On a Nightline segment last Friday, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti and editor in chief Ben Smith addressed the question, “What makes something go viral?” For the content on their site, they had four general rules for turning blog posts into memes: having heart, being timely, nostalgia, and cute animals. Surprisingly, what works for a general interest pop culture site like BuzzFeed isn’t too far off from what works in the wider world of brand advertising. Though there aren’t any Corgis or ’90s reminiscences, an example of something that has heart and definitely captures a timely societal conversation is Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’. In the video above, L2’s Head of Research & Advisory Maureen Mullen discusses what it was about this latest Dove campaign (which has now amassed more than 44 million views in just over two weeks) that sparked such massive and sustained popularity. By choosing a universally accessible topic like beauty vs. self-esteem and engaging directly with fans who thoughtfully objected to the ad on social media, Dove tapped into serious viral success, with ‘Sketches’ now the most watched brand-created beauty video of all time.

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