel more viewers to tune in, saying ?The dress is white & gold...time to get over it & watch the #VSSwimSpecial!!?

?If retail brands want to have the kind of real-time success Oreo had with its ?Dunk in the Dark? tweet, make sure your brand and your message fit organically into this moment,? said Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer of G/O Digital, Chicago, IL. ?And if your marketing teams truly get your brand?s identity, they can switch gears easily in moments like these to craft timely, relevant messages that stay true to who your brand is, what it sells, the kinds of stories it tells and the kinds of experiences it builds everyday.

?People can tell pretty quickly when a person ? or a brand ? is trying too hard.?

Missed opportunity
However, retail marketers also missed a prime opportunity to offer consumers a call-to-action via social media by posting promotional codes or flash sales. While many services such as Lyft did choose to advertise with dress-related Tweets, they did not also provide users with a coupon code that could spur sales.

?I can almost guarantee that retailers like JCPenney and Amazon have seen their site traffic received a traffic bump last night,? Mr. Fagel said. ?But getting a quick spike isn?t necessarily an indicator of success ? it?s about what these retailers do to make all those visitors get something ?needed? or ?special? or ?new? out of the experience when they land on and that it prompts them to go beyond the home page, head into specific product category pages or even sales, and checkout.?

An optimal type of Tweet to post could have provided a two-hour flash sale for dresses in blue, black, white or gold shades for retailers, while ride-sharing apps could have offered consumers a small discount to help them get to their favorite mall or shopping center to pick out their own version of ?The Dress.?

?We think the optimal strategy was to post a black/blue or white/gold item and offer it at a discounted price, letting users know which ?team? your brand is on and also providing an incentive to purchase your product instead,? Ms. Phillips said. 

While brands did not get involved in Snapchat as a marketing tool during the fiery debate, the photo-sharing mobile app is also a useful platform for marketers seeking to participate in live events and reach wide audiences of consumers.

Users appreciate being able to view crowdsourced content featuring other individuals? reactions or experiences at events (see story).

?Another strategy would be for retailers to use the moment to invite their loyal shoppers to be in the moment,? Mr. Fagel said. ?In other words, a retailer like JCPenney could create a quiz or contest to ask shoppers to post dresses from their closets that might play similar color mind-tricks on them and then, link to the contest/quiz on the home page of

?That makes the engagement feel authentic and less self-serving ? and that?s what will get that initial spike of traffic to go beyond the home page and potentially buy an item.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York