Movember – how silly got serious

By Patrick Nash

On one sunny afternoon in Melbourne, when Adam Garone, CEO and Co-founder of the Movember campaign, casually chatted to friends about ‘bringing the Mo back’, he could never have anticipated the influence that conversation was going to have on the world.

It was back in 2003 when he and around 30 other Australians jokingly took part in the first Movember, raising awareness of the innovative campaign. A year later and over 450 men grew a ‘Mo’ – and the founders decided to turn it into a fundraising activity, generating $43,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. It is now anticipated that over a million men will grow a Mo this year, and as a whole, the charity has raised well over $300 million towards prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.

So what is it about Movember that has allowed it to grow so quickly over the years (excuse the pun)?

Yes, Movember is fun, but crucially it gets people talking. When a usually clean-shaven man arrives at a meeting with a moustache, he is likely to introduce the reason behind his new look, thus spreading the campaign message. It has a viral word of mouth impact that in a social media-obsessed world is incredibly simple.

Further, growing a Mo appeals to the human competitive nature, encouraging men to grow the biggest and best ‘tache around. This creates more opportunities for explanations, further reinforcing the campaign messages and reach.

Celebrities have also been ‘doing Movember’, with high-profile stars such as Brad Pitt and Ricky Gervais getting involved. Gervais even posts updates of his progress on Twitter, again building the public profile.

No doubt, other charities must look at Movember and ask themselves how they can come up with such a simple and wide-reaching campaign.

But crucial to any campaign’s success is ensuring that the important messages are not lost in all of the fun.

Does Movember’s goal to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer work all year around? Or do people get swept up by the fun of growing silly moustaches for one month of the year, and do the key messages slide for the other eleven?

Does this even matter if the campaign itself is high-impact enough?

One thing is clear; against a backdrop of falling charitable donations many other charities will be racking their brains to come up with the next piece of Movember-esque magic. We will be watching out for the emergence of the next big fundraising phenomenon with interest.

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