Movember in November

OCTOBER 26, 2016

Most of you reading this will probably know at least one man who grew a moustache in November. In fact, many of you (men) reading this may have actually done so yourself. It’s a trend that has millions of men all over the globe doing the same each year, and if you ask them why they do it, most will tell you it’s about creating awareness of prostate and testicular cancer amongst men. It’s the male equivalent of the pink ribbon we use to display solidarity with women who get breast cancer.

The movement raises millions in cash for research – the last I heard was around $200m worldwide since 2007 or so. It’s fun – albeit terribly unfashionable and totally ridiculous in many cases – but it’s all for a good cause, and even the biggest male egos participate publically to help to fight this terrible disease.

What you may not know is that it all started in Australia in 2003, when a group of beer-drinking friends started chatting about how the magnificent moustaches of the 1970s and 1980s had disappeared. With too much beer and too much testosterone, one of the mates suddenly challenged the group to a contest to see who could grow the best moustache.

Soon a couple of dozen acquaintances also took up the challenge, and the whole group grew fanciful moustaches until judgement day on the 30th of November. Everyone had a good giggle, and they decided to repeat the whole thing the next year – but this time they would do it for a better reason than just a big chuckle. Someone, (nobody knows who,) mentioned that breast cancer awareness was top-of-mind, so they would choose uniquely male cancer as their cause.

Someone else – more creative – chose “Movember” (Moustache-November,) as the name for the movement, and they even had a really clever slogan: “Changing the face of men’s health.” That second year it attracted a few hundred men, the following year it was a few thousand, the word soon spread internationally, (including to South Africa,) and now, the organisers claim, almost 5 million men participate all over the world!

Why would I share this example with you in a column about customer care? Mainly because my aim in these columns is to create awareness in businesses that taking care of customers has a whole lot of very useful benefits and rewards, not least of which is the power of word of mouth and referrals. And this worthwhile movement can teach us a number of important lessons about our businesses.

Use the checklist to ask yourself if your own business successfully achieves any of the criteria that the Movember movement achieves to grow so spectacularly:

  1. The system is simple, and there are no real rules: First, begin the month November clean shaven. Second, grow a fancy, large and obvious moustache for the next month. Third, pledge some money, (get sponsors,) and create as much attention and awareness to men’s cancer issues as you can. Finally, conduct yourself like a true English country gentleman.
  2. It is unique and different: Perhaps bordering on silly, outlandish and ludicrous, but it cannot be ignored. There are stories built into the whole campaign.
  3. People want to talk about it: Not only the participants, but also the people who surround them. It starts conversations, and makes them interesting because it’s funny and unusual, (making them more popular, or as the marketing textbooks like to say, giving them “social currency.” You don’t need to advertise it, because it advertises itself through its virality.
  4. It is also emotional: People care about it, and just like we repeat to our children, caring is sharing. It is very relevant in today’s stressful world.
  5. It makes people feel good because they are doing something good: “I may not look cool, but it’s for something bigger than me.” Never underestimate the power of altruism and benevolence.
  6. It has a link to a real “trigger”: The trigger is the month of November. (Another great example: Kit Kat was a brand just plodding along in the past few years – until they started pairing Kit Kat with a coffee break. There are very few people now in South Africa that cannot complete this sentence and jingle: “Have a break, have a …”

There’s another example of the power of word of mouth marketing that we are all familiar with. We all have a friend like my mate George, who, because he is retired and tech-savvy, sends us links to the most amazing content. One day a few years ago he sent a YouTube link with a note that said, “Just watch this.” Curious, I clicked on the links, and saw my very first view of what has become one of the most popular YouTube videos ever, and has made many people incredibly wealthy.

It is set on a stage set of yet another TV talent show, and there is a plump, nervous, unattractive, unfashionably- dressed woman twice the age of the other young, glamorous and sexy contestants walking on. One of the judges, rolling his eyes and barely able to suppress his contempt, asks her “What’s the dream?” She says that she’s trying to be a professional singer. So this arrogant twit asks, “And why hasn’t this worked out so far, Susan?”  But you could see that he’d switched off already, and was probably thinking, “You? That's rich!”

And then she started singing. And time almost stopped, because her voice was so astounding. It was stunning, exquisite, humbling and awe-inspiring. As I watched it, I couldn’t suppress a tear building up in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. I literally felt goose-bumps all over my body as I watched that first time, and had an experience so rare that I couldn’t remember the previous time I had been so awed. I was speechless – and immediately sent the link to almost everyone I know, friends, clients, social media, everyone.

The internet videos of Susan Boyle have been watched more than a billion times. The sales of her albums and concert tickets are worth hundreds of millions in all currencies. I have watched clips of Susan Boyle hundreds of times with my seminar delegates.

The emotions that drove all of this? Yes, the voice is truly angelic, but her courage and her strength gave us hope in a world of cynicism, powerlessness, pessimism and economic crises. It’s these emotions that drive word of mouth.

The question is: What emotions drive your customer experiences?