Who is Tie Dye Guy? Organic marketing campaign goes viral

Hulu turns heads in NYC with creative way to draw attention to new show


David Rivera

Comedy legends Steven Martin and Martin Short have teamed up with former Disney Channel actress Selena Gomez to star in Hulu’s new original murder mystery-comedy TV show, ‘Only Murders in the Building’.

‘Only Murders in the Building’ has become Hulu’s most acclaimed show to date, and it has been rated as one of the two best shows released in 2021 so far, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Its success not only relies on the cast’s great acting skills and unpredictable story, but also in Hulu’s advertisement team.

“I just had this thought over ten years ago, and it was for three older guys who live in a building in New York who realize they have a common interest in solving crime, but because they are old they don’t want to go outside the building because it’s too tiring, so they decide just to do only murders in the building,” actor Steve Martin said, during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “And then I was explaining it to Marty [Short] one day, and he said ‘you know, we’re old’. And then Selena [Gomez] came along.”

In the show, there is a character known as the ‘Tie-Dye Guy’ because of his tie-dye sweater. He is one of the biggest suspects of the murder in the building, since nobody knows who he is, and he was seen the day that the murder was committed. 

Hulu took advantage of this mysterious character, and turned it into an advertisement campaign.

The campaign took place this past Wednesday afternoon in New York City, which consisted of a group of young adults dressed as ‘Tie-Dye Guy’ walking around the city of Manhattan. 

Social media has its flaws, but one of its greatest strengths is allowing consumers to engage with one another online.

— Siobhan Sullivan, marketing instructor at Everett High School.

The in-person campaign included a photo shoot with the main cast of the show and the Tie-Dye group after their interview on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’. This culminated in a video projected on one of the walls of the Museum of Arts and Design building, which emphasized the Tie-Dye Guy, further increasing the intrigue for the character among fans of the show.

New Yorkers witnessing the presence of the ‘Tie-Dye Guy’ group instantly recognized the character, and excitedly began sharing photos and videos on Twitter with the hashtag #WhoIsTieDyeGuy, which became a trending topic. This is what we call organic advertising, where consumers create social media content for a product or service without expecting monetary compensation in return. 

“Social media has its flaws, but one of its greatest strengths is allowing consumers to engage with one another online,” EHS marketing instructor Siobhan Sullivan said.

“When a company is able to rely on consumers for free, organic advertising, it often results in this domino effect of success,” Sullivan said. “We can look at many examples of free advertising via social media in recent years like Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich, or more recently Marvel’s Shang-Chi which went viral with positive reviews after it was released in theaters.

“When something goes viral on social media it’s either positive or negative for a specific company,” added Sullivan. “When it’s positive, it’s great for the company, and in this case, Hulu is on the successful end of a viral hashtag.”

This advertising campaign was also successful because of its unique and never-before-seen nature, which included an event. In this campaign the focus was not on traditional or digital advertising, but on seeing the ‘Tie-Dye Guy’ group in person and having the opportunity to photograph and record them.

Part of the reason why this campaign was so successful was because of the experience of feeling like being inside the show. Hulu really broke the fourth wall.

Hulu’s advertising team thought carefully about when to launch the #WhoIsTieDyeGuy campaign, since if it had been carried out a year ago it would not have had the same success it has had now because of the lockdowns due to Covid-19. In addition, the early September campaign launch gives fans time to find their Halloween costumes, which translates into more organic publicity for the show.