The ‘Movember’ campaign is fun-packed fundraising - and it is boosting men’s health awareness, says Jennifer Taylor

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with 36,000 men diagnosed every year and 10,000 deaths (one man every hour). It tends to hit the over-45s, but incident rates are getting earlier and the disease is more aggressive in younger men. In its efforts to raise awareness about men’s health, and about prostate cancer in particular in the UK, the Movember campaign is seeing huge success.

Movember Foundation co-founder Justin Coghlan says: “If we can get people just to go to the doctor and get checked we can pretty much eradicate 90 per cent of this disease.”

In 2007 6,000 people raised £1m
In 2008 16,000 people raised £2.5m
In 2009 45,000 people raised more than £5.5m
Target for 2010: 80,000 people raising around £8m

He and four friends started the campaign because “men are inherently lazy”.

The campaign is unusual because it has raised the profile of prostate cancer in an entirely new demographic - men and women in their twenties and thirties. The average Movember participant is 31. That means that they are more likely to be receptive to messages about how to minimise their risk, and that the disease will be detected early enough for treatment to be effective.

Men who participate in Movember grow a moustache through the month of November. It is a deceptively simple idea and one that Mr Coghlan and his friends came up with in Australia in 2003.

“All the [men] we looked up to growing up as kids had moustaches,” he says. “Why not bring back the moustache for a fun cause?”

They started with 30 friends in 2003 and by 2008 had more than 173,000 participants worldwide.

“The advice is keep it clean, keep it simple and keep it fun,” says Mr Coghlan.

Prostate Cancer Charity chief executive John Neate says the Movember Foundation is brilliant at understanding how groups of people come together, not just on the web, but in local communities.

They identify small groups in a community, put down a bedrock of support, then build a community of interest. Because the idea is attractive and easy to explain, people understand it quickly and want to be part of the activity in their area.

He says: “There’s an extremely clear understanding about the way people relate, the networks that people use to do that and how we identify the movers and shakers in a particular area.”

Communities are encouraged to create their own Movember. This year, more than 100 universities will host the campaign and hold events.

“It’s passionate guys driving it for us and we give them the tools to do it,” says Mr Coghlan.

The tools are the website - where participants register - and the brand message.

Their philosophy is that Movember is not for everyone and people should not be pushed to take part. Facebook and Twitter have been a relaxed way for participants to tell the public what they are doing. It has been important to include women in the campaign because they play a huge role

in men’s health behaviour. And the parties are a big social aspect.

The foundation has steered clear of having a famous ambassador, despite numerous approaches from A-list celebrities. They ask these people to register like everyone else, grow a moustache with their friends and talk about Movember because they are passionate about it.

Equally they have been offered millions of pounds for a global sponsor, but they turned it down. “We say no more than we say yes to people,” says Mr Coghlan. “It’s got to fit our brand.”

The Movember campaign

Movember raises funds and awareness for prostate cancer during November. Men, called Mo Bros, register online at with a clean shaven face at the start of the month - then grow their moustache.

Mo Sistas get involved by raising money, organising parties, supporting their Mo Bros and attending the gala parties at the end of the month.

In the UK, funds go directly to The Prostate Cancer Charity.

Top tips on social marketing

  • Stay true to yourself and your brand. It is easy to compromise and sell out
  • Avoid using the latest thing - Facebook, Twitter, Apps, etc - just because everyone’s doing it. If it doesn’t fit your campaign, it is best to stay out of it
  • Be cautious about having an ambassador; they are becoming a dime a dozen
  • Keep it simple, fun and clean
  • If you think it is going to be too hard, nine times out of 10 it is