November is almost upon us, so that can only mean the return of Movember – the charity sensation where men grow a moustache for a month to raise funds for the fight against prostate and testicular cancer.
The unstoppable growth of Movember
From its humble origins little over a decade ago – when a few friends in a pub in Australia discussed getting 30 of their mates to grow a tache for charity – Movember has grown into a global phenomenon. It has raised over €400 million since its inception and has become, in the words of the Sydney Morning Herald, “the single biggest non-governmental funder of prostate cancer research on the planet”. So, how can we explain its astounding growth?
A huge part of Movember’s appeal is that it gives men the charity equivalent of ‘Breast Cancer awareness month’; in other words, it gives men a cause they can rally to, with a tidied tache taking the place of the pink ribbon. However, the month’s events are not exclusive to males. The Movember Foundation do keep women involved through their concept of ‘Mo Sistas’ – a network of women who are “champions of men’s health” and play a supportive role by raising funds for “the men in their lives who are growing a Mo”. Movember also benefits from being relatively accessible and having low barriers to entry; unlike a charity ‘fun run’ or skydive, you don’t have to do anything particularly athletic or spend much money in order to take part (almost any guy can ‘grow a mo’).
The campaign also taps into the competitive nature of men – you may have witnessed some of your male colleagues debating which of them has managed to grow the more monumental moustache. Last month we noted how the VHI and Blue September partnership employed elements of gamification to grow their numbers of volunteers and donors, and Movember does something similar by integrating a degree of friendly competition into how it works. Furthermore, the nature of Movember allows the potential for customisation and individual creativity as participants can cultivate a tache – from a Handlebar to a Fu Manchu to a full Salvador Dali – that best fits their personal style.
A new form of Charity Marketing
Another factor that makes the cause appealing to men is the approach and tone adopted by the campaign. Movember avoids bombarding people with harrowing imagery and stark statistics, perhaps aware that their core audience are likely to be less receptive to such emotive appeals. Instead, Movember takes a much more light-hearted, upbeat and ironic approach. It is important that this more jocular tone is used so as to fit with their target audience as, under normal circumstances, men tend to be reluctant to discuss health issues with each other.
A further factor in Movember’s success is the highly visible nature of its participants. This kind of visible commitment to a campaign (where advocates literally advertise the cause across their faces for a full month) is an absolute dream for a charity marketer. The creation of such visually-striking imagery, through what is essentially user-generated content, also helps the diffusion of the campaign across social media.
The charity ensures this virality by giving you the option for your Movember profile page (‘Mo Space’) to be fully integrated with your social media accounts. This means that any pics or videos you post to the former are also automatically published on Facebook, Twitter and any other platform of your choice. Indeed, the shareable nature of Movember could almost be designed to make it acceptable for men to partake in ‘selfie culture’.
Their email marketing campaign is also one of the most compelling and skilfully designed we’ve yet to see from a charity or non-profit organisation, and always contain a strong, effective call-to-action for past participants and donors to re-engage with the latest iteration of Movember. Finally, Movember also benefits from serendipitous timing: men get to don extra face furniture during the very month when temperatures plummet. As the winter nights creep in, Movember adds a dash of fun to an otherwise grey month.
The future of Movember?
As Movember now enters its second decade, how does this years’ campaign differ from previous years? When it came to promotion, Movember always leaned heavily on the use of social media, content marketing and email marketing, but recently they have adapted their strategy. This years’ campaign makes greater use of Outdoor advertising, as can be seen in the provocative billboard displays that Movember has purchased in the U.K. A major departure this year for the organisers is that they are seeking to broaden the focus of Movember from the battle against testicular cancer to address the wider issue of Men’s mental health.
The growth of Movember has been helped by the parallel rise of Hipsterdom that has made it more socially acceptable to wear the kind of elaborate facial hair previously only sported by Victorian mill-owners. It will be interesting to see what happens when the tide goes out for the Hipster look (there has already been speculation that we have reached “Peak Beard”) and whether this might make Movember appear passé to potential participants.
Despite these caveats, Movember remains a model for how charity marketers should create an original, contemporary and engaging campaign. Given how successful the Movember Foundation has been at creating the ‘Mo Movement’ over the last decade, you wouldn’t bet against them maintaining its freshness.