Social Media and the Mustachioed Man

If the pink ribbon is perceived as gender-appropriate for a largely female health concern, the inherent masculinity of the mustache is perfect for an awareness campaign related to a male-specific health issue.

There’s perhaps nothing more ubiquitous and instantly recognized than the pink ribbon. Anyone who sees a pink ribbon immediately associates it with breast cancer. Symbols are an important part of permeating the public consciousness and raising awareness and the pink ribbon has certainly accomplished that. Finding a symbol is the easy part though. Getting a symbol pushed out into the mainstream, and making it part of the vernacular is a lot tougher. It took a long time and a lot of effort for pink ribbon perception to push its way into the forefront of popular culture. Social media is perfectly poised to change the way preventative health campaigns raise awareness.

Penetrating Pop Culture

Prostate cancer has been a serious male health problem for a long time, but finding ways to push awareness hasn’t been easy. It’s understandable. Men are more reticent about engaging in preventative health measures in general and the fact that early detection involves an unwelcome examination tends to make men less than exuberant about scheduling a prostate exam appointment. But prostate cancer awareness has a new symbol that social media is turning into a movement. If you’ve started to notice newly sprouted mustaches cropping up around the office, it’s likely the result of the Movember movement.

The Mo Movement

The Movember phenomenon began back in 1999. The idea is simple. Men sign up to grow mustaches for the month of November to raise awareness—and money—for prostate cancer. And it has done well. The campaign has raised 174 million dollars globally. But since social media began to push the Mogenda, it’s become something of a global phenomenon. The Movember official website has gotten a deluge of attention. They’ve received 14,571 Facebook “likes” and are rapidly approaching 20,000 Twitter followers. The Flickr images of mustache attempts—some more successful than others—that have been uploaded are too many to count. But the real power of harnessing social media is most evident when you take a look at the fundraising numbers. The first year any money was actually raised was 2004. They raised $43,000. That’s decent, but far from spectacular—especially when you consider what breast cancer campaigns can raise. Fast forward to 2010. Movember raised a whopping $80.7 million dollars. That revenue increase for prostate cancer awareness and early detection can largely be attributed specifically to the phenomenon of social media acting as a vehicle for pushing a whimsical but powerful symbol.

Symbols Matter

It’s hard to imagine a better campaign for prostate cancer awareness. If the pink ribbon is perceived as gender-appropriate for a largely female health concern, the inherent masculinity of the mustache is perfect for an awareness campaign related to a male-specific health issue. But the magic of the mustache goes well beyond gender appropriateness. The magic of the Movember movement is that it is participatory. Growing a mustache for Movember lets participants become part of a global brotherhood, and though that may seem a bit silly, it contains more power and appeal than you might imagine. Besides, most men secretly want to grow a mustache anyway. Movember gives them a good excuse to actually do it. If social media continues to push the Movember movement, the mustache may become as ubiquitous as the pink ribbon. And that’ll be a good thing.

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago.  He divides his time among work, writing and family life.  He has a keen interest in blogging and social media.  He also writes for www.professionalintern.com.