Some Mo-tivation and Mo Wisdom – A Style Guide on Movember and More

Jan 15

When I moved in 2010 to Washington, DC, I noticed a “growing” trend that was sweeping the nation – Movember. Since then, the Movember movement keeps strong and as I commuted to work this past November, I saw the ‘staches sprouting prominently across men’s (and some women’s) faces. On December 1, participants begrudgingly woke up and the razor won the war.  Except for those who discovered they like their new look and are putting on an encore for all of us lucky onlookers. I do my part by giving them the disapproving, “no, you are not Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck or The Swedish Chef” glance (the latter being my favorite by far).


Now that faces are clean again, the question remains: did the power of the ‘stache really impact the testicular cancer world?  Today, about 8,820 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in 2014 in the United States[1]. Now wrapping up its’ tenth year, the Movember 2014 Annual Report estimated $24.8 million raised in the U.S. and $136.6 million globally during the 2013 campaign[2]. Since 2003, Movember has raised $559 million dollars. This would be considered by most a hugely successful campaign. I don’t think anyone can argue this is a BAD idea for drawing the public’s attention and raising critically important research funds– it is a catchy way to battle a worthy cause. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, it branded a disease in a fun, interesting, light-hearted way without delving into the heaviness of the reality.  Eventually we need to see reductions in death from testicular cancer as a result of early detection.  Raising money can’t be the ultimate goal.  Movember needs to be saving lives, and now that it is a phenomenon, it can start to have that kind of impact.

So how do we shed a light on other not-so-sexy (that is, if you want to call testicular cancer sexy) causes?  Everyone would love to come up with that million-dollar baby that catapults an issue into the spotlight. But allow me to let you in a little secret – Movember was no accident, it took careful planning and some brilliant moustache-loving freaks to give birth to this phenomena.

Here are some personal insights on other case studies and my general musings that could perhaps serve as basic building blocks to your next earth-shattering idea:

  1. Mo’ Money, (potentially) Mo’ Problems: We saw a couple years ago with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure/Planned Parenthood controversy, your brand is only as good as your people. There was a huge backlash from the decision to defund Planned Parenthood, which was spearheaded by the then-VP of public affairs Karen Handel and chief executive and founder, Nancy Brinker (both of which resigned and stepped down into a more behind the scenes role, respectively). Despite being a reputable, well-funded organization, this decision was a PR nightmare by any standards. Susan G. Komen wasn’t careful when considering their audience and had some major brand rebuilding to do.
  2. Wait, what? Don’t make it more confusing than it has to be. Not a single person in the room should walk away not understanding what you’re aiming for. You have to keep the campaign simple for people to catch on. In the words of every Marketing 101 professor out there, remember KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid! Literally, these campaigns started on the premise of asking men to grow a moustache or dump a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads. This is NOT complicated.
  3. Heeeey, you guuuuys! The simplicity of the calls to action also lends itself to different interpretations, thus segmenting the brand without your having to do anything at all. Think about how many moustaches you saw in November – the handlebar, the regent, the box car, the connoisseur, and many more (click here). Also – the iconic black moustache is popping up on companies’ branding like Wheaties and Aer Lingus Airline. The versatility of the brand should be able to easily cross over into different mediums and audiences.

    Photo courtesy of

    Photo courtesy of

  4. Bueller? Bueller? One strategy we are seeing time and again is the power of CROWD SOURCING. Who doesn’t want to see their man comb his upper lip proudly for 30-days straight followed by the only time of the year he will willingly post a #selfie? Driving engagement through audience participation is a solid way to create the sociability aspect and produce a viral campaign.
  5. Tap, tap, – Is this thing on? Don’t ever underestimate the power of humor…or getting weird. The bandwagon effect or fear of missing out are powerful triggers for helping people get on board with an idea. If other people are getting weird with the idea, you can too! And do it better! People respond to humor, particularly when we’re talking about a very uncomfortable issue.  Of course, this has to be done with good taste, as well.
  6. One is the loneliest number. The ONE campaign came under fire in the press in 2010 when the organization revealed that they were only donating about one percent of their funding to actual charities and mostly lining their own pockets (oops!). While this didn’t bode well for Bono, transparency is beneficial to any organization. Don’t overstate, just give the facts. Gaining trust and legitimacy upfront are essential for you and your brand.


There you have it – I hope we continue to find ways to reach broad audiences on everything from testicular cancer to marriage equality. Raising awareness is the first step to helping a lot of people – even if it does mean picking crumbs out of your man’s ‘stache for a month.


Photo courtesy of



[1] American Cancer Society, What are key statistics about testicular cancer? February 11, 2014.

[2] Movember Foundation, 2014 Global Annual Report. 2014. Financial Overview

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015 at 2:42 pm and is filed under Best Practices, Social Marketing, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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