Does Your Brand Have Conversation Starters?
My first post got a lot of attention for its controversial title: “Full Disclosure: I Think Social Media Marketing is BS“. It was not a bashing of Social Media in general, or Social Media for Marketing… rather, a point of view that Marketing is always Marketing, and Social Media is one of many ways brands can get messages across. Either through Broadcast (talking the talk), Brand Experiences (walking the talk) or Sharing (leveraging trusted peers).
And the one I believe has the most powerful potential… is PEER-TO-PEER SHARING.
Fact – globally, trust in advertising and professional reviews declines, and the importance of word of mouth and peer recommendations rises. So, creating stories worth sharing and enabling advocates to spread them will be one of the marketer’s most critical jobs going forward.
As November comes to an end, I am compelled to write today about what I believe is one of the most powerful example of Peer-to-Peer marketing in recent history. Of course, I’m talking about MOVEMBER, the global fundraiser for research on “men’s” cancers. In the unlikely event you’ve been living under a rock these past four weeks, or were so focused on pumpkins and turkeys you did not notice the unusual growth of facial hair, here’s the story, straight from MOVEMBER website
Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache. The rules are simple, start Movember 1st clean-shaven and then grow a moustache for the entire month. The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for cancers that affect men. Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days.
The idea for Movember was sparked in 2003 over a few beers in Melbourne, Australia. The plan was simple – to bring the moustache back as a bit of a joke and do something for men’s health. No money was raised in 2003, but the guys behind the Mo realized the potential a moustache had in generating conversations about men’s health. Inspired by the women around them and all they had done for breast cancer, the Mo Bros set themselves on a course to create a global men’s health movement.
In 2004 the campaign evolved and focused on raising awareness and funds for the number one cancer affecting men – prostate cancer. 432 Mo Bros joined the movement that year, raising $55,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia – representing the single largest donation they had ever received. The Movember moustache has continued to grow year after year, expanding to the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, the Netherlands and Finland. In 2009, global participation of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas climbed to 255,755, with over one million donors raising $42 Million US equivalent dollars for Movember’s global beneficiary partners.
As of today, Movember has raised over $50 million in its 2010 run. Not bad!
So, why does it work and what’s the lesson for marketers? Does Movember work because moustaches are really cool so you feel compelled to donate? No. Does Movember work because you get a free moustache as proof of donation and support (a la Livestrong)? No. Does Movember work because all the cool people wear a moustache and therefore you want to be like them and donate? Again, No. Quite the contrary in fact.
I think Movember works because it’s a CONVERSATION STARTER.
Think about what normally needs to happen for your advocate to spread the word. Either he has to push the message out as loudly or often as possible, becoming a smaller (painful?) version of the original advertiser… or he needs to ring on every door like girls scout selling cookies (nothing wrong with that, I buy them every year. But it’s a lot of work)… or he must wait for the “right moment” to fit the message into a conversation. And wait. And wait. (and forget.)
Not with Movember: people will ask to be told the message. Grow a MO and go about your normal life in November… curiosity will be too strong, people will have to ask “what’s with the moustache”? Boulevard to explain Movember and ask for a donation. They asked, right?
This should get us thinking about what makes a good conversation starter and how we can equip our advocates with the equivalent of the November MO.
- It works because it’s quite literally “in your face”. It’s visible, unusual and a change people can’t miss.
- It works because it’s a statement. You’re exposing yourself and it’s not cool at first glance (it’s starting to be now, as awareness grows, so let’s see if this is sustainable)
- It works because it’s fun. It’s not hard charity work, it’s playful and simple to do.
- It also works because you can reverse it at will (notice they did not ask you to shave your eyebrows)
I can’t think of many examples as powerful as Movember. I have to go back to the “statement” made by early iPod adopters with the now-iconic white earbuds to think of something vaguely similar.
But here’s a few other conversation starters, from personal experience:
In the first few months after buying the iPad, countless strangers stopped me in the street to ask me about it;
The smart little messages printed on the back of Molson beer labels got a few conversations started at the bar with my mates;
More recently, I’ve had my fair share of Twitter followers asking what this #usguys hashtag was, that I kept using all day;
And while doing exactly 5 minutes of research for this post, I found a great idea on the financial brand’s blog: inviting employees to reveal a little about themselves through placards in their workspace… not unlike what a lot of smart tweeps do with unusual bios.
All conversation starters.
I’d love to hear about more examples from readers of this post! Because I can’t think of a more powerful way to make advocates feel proud of embracing a brand, product or a cause, than giving them an excuse to be asked to talk about it.
So… what’s the MO on your brand? What’s your conversation starter?