The talkability of a tash and the success of Movember
This month, millions of men will come to together to raise money for one of the world’s largest and most successful men’s health charities. They will do this not by running a marathon or by trekking up a mountain – they will simply grow a moustache.
I am of course talking about Movember, a major campaign that raises awareness of – and funds for – important male health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer. Since it started in 2003, it has exploded into a global phenomenon.
Given its success, I was surprised to learn that Movember began life as a joke. Adam Garone, CEO and CO-founder of the campaign, admits that when it first started it was bit of fun. But if it started out by accident, how did it become the success it is today?
There are many reasons, but in my view, the single most important factor is the simplest one – a tash gets people talking. Men have long been criticised for not talking about their health enough, but as Garone points out, it is very difficult to ignore a moustache, especially on someone who usually has a clean-shaven face. Much of the power of the campaign lies in the fact that men are forced to explain their new look and so the Movember message is passed on.
In this way, word of mouth has played a huge role in the success of Movember, both through face-to-face conversations and digitally, via social media platforms. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have really boosted the profile of the campaign, and have accelerated the rate at which the Movember message has spread.
Among the tweeters were a number of famous faces, including Ricky Gervais, who last year proudly kept his fans up-to-date on the progress of his moustache.
Of course, the issues Movember champions are very important, but another key reason for its success is that it is fun. Not only can the moustaches look anything from striking to out-and- out hilarious, the scope for male banter and friendly competition over who can grow the best mo is obvious. A humorous campaign with a serious message is something that’s attractive to brands and celebrities – they can demonstrate their support for an important health issue but in a fun and creative way.
So what can other organisations and charities learn from Movember?
A moustache has nothing to do with testicular cancer but the campaign has been widely praised. Is there, then, an argument that campaigners and marketing departments should shake up their approach? Should they think from the bottom up, rather than top down – look at what their target audience enjoys talking about first and then find a way of connecting it to the cause?
I would argue that in many cases they should, but with some careful consideration. When the focus of a campaign is several stages removed from the issue it is trying to raise awareness of, there is always a danger that important messages will be diluted or, worse, lost.
This danger applies to Movember. So far the majority of the publicity has linked back to the overall aim of the campaign but the challenge will be to ensure this continues to happen, so that as many men as possible take steps to look after their health.
Given what Movember has achieved, I would be surprised if we didn’t see more campaigns trying to emulate its success. However, organisations and charities do need to think carefully before attempting to mirror the Movember model. At the heart of its success story is the fact that it began life with a few mates chatting in a bar – an authentic conversation that evolved into a campaign that looks and feels similarly authentic.
Emma Cowlard, health consultant at Fishburn Hedges