Dove staked its claim to a spot in the marketing hall of fame with its Campaign for Real Beauty. Building on the success that is still the envy of the Consumer Packaged Good industry, Dove, a brand of Unilever (NYSE:UL), went deeper into the ethos of the female consumer with their Real Beauty Sketches. This campaign has garnered more than 56 million views on YouTube alone, and it launched just last month.

The research
We love alarming statistics. How does this one strike you: when polled only 4% of women across the globe consider themselves beautiful. 4%! This makes me feel sick, sad, and scared. Is it any wonder that women earn less than men or that they are so poorly represented in the highest ranks of business?

Think beauty and business have nothing to do with each other? Think again. We don't think we're worthy. We don't think we're enough. How we feel about our beauty, however you want to define that term, has a lot to do with how we allow others to treat us. How we answer the question "Am I beautiful?" is inextricably linked with "Do I deserve to have the life / career / happiness / relationships I want?"

The insight
This 4% statistic also made Dove sit up and take notice. Despite the incredible amount of money and time they'd spent on Campaign for Real Beauty, it hadn't achieved its true underlying objective – to generate confidence in women. So they set out on a new mission – to show women how other people view them, to show women that they are "more beautiful than they think."

The action
Dove hired a sketch artist to create portraits of women who participated in this new campaign. Here's the trick: the artist wasn't allowed to look at the women. He had to draw the women based only on verbal descriptions. The women came into a room and described their appearance to the artist who rendered the sketch from their words. The women then left the room, and another person interviewed each woman. That other person then came into the room and described the woman to the sketch artist. Once both sketches of each woman were complete, Dove hung the sketches side-by-side, and asked each woman to compare the two sketches of her.

The result
In every instance, the sketches created by the artist when the interviewers described the women they met were much more attractive than the sketches created when the women described themselves. People view us as more beautiful than we view ourselves. The proof of truth literally stares back at us. It is powerful, emotive, and unrelenting.


Source: Dove Real Beauty Sketches website

The takeaways for all businesses
For a video to go viral, it must entertain, educate, or be useful. If can do two of these things, or all three, then a brand strikes viral gold. Dove hit a few key marketing principles on the head that allowed them to achieve viral video success with Real Beauty Sketches:

1) Create visuals
As someone who thinks primarily in words, I know that visual impact can be tough to come by but it's critical. You have to show, not tell, because 65% of the world consists of visual learners.

2) Simplicity is key
Dove had a simple objective and they used a very straightforward method to achieve that objective: show women they're beautiful through drawings of their faces. It is easy to explain, understand, capture on video, and share. Virality requires simplicity of approach and product.

3) Keep it short
The full video of Dove Real Beauty Sketches is only 3 minutes long. There is an extended version that runs 6 minutes. The 3-minute version has been viewed over 56 million times. The 6-minute version has been viewed only 3 million times. That's almost a 20X difference. Know what you want to show and get to the point quickly. It's more likely to be viewed and more likely to be shared if its message is concise.

Business goes human
Dove Real Beauty Sketches illustrates the vital role that brands can play in our personal lives. We are starting to see more large corporations take an interest in us far beyond a simple transaction of buying their products. There is a concern, an empathy, that is cropping up and we, as consumers and as a society, will benefit from it.

We are beginning to see that brands understand what we've known all along: business is personal because at its core every business is run by people. Dove shows us that Corporate America, ever so slowly, is joining Team Human. We should welcome that tidal shift with open arms.

Fool contributor Christa Avampato has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Unilever. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.