Movember: Facial Hair That Creates True Impact

How single-issue focus accelerates growth
Movember: Facial Hair That Creates True Impact
Publ. date 16 Nov 2019
The Movember movement has grown from a conversation on the come-back of the mustache to one of, if not the, largest men’s health movement with a support of over 5 million people, having raised a total of $900 million since 2003. In this article we take a closer look at this well-groomed initiative.

In 2003, when the conversation arose between Travis Garone and Luke Slattery on the come-back of the mustache, the friends jokingly asked themselves whether it would actually be possible. Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for breast cancer, the chosen cause for this campaign would be men’s health and prostate cancer. As the popular idea of masculinity does not always welcome men to speak up on their physical or mental health issues, there was a clear opportunity to act. The Movember rules that are still in place today were then set up between 26 friends as a challenge for one of the group’s birthdays.

Maintaining its celebratory and humorous nature, Movember carried on to build a positive and educational brand that made it easier to openly discuss men’s health. The Movember foundation currently supports four key causes in men’s health; prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and physical inactivity. The counterculture initiative rapidly gained a following by having a clear, unique message that Connects, Innovates, and Accelerates – ultimately becoming the largest non-governmental investor in prostate cancer research in the world today.

Tailored engagement gone viral

Movember was perfectly timed to ride the social media growth wave from 2003 to 2010. By being focused in their approach of their target audience, the platform also expanded through its own digital fundraising platform and the development of an interactive app, allowing them to even more so engage members in the movement. Amongst many partnerships, we find Twitch, a global live streaming platform for gamers with high engagement of the gaming community. Twitch and Movember collaborated on in-game integration, Movember merchandise sales and fundraising by the platform’s “influencers”. The partnership with SKY’s Sports channels focused on mental health by airing the documentary series “Man up”, a special edition of the Debate show, and recruiting different sports heroes as Movember ambassadors. Formula 1 Racing partnered up with Movember by recruiting the drivers as spokespersons and this way engaging the mainly male and older audience.

Local & open innovation

The Movember foundation continues to innovate by listening to community feedback. One of the initiatives that originated from UK member suggestions were the donation badges. The foundation launched contactless fundraising badges in the United States and United Kingdom which are compatible with Apple Pay, PayPal or Card, and Google Pay in order to make fundraising a little easier on the Anglo-Saxon world (and its politeness).

Measuring accelerated impact

The Movember foundation invests its funds in fast-acting projects, amongst which:

  • The Global Action Plan: Connecting researchers and clinics around the world in order to stimulate exchange of knowledge, progress & innovation  Global Men’s health survey: Global online survey of 2015 & 2016 on health and wellbeing to better understand men’s health and how men are tracking their health compared to women.
  • Move: A 30-day Fitness challenge that encourages people to move everyday of November (Movember month)
  • TrueNTH: An investment and collaboration with 300 experts to improve the quality of life for men with prostate cancer and their families
  • Farmstrong: Preventing and helping on Mental health & illness of farmers in New Zealand
  • Preparing for new fatherhood: Guidance and preparation for new or soon to be fathers
  • Like Father, like Son: Engaging the father in the treatment process of boys with behavioral conduct issues.

Naturally, impact is more complex to measure for sensitive and personal social issues. The Movember foundation adopts the Results Based Accountability Framework. This means that the output of inititiatives is reviewed and assessed internally, but not necessarily publicly disclosed. Rather, the foundation defines success as being able to finance innovative solutions and consequently reports its impact via money raised and money donated.

In search of the hairy red thread

The mission of the Movember foundation runs through its exponential growth story like a hairy red thread. Catering their message precisely to its target audience, actively finding innovative ways for stakeholder engagement and having clear plans in place for acceleration are all part of its success. As mentioned in the book Winning Sustainability Strategies (Palgrave 2018, Leleux and Van der Kaaij), direction and speed are essential for the effective execution of sustainability strategies. For a talk on how your organization can define its focus points and strategy, do not hesitate to contact Johana Schlotter via or +31 6 28 02 18 80 to set up a date.    

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