Or was it white and gold? I guess it doesn’t matter at this point.

On one cold February day a Tumblr post about a dress whipped the internet into a frenzy. This wasn’t a marketing campaign or a well crafted social media post, it was good old fashioned viral content. Unintentional and completely nuts.

black and blue dress

What came after was a stampede of brands attempting to get in on the action all in the name of engaging their audience. In the end only one organization bottled up that lightning in a way no one else could. That was BuzzFeed.

40 million views. That’s a very real number of views BuzzFeed garnered on a single article about the dress. That’s the kind of number that creates jealousy and spurs fruitless meetings on how to achieve the same results.

How do you achieve that type of engagement? Well, you don’t.

As one marketing analyst put it, what we saw here was “an organization at the peak of a craft they’ve been honing since 2006.”

When BuzzFeed was founded they made it their mission to recognize and document the internet’s most clickable and shareable trends and topics. It’s what they were put on this planet to do and they’re very good at it. Yes, they get a lot of flack for their list articles and click-bait titles, which may or may not be deserved, but it’s what works for them.

You are not BuzzFeed, and that’s okay.

The flurry of brands racing to get content out that pertained to the dress had varying degrees of success and failure. Mostly failure. There were a handful of amusing ones and there were some harmless ones that only consisted of taking a stance on the matter. Then there were the attempts at loosely connecting the dress to a product or service with the finesse and strength of duct tape and chewing gum.

The lesson here is simple. Play to your strengths. Your brand is unique and has its own set of capabilities and pitfalls.

While it’s relatively harmless to drop your two cents in the bucket don’t expect the same kind of return when you’re pandering to an audience that isn’t your own.

Quality of traffic over quantity.

BuzzFeed generates revenue through aggregate eyeballs. It doesn’t matter where they come from. For a traditional model that survives only when users convert, at some point the business needs to be recognized for value.

I’m not saying to not tweet about the dress or whatever else reaches virality. Please do. It’s like when you’re at a ball game and you see the wave coming your way. It only takes a second and you’ll feel like a weirdo for not participating. It’s fun.

But to marketing teams everywhere: don’t try to recreate the phenomenon. As tasty as that traffic seems, you’ll only end up hurting yourself.