RuPaul Drag Race H&M brandInspired
From our brandInspired newsletter
This week’s brandInspired is brought by a special guest, Paul Whiting of PW Does.

Paul is a multi-award winning marketer who has spent over a decade promoting most well-loved brands in the leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors. He’s also a HUGE Drag Race fan, so I asked him if he’d share his insights from the world of Drag this week.

I Don’t Want to See You NOT Listening Out For Brand Opportunities!

This past week the entire nation has been in a state of shock and disbelief, with many still not able to shake off the events from their minds. No, this isn’t linked to the ongoing pandemic (for once) nor is it a major sporting upset. We are talking Drag – THAT dress – and what brands can learn from the whole incident that left us gooped, gagged and shook.

It all took place on a snowy evening last Thursday when millions settled down to watch the fifth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Series 2, a show that has well-surpassed cult status, to reach a wide, mainstream audience.

Long story short; two groups competed to have the best Drag Eurovision song, with one team ending up in the bottom and up for elimination. As part of the judging, the high priestess of Drag, one RuPaul Charles, was less than impressed that one of the queens (contestants) called Joe Black had worn an ‘off the hanger’ dress as part of the challenge. Joe admitted the high street chain it came from (H&M) – and a meme was born.

You can watch the full scene here.

Now, this was absolutely the height of Drag Race drama but what has this got to do with improving your marketing? A lot more than you think…

Your actionable takeaway

Alongside the hordes absolutely living for this moment, the Marketer in me saw the opportunity at H&M’s feet – and I was anxiously excited to see their clever, witty and possibly even cutting response to Mama Ru and her ‘read’ of the brand.

Nothing. No engagement. It took a competitor brand getting involved in the action to bring them to life.

H&M did try and make up for lost time, sending a Valentine’s cake to Joe Black and generated some PR but they missed out on the optimum furore on the night itself and the next morning.

When your brand is well behind the excitable Twitterati (this guest-writer included) as well as the Tiktokers (who created some brilliantly funny pieces) you miss out on taking control and benefiting from the excitement.

So what can you do in a situation like this?

Simply this, be ready to react when an opportunity falls into your lap. You might not be mentioned directly on a national television programme but your customers certainly have favourite media choices and in those, there may be a jaw-dropping storyline or a special announcement that fits in perfectly with what you offer.

  • Think about the types of shows/games/podcasts your audience actively engages in and set up brand listening opportunities. This could include:
    • Google notifications
    • Monitoring hashtags across social media platforms
  • When an opportunity does arise – take advantage quickly, there are no prizes when you get to the online party late
    • Post supporting activity, comment on other activity – anything, be part of the conversation
    • Don’t be afraid to link to product/services on your site
  • Always find the fun – like the H&M example – sometimes the comparison might not be 100% complimentary but you can spin this with a sense of humour

A business that certainly took advantage of ‘H&MGate’ was Binge Designs, who that night designed and released a new range to take advantage of the social media excitement their target audience was indulging in.

In our ‘always on’ media landscape, there are always opportunities to engage, delight and surprise our audience. This will cost you nothing and gives you more content across your channels.

If only I had more time I could tell you about the second sensation to come from the same episode that has continued into this week, alas. Search ‘Bing Bang Bong’ and you’ll see.


Thanks for that insight, Paul. With deep expertise in blending together digital and traditional channels, he’s created compelling, far-reaching and impactful experiences that drive commercial success.

You can discover more on his consultancy, which has partnered with milnerCreative on several occasions at

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Each week we send our brandInspired newsletter out to business owners and marketers. We take a campaign from a brand and share actionable tips that you can apply to your business.

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