Got Mo? How Movember is still relevant after 15 years

Our Communications Manager, Marisa, takes us through the 10 things Movember does to keep their content razor sharp and cutting edge year after year.

I first came across the Movember campaign when I was living in Paris, working alongside people from across the globe. A peculiar thing happened the very moment Halloween ended; our Australian mates shed their costumes and unapologetically let that five o’clock shadow just north of their lips grow.

‘But why?’ we exclaimed in mild horror. ‘It’s for a good cause, mate,’ they retorted.

At this point, the campaign had already been going for a couple years, so growing a ‘mo’ as part of the Movember campaign was commonplace for the Aussies.

What is Movember?

Movember is an annual campaign to encourage men – or Mo Bros - to document growing a moustache throughout November and raise money along the way. One of the few portmanteaus that isn’t terribly cringy to vocalise, the charity originally started in an Aussie pub (where all great ideas begin!) in 2003, becoming an official charity in 2006. In the early days Movember was designed to raise funds for prostate cancer, but it’s grown to encompass more pressing men’s issues like drawing awareness to suicide and men’s mental health.

Their literature consistently stresses how much shorter life expectancy is for men: a staggering six years less than women. All messaging implores ‘stop men dying too young’ with stats highlighting how testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men under 40, 380,000 men die of prostate cancer each year and three out of four suicides are men.

Women have been brought into the mix as Mo Sistas, encouraged to take on challenges, wear mo inspired apparel and to encourage their male counterparts to take part. Movember is now a global sensation, having raised over £134 million worldwide since the launch.

So how has Movember managed to stay relevant and what can charities learn from this mustachioed mob? Other charities have enjoyed their moments in the sun – think ALS’s Ice Bucket Challenge – but how does a charity manage to stay relevant for so long?

A winning combination across print, digital and events

Mass appeal: the cause: men’s health. It’s a universal issue, not just affecting 50% of the population, but their families and loved ones as well. Movember embraces everyone into the fold, so much so that it’s now a global movement.

Peppered throughout their social media, you’ll find men of all ages, and often multiple generations, taking part. The campaign makes a big splash ahead of November to shave clean and start fresh. Barbers are particularly busy at this time of year, with huge events and fanfare and gentlemen queuing up for a clean shave.

Keep it simple: when it all boils down, we’re talking growing facial hair and raising money. It’s cheap, it’s easy. Every element of the process is simple, fun and shareable. They’re not too prescriptive about getting involved, remaining flexible enough to appeal to mass audiences, but managing to keep all activity cleverly branded. You can:

However, they won’t budge on one crucial issue: mutton chops, beards and goatees don’t count! Gotta shave it all off, tache only!

Great visuals: considering the subject matter, they manage to keep their messaging graphic and playful; all material is very cheeky, witty and punchy – it’s a campaign you want to be a part of.

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Everything is a visual delight, from their ‘getting started’ instruction pages to their annual reports. Storytelling dominates, and dense stats are made easy to digest through infographics and fantastic imagery.

While drawing attention to health difficulties, they create cheeky campaigns. Case in point: Know Thy Nuts, a campaign to encourage men to check for testicular cancer – it’s a humorous video that they back up with further information and how to check yourself on their website.

Tackling stigma: All messaging is consistent. They empower men by making them look strong while talking about issues that can often leave men feeling vulnerable. As we discovered when we filmed Ben Bowers, ambassador for the Movember Foundation; Ben spoke candidly about his battle with testicular cancer at 26, the importance of making light when you’re at your lowest and how to help other men communicate their issues.

Encouraging healthy competition: Leaderboards in use to show which teams are dominating in terms of donations. No doubt a nod to sports scoreboards.

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Celebrating victories: any breakthroughs and success stories from projects they’ve funded are celebrated and captured on video. This showcases what a difference the campaign makes year on year.

Evolving with new technology: From topical Pinterest boards to the Movember app and even Instagram TV where, over the summer, they launched a short docu- series on the new platform, it’s clear they’re early adopters ready to imbue new technology platforms with relevant content.

Smorgasbord of shareable content: who doesn’t love sharing an infamous celebrity mo on #MustacheMonday – perhaps Tom Selleck or Freddie Mercury (coincidence Bohemian Rhapsody was launched just before November? I think not!) or drawing a comic moustache with #sharpiechallenge. They’ve even got a dedicated page of moustachery full of mo facts, grooming techniques, history and humorous graphics depicting the dangers of eating while moustached. This is all top memeworthy content!

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Fun fact: Theoretically possible since flint razors were first fashioned around 30,000 B.C, it’s unknown who first sported upper-lip topiary. What is known is that the oldest portrait of a shaved man with a moustache is an ancient Iranian horseman from 300 BC.

Partnering with men’s organisations: what better way to galvanise the masses and amplify the message to new audiences.

Brand collaborations: with the likes of Gillette, L’Oreal and even Carlsberg getting in on men’s shaving products, or Game of Thrones and Grand Prix giving away star-studded events, big brands are getting involved. However, there have certainly been some missteps along the way: beware tasteless crowbarring to be part of the crowd – we’re looking at you, Toblerone.

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Need help with your social media and content marketing? If you have a Mo, look at our case studies. If you simply moustache us a question, get in touch.