Today marks one year since two viral sensations gripped the internet and captured the world’s collective attention.
On February 26, 2015, in Sun City, Arizona, two llamas escaped from a visit to a retirement community and ran free, eluding attempts by the police to capture them again and again. Twitter blew up with llama chatter, and Shepard Smith narrated the live helicopter footage on Fox News:
Hours later, Buzzfeed sparked a cultural phenomenon by challenging the world to answer the impossible question, “What Colors Are This Dress?”
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) February 26, 2015
Millions of people voted in Buzzfeed’s poll, and newsfeeds were flooded with messages of confusion, fear and wonder that a photo of a dress could cause such controversy.
One day of llama/dress fever and the ongoing media storm that followed put the spotlight on how quickly visual content can travel in the visual age. Who knew live footage of two llamas walking down the road and a picture of a dress could make us drop everything and gawk at our screens? Viral content gives us an opportunity to be a part of a collective experience. If you weren’t cheering #TeamLlama and monitoring #DressGate a year ago, you missed out on a moment shared by millions of people. Even now, we are all still talking about it – case in point, Avocados from Mexico mentioned “the dress that caused a civil war” in its futuristic Super Bowl commercial.
Viral mania isn’t restricted to individuals – on February 26, brands were dropping everything right along with us to join the conversation. Brands shared timely photos and videos, and delighted us with their witty references.
Disney responded to the llama chase with the perfect photo / Disney reference.
Llama drama. pic.twitter.com/lt6RZNURWZ
— Disney (@Disney) February 26, 2015
Meanwhile, Pizza Hut poked fun at the dress debate by sharing a photo of pizza (indisputably white and gold).
It's white and gold. pic.twitter.com/OqrPgKx6r4
— Pizza Hut (@pizzahut) February 27, 2015
In this epic Buzzfeed article recapping the day that broke the internet, Jenna Bromberg, senior manager of digital engagement for Pizza Hut, sums it all up perfectly:
Bromberg, Pizza Hut: The best part of the internet and the best part of social media is that laser-focused engagement on one thing in the same time and this profound sense of community. And, you know, our generation — we never had a moon landing. We had a dress and some llamas.
The point is this: the next time lightning strikes, be ready to participate. Make sure your organization has an arsenal of photos and videos you can access and search quickly and easily (because if you can’t find it fast, you’ll miss the moment). I’m not saying you have to be Oreo during the Super Bowl. I’m saying that even if your joke isn’t the funniest or your brand doesn’t get the most retweets, it’s worth it to be a part of the collective experience. Your fans will be delighted that you – an organization – are just as captivated by a blue and black dress as they are (if it really is blue and black… I have to admit I’ve never seen anything other than white and gold).