KONY 2012, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and #DeleteUber. These campaigns are all likely familiar to social media users as standing for something. But once the Facebook filters are removed and hashtags have disappeared from Twitter’s trending list, have any of these moments actually made an impact and if so, what if anything can brands and agencies learn from them?

This November, the RedPeg team had a chance to speak with Justin Coghlan (JC), the founder of the Movember Foundation. With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda, there really are occasions where a moment becomes a movement, and Movember is definitely one of them.

Compared to a lot of trendy movements, Movember is a veteran. The worldwide foundation started in 2003 as a casual conversation in an Australian pub with a group of friends deciding to grow moustaches (and in turn awareness) for men’s health. While it may sound like a simple concept, Movember has raised over $1 billion to date worldwide, and has funded over 1,200 men’s physical and mental health initiatives. Curious creatures that we are, we wanted to understand how they created this internationally-recognized, annually-celebrated occasion, but perhaps more importantly, what lessons we could take away to add value to our own approach to cause and our philosophy about “making it mean more”.

According to JC, the recipe is simple and never wavers:

A firm understanding of the “why”

JC started Movember as a way to get men talking about their health issues. He recognized the gap in healthcare and awareness for men versus women (i.e. breast cancer) and children (i.e. pediatric cancer) and wanted to do something about it. According to JC, “On average, men die six years earlier than women globally. And it’s not because of genetics, it ’s because they don’t look after themselves. If they did, it would change health systems.” Movember’s “why” is creating enough buzz to generate awareness of early cancer detection and encourage men to take initiative when it comes to their health.

The content is fun, shareable and a conversation-starter

As with the virality of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the content must be engaging to make a movement.  “The moustache fit because it’s a badge. We knew it would take 30 days to grow a good moustacheand the first week would look so bad, you’d have to tell everyone what you were doing,” joked JC. The conversation, in other words, would last the full month of November.

It lasts year over year

Perhaps more importantly, though, is the annual nature to Movember. Unlike other successful, but one-off cause marketing campaigns, November is back every year. That means new hair growth, energy, and excitement annually. JC has since taken Movember’s mission further and expanded year-round awareness by partnering with gaming brands (i.e. Twitch), motorcycle clubs and content creators to keep their other causes top of mind for the public. What Movember has done so well is turning a one-off stunt into a perennial cause and a true force for good.

Don’t be all things to all people

Movember is a men’s health movement and that’s okay. “It’s important not to be all things to all people. We will always look through the male lens on how we can change, because it’s men’s health,” said JC. The Movember team also recognizes the value of bringing in women to help support the movement (even if they aren’t the target), “our Mo Sisters are catalysts of change and know how to get change done.”

Be transparent

JC was clear in the level of transparency expected: “Where’s the money going? What’s the measure on it? What’s the change? People want real, measurable change.” He also advises that companies shouldn’t get into philanthropy without considering how they can make the biggest impact. “Work out what makes sense. It should be more about what the business is worried about.”

Finally, recognize that it’s not always just about the money

According to JC, “If you set up for the right reasons, to do the right things, and you can actually measure your change, the money will always come…it’s about changing the world together. You can’t have a one-way funnel.” That’s why, in all they do, Movember makes sure to show their communities what they’re doing with each dollar raised and invested. For example, they’ve created mentorship programs for young men in Chicago and in indigenous communities in Canada, where suicide and gun violence among men is pervasive. It’s been a very successful initiative – the suicide rate has dropped to zero among young men in the indigenous community where Movember has come in and invested in programs. It proves that it’s not just enough to create awareness – change has to come from it.

So what can brands and agencies learn from successful campaigns like Movember about turning awareness into action – and making it mean more? For brands, it’s important to remember that creating awareness is only half the battle towards winning over consumers. It’s not enough to “like” a Facebook page or follow a brand on Instagram or Twitter. What Movember has done so well is turning a one-off stunt into a perennial cause. Brands need to give their fans a good reason to turn awareness into action, year over year.

Agencies can also take away lessons from Movember, especially when it comes to making it mean more:

  • The foundation has been smart about the partners they choose, ensuring that they make sense for their causes and aren’t just writing checks to this month’s cause flavor.
  • They’ve chosen brands to work with whose image and vision align with Movember’s goals and can help them advance, as well as brands that are relevant for their target.

Agencies can find success by choosing to work with brands whose goals complement theirs, whose vision is similar, and whose success will in turn make the agency prosper.

It’s easy – and natural – to be skeptical of the potential effect growing a moustache or dunking yourself with ice water will really have. But in and of themselves, these movements aren’t a bad thing, especially when it leads to greater education about causes, starts a dialogue, and turns it into action. So when you see someone wearing a moustache next November, know that it’s more than a funny photo op – it’s helping to make a real difference in the world.