December 10, 2014
By Nic Denholm
Movember has grown faster and bigger than a hormone-powered Fu Manchu. Now in its eleventh year, the phenomenon is not only a bona fide grassroots health awareness movement, it is a brilliantly executed marketing campaign.
In 2012, there were 1.1 million official participants around the world and to date, Movember has raised more than $141.5 million. It is true that cause marketing has a built-in appeal for those who do not engage with brand-oriented, for-profit memes. But not every charity drive goes viral – not like this.
Movember’s combination of simplicity, wit and originality has much to teach the mobile marketer about how to get a message across to a large audience.
Here are six key lessons Movember has taught us about pulling off a successful marketing campaign:
1. Keep the conversation going offline
It is one thing to engage an audience sitting in front of a screen, but quite another to do it while they are out in the real world.
One of Movember’s strokes of genius – and there are many – was to make itself a talking point offline – by having perpetual billboards growing out of people’s faces for an entire month. It is going to be hard to top that. Septembeard, perhaps? No? No.
2. Get some headline endorsements
Celebrities and brands have gotten behind Movember. Everyone wants to be associated with it. If you can attract big names – and their followers on social media – your campaign will go stratospheric.
3. Invest in technology
Where would Movember be without technology?
From the very beginning, the founders of the movement recognized the need to leverage the latest tech developments to reach the most people.
But the key lesson here is: make things as easy as possible.
The new Movember mobile application has made it simpler for users to take donations and upload their new stache, while social media has provided a global platform for participants to share their experiences.
As an online marketing campaign, Movember is a shining example of success for all social media managers.
4. Have mass appeal
In a world of increasingly niche markets, it is easy to forget that engaging a huge audience is still the ideal situation for most kinds of business.
Movember is a truly global movement. It has cleverly skirted the problems of the obvious gender bias involved in a moustache growing community. How?
For every “Mo Bro” there is a ‘Mo Sista’ on hand to provide moral support, raise money and lend their voice to the campaign to promote men’s health issues.
As the organization puts it, Mo Sistas “do everything Mo Bros, they just don’t grow a Mo!” And that is how you spin the apparently unspinnable.
5. Stay fresh
You come up with a good marketing idea. It works. Your traffic increases, and so does your revenue.
You stick with the formula next year. Interest goes up again, but less than before. Growth is slowing.
At this point, you can either run your campaign into the ground until people are sick of it, or you can follow Movember’s lead and rebrand each year.
From “Movember & Sons,” in which fathers were encouraged to pass on moustache-muffled words of wisdom to their sons, to last year’s “Generation Mo,” an effort to reach out to younger people, the organization has slowly built a cross-generational appeal that is the envy of brand marketers everywhere.
6. Be funny
This is the easiest piece of advice to offer and the most difficult to realize.
Some people are funny, some can only ever try to be funny – a sure turn-off for an audience.
It pays to hire writers and creative with funnybones, and to let them do their thing.
Movember’s very premise is humorous. Moustaches, the founders know, are inherently funny, and if you trust an audience to enjoy the levity whilst bearing in mind the serious point behind it, they will reciprocate with loyalty.
This is one of the few lessons that should be easier to implement for commercial vendors than a health awareness campaign.
If Movember can keep things light when tackling prostate cancer, your average travel agent should be able to make a few jokes, even at their own expense.
Nic Denholm is senior editor at CallFire, Santa Monica, CA. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.