New Zealand is in the midst of a health crisis. It has the highest rate of youth suicide in the world, but those affected often don’t feel empowered to speak up.
Many Kiwi men would much rather harden up than speak up, meaning suicide is three times more common in men than women.
One charity hoping to stand up and help men start a conversation about mental health is the Movember Foundation. However, it too faced a challenge as it was being crowded-out by other charities and the current fashion for facial furniture.
New Zealand has the highest number of charities per capita in the world, with one for every 100 adults – so why should anyone pay attention?
On top of this, growing popularity of facial hair means sporadic mo-growing no longer stood out and the Movember Foundation was losing momentum.
To turn that around, all it took was a budget of $178 and a platform that’s distinctive, highly innovative – yet also perhaps the oldest and most powerful of them all.
Movember had two goals for its campaign – one being to match the $1.1 million in donations it received in 2016, the other being to get men talking about mental health.
To kick it off, research into men’s mental health revealed a key insight: the experiences of adolescence have a major impact on mental health outcomes as an adult.
Positive or negative mental health behaviours begin to form at high school so it would start a conversation among students and teach them about the importance of speaking up.
In doing that, Movember would be opened up to a new audience.
The next key part of the strategy was to generate disproportionately large amounts of earned media by targeting a point of social tension – that being high schools’ ‘clean shave’ policies.
Many prohibit young men from growing facial hair but the naturally sprouting follicles were in an eternal conflict with the old-fashioned fixed institutional rules – and the adults who enforced them.
Not wanting those ‘clean shave’ policies to stand in its way, Movember targeted the principals of 178 schools, with a personally addressed letter asking them to relax the policy for the month of November – “Let the Bros Grow Mo’s”.
While charity advertising can be easy to ignore, the Movember Foundation hoped the personally addressed messages would be hard to disregard.
It was also a cost-effective form of advertising, with just the cost of a postage stamp required.
With the letter came an online link where principals could download posters supporting Movember to put up in their schools.
To spark the interest of media outlets, the letter was also sent to national and regional media, which generated national and regional stories.
Alongside those, media owners ran the letter as full-page ads for free that week, as Movember Foundation knew public opinion would add impetus to the letter.
Soon, 38 media outlets across the country – including Stuff, Newshub, Newstalk ZB, The Dominion Post, TVNZ Breakfast, Radio New Zealand – picked up on the story reaching the entire population twice over.
The Movember campaign was a spectacular success by every metric.
The strategy turned that $178 in media into over $1.7 million in donations – a 55 percent increase over average and the best result in seven years.
Another $550,000 was generated in media exposure for this vital cause, and put new momentum behind the brand.
This equates to an ROI of $9,562 earned for ever $1 spent.
It grabbed headlines and got the nation talking, but more importantly, it showed young men that it’s okay to speak up, a lesson that could save their life.