Marketing Movember: Promoting Men’s Health Through Social Marketing

Before and after for Matthew Hurst's Movember mustache in November 2010

Movember is about much more than growing a mustache, it’s also about putting a new face on men’s health issues.  When I first heard about No-shave November I didn’t know about the connection to men’s health, so I had no reservations about shaving my mustache for a job interview. But a year later when my new employer sponsored Movember participants I learned all about their fundraising for cancer research and raising awareness for health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer.  For a third year I’m participating in Movember, but the history of Movember actually goes back much further and serves as a great case study of using social marketing to promote men’s health.

When Movember started in 2003 it was just a fun idea between two friends in Australia, but it quickly grew into a global phenomenon. Within a couple years their small group of friends expanded to reach thousands in Austalia raising millions of dollars for prostate cancer research, incorporating into the Movember Foundation by 2006.  Gaining charity status in the US in 2009 helped the organization grow abroad, but also to attract partners to their cause alongside individual participants. Today Movember has nearly 1 million participants in 14 countries who raised over $100 million last year.

Key to Movember’s success is not just the great cause it supports, but also the global marketing campaign that promotes it.  Anyone who visits their website will be impressed by the creative media ; everything from videos starring famous mustachioed celebrities to personals flyers and smartphones apps, used by participants and for supporters of Movember.  But perhaps the most important promotional tactic is much more personal- their mustache growing participants:

Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.

Another popular part of Movember is their own social network, MoSpace, which gives each participant their own page to raise funds and interact with supporters.  Mo Bros and Mo Sisters use the social network to make updates on their progress and also allows them to share their Movember campaigns on other social networks.  The site also serves means to personalize their Movember efforts within their social group, a proven tactic whether to raise funds or awareness within a social marketing campaign.

Indeed Movember is a successful example of a social marketing campaign, which is different from social media marketing, a key tactic within the overall marketing strategy of the campaign.  Social Marketing uses traditional marketing techniques to motivate behavior changes by individuals that serves the public good (rather than for selling products), most frequently used in issues of public health like Movember.  These campaigns use research to identify what will motivate individuals to modify their behavior, using specific “asks” of the changes to be made, in which the benefit exchange must be more positive than the “costs” to the individual.  It’s based on the same premise as Movember: that awareness or informations about health risks, such as prostate and testicular cancer, is not enough unless it motivates people to take action or change their behavior, in this case getting regular cancer screenings and working towards finding a cure.

Growing a mustache during Movember does carry some costs to individuals as well; a little light-hearted ribbing from friends and co-workers is to be expected.  But like any good social marketing campaign it creates benefits and rewards for continuing to grow your mustache, not the least of which is the agknowledgement of your peers through MoSpace, as well as rewards for top fundraisers. So I wanted to share some more of my personal experiences during Movember with you, in hopes that it will encourage you to participate as well:

Feel free to learn about my own participation in Movember and make a donation on my MoSpace page. Or learn more about the many philanthropic causes I support in addition to Movember.