Movember’s Global Marketing Director, Paul Mitcheson, spoke on day one of the Festival of Marketing 2019 last month and shared the steps the organisation took to become a global movement for men’s health, and how he thinks Movember will have a lasting impact in the future.

Movember has raised more than $900m for men’s health and three key causes – prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health and suicide. It uses a mixture of humour and education to communicate with its audience, using moustaches to drive the movement.

Although moustaches weren’t fashionable back in 2003, when four friends from Melbourne, Australia started the organisation, the group decided this had to change and started the movement with 26 friends as a challenge for one of the groups’ birthday, culminating in a celebration.

Mitcheson emphasises the importance of “celebration” as part of Movember, reiterating “that celebration is still absolutely fundamental” and it’s a key part of the month that it ends with a celebratory moment.

Initially there was no cause attached to Movember, something Mitcheson believes allows people to have a good time and participate pressure-free, with fun being the “central beat of the organisation”.

Mitcheson explained how Movember came to be, what the charity is in 2019 and what it will look like in the future.

Early ingredients for success

Movember’s earlier successes, according to Mitcheson, can be attributed to the campaign’s intrinsic ability to encourage creativity, as anyone and everyone can get involved in the fun, but he also talked the audience through some of Movember’s earliest challenges and successes.

“Counterintuitive, counterculture”

Mitcheson discussed the challenges around running a charity for men and a feeling of being a counterintuitive movement. 

From a counterculture perspective, he harks back to the genesis of the movement, back in 2003, when moustaches weren’t in fashion. He speaks to the “social bravery” it took for people – in the earlier days of the movement – to grow their moustache for an entire month but said this courage “created fuel for the movement”, with more people taking part year-on-year.

Although Movember became hugely popular throughout November, the movement also “became a bit like Fight Club” to its members and when it wasn’t November, members disappeared and weren’t spoken to again for another 11 months.

“Social media arrived at absolutely the right time for Movember”

Having successfully created their movement, and garnered a “cult-like” following, Mitcheson went on to talk about how Movember planned to engage with its members all year round.

Movember is a visual campaign with men encouraged to share photographs of their moustaches online, which Mitcheson explains happened in tandem with the rise of social media – the graph above shows the rising number of Facebook users and Movember members since 2003, and their obvious correlation.

Mitcheson says that Movember started to see the parallels with Facebook between 2003 and 2004; 2005 is when it really started taking off.

Outside of social media, Movember also created its own digital fundraising platform, which allowed its members to make donations, enabled updates (sharing pictures and statuses) and fuelled “friendly rivalry”.

Success to significance

Mitcheson moved on to talk about how Movember was going to turn the success of its first few years as a movement, to an operational business or, as he put it, “going from being a successful phenomenon toward being actually a significant organisation, doing good in the world”.

Development of the Movember app focused on switching from an information delivery app, with no two-way communication to a revamped experience built around the ethos that personal creativity had to be at the core.

In other words, Movember wanted to create a platform for its most loyal members to share their moustache creativity and give them a space for exclusively Movember content.

More ways to join the movement

Back in 2016, the company moved beyond strictly facial hair-related content and moved to include women in the conversation and movement. This came as a result of 10 and 15% of its members being women, a demographic the charity felt were underserved.

Screenshot of Movember homepage

Instead of focusing solely on facial hair, Movember introduced ‘Move’ to help breakdown gender boundaries and get people active, moving and participating in physical activity through “move challenges” – which is proven to help with mental health illnesses.

Pointing to the organisation’s grounding in innovation and keen to ensure a technology element was embedded in Move, Movember allows Bros and Sistas to track their move challenges on FitBit and other devices.

‘Host’ was also born, out of reflection upon the organisations beginning – “guys having a good time, getting together, conversations and celebrations”. Host allows Movember members to host their own fundraising events (quizzes, BBQs, sporting events etc.) and raise awareness for the movement in their own way.

Feedback to inform innovation

Mitcheson explained that both ‘Move’ and ‘Host’ were both born out of community feedback, and so was one of their newest tech creations: contactless donation badges, launched in 2018.

The clever idea stems from the idea that UK members can be “too British to ask for donations”, so Movember created contactless donation badges for thousands of its most loyal members. People with the badges could accept donations via contactless mobile payment.

Mitcheson says that “it’s not quite Apple Pay at the moment”, pointing to the fact the badge only activates a donation page, meaning it’s not fully contactless but that’s “the next stage”.

Engaging with its target audience wherever they are

Noticing that Facebook was making strides in the charity space, Movember became the first charity to get an integrated API to link to the fundraising page on Movember’s website through to Fundraiser on Facebook and one of the first to trial the donate button, live fundraisers and gifting donations as Facebook birthday presents as donation.

Movember is also one of the handful of charities that partners with Facebook for Good – allowing them special access to create new fundraising models and ways of working with the social platform.

Movember has also seized its opportunity to explore new platforms such as the organisation’s experiment with Twitch beginning in 2018.

After experiencing low engagement on Facebook Live, Movember pivoted to popular gaming platform Twitch to try and tap into a brand-new channel, a different audience (because “Facebook isn’t for everyone”).

Mitcheson notes similarities between the gaming community and Movember, pointing out both of their foundations being “built around one passion”.

The experiment on Twitch was successful with in-game integration, Movember merchandise sales and influencer fundraising on the platform all highlighted by Mitcheson. However, the activity wasn’t without its negative feedback – mostly around toxic masculinity and the potential negative mental health effects associated with gaming.

Mindset and approach to innovation

Lastly, Mitcheson spoke about the organisation’s mindset and approach to innovating in the charity space and approaching new audiences.

Having recognised the difficulty Movember would have “paying their way” to get new audiences, the charity turned to partnerships as a way of tapping into new demographics.

In 2018, Movember teamed up with Formula 1 Racing for a joint activation. By working with all aspects of the company (e.g. working with drivers and engineers at the Mexico Grand Prix) and by connecting with F1’s male dominant and older audience (who are at higher risk of health problems) Mitcheson says Movember can authentically “embed” itself in the Formula 1 culture and the minds of its audience.

Mitcheson also spoke about Movember creating new media properties.

One such media property and content “template” was Movember’s 3-part documentary series called Man-Up. Based in Australia the initiative aimed to get to the bottom of the male suicide crisis and create real social change and save lives, using the voice of Aussie radio personality Gus Worland.

Mitcheson affirms that the next step for Movember is to “embed in culture by creating media properties of our own” and lead the charge through authentic campaigns and initiatives.