Mustache Rising: Brand Building with Social Media

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Jesse L. graduated from a small business school in Indiana in May 2010. He blogs all across the internet and has a keen interest in social media, data visualization, and gadgets.

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Social media has huge power for brand building campaigns and everybody finally seems to understand its importance. But understanding that social media needs to be an integral part of creating a surge of brand awareness is far different from understanding why some campaigns are successful while others flop miserably. It’s completely understandable.

Human beings are fickle creatures and figuring out how to harness social media to greatest effect is often more a matter of intuitively grasping how human psychology works and less about Marketing 101 logic. That’s why some of the best brand building with social media happens through happy accident and tends to be viewed as great strategy only in retrospect. And deconstructing success is a good way to begin thinking about future brand building efforts.


The Movember Movement

One of the best examples of social media creating huge-though perhaps initially inadvertent-success is the rise of the Movember movement. Aimed squarely at raising awareness of prostate cancer, Movember encourages men to grow mustaches for the month of November to make prostate health an issue that pushes its way into popular culture. Breast cancer has the ubiquitous pink ribbon, but prostate cancer awareness hasn’t gotten much traction in the past. It seems that Movember is changing that quickly.

Why Buzz Matters

The organic buzz created by social media is causing a near exponential rise in popularity, recognition

which translates into dollars for a good cause. Movember has 14,571 Facebook “likes” and close to 20,000 followers on Twitter. Posting mustache photos on Flickr has turned into a substantial phenomenon all by itself. And a quick look at the numbers shows just how much social media has pushed the campaign.

Though it began in 1999, Movember didn’t get any substantial cash contributions until 2004 with $43,000. In 2010 alone, $80.7 million dollars was brought in. When you consider that total global funds raised is roughly around $174 million, you see that 2010 represents nearly half of total contributions. That’s a direct result of organic buzz created by the social nature of social media.

How Social Media Success Happens

Never underestimate the power of a symbol coupled with participation and a feeling of community. Quirkiness helps too. The thing marketing folks often forget is that social media is exactly that-social. The Movember movement blew up with the addition of social media precisely because it has a quirky cool factor, a masculine symbol for a male health issue, which capitalizes on the fact that most men have a secret wish to grow a mustache anyway.

Movember gives them a reason to break out their inner Sam Elliot-for at least a month anyway. This makes them active participants, not just passive donors to a good cause. Once they engage people with quirky participatory fun they can move forward with providing serious, informative details about early prostate cancer detection and proper screening. In retrospect it’s brilliant.

Who would have thought somebody could push prostate health into pop culture consciousness? If social media can push men into going for annual prostate exams, think what an intelligent social media strategy could do for your small business or blog.