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Move Over Pink: What Millennial Men Want from Cause Marketing Campaigns


By Whitney Dailey

Beards may be the trend du jour, but chucking razors during the month of November is more than just a fashion statement: It’s also a declaration in support of men’s health. Movember has slowly been gaining steam worldwide, asking men – and especially millennials – to embrace the 5 o’clock shadow to raise awareness for men’s health causes, an often underrepresented topic in the cause marketing world.

At the crux of the effort is the Movember Foundation; its mission is to make a global contribution to men living happier, healthier, longer lives by bringing awareness to issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity. And the movement is catching on – since 2003, the Movember Foundation has raised more than $650 million globally.

Movember is now firmly established as a cause marketing effort with “oomph,” and is turning heads as it targets one of the most overlooked segments of shoppers. But millennial men can be fickle to engage; they are one of the most likely groups to tune out cause marketing messages and are more likely to punish brands that do it wrong. Yet engaging millennial men in cause marketing efforts is still a key driver in favorability and trust.

Eighty-eight percent of millennial men will switch brands to one that supports a cause, and although they skew slightly less than their female counterparts, nearly 9 in 10 have a more positive image (90 percent versus 95 percent of millennial females) and are more likely to trust companies that address social and environmental issues (87 percent versus 92 percent millennial of females). So, how can organizations successfully engage millennial men to action?

Findings from the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study reveal that when it comes to engaging millennials, a one-size-fits-all communications strategy just won’t cut it. In fact, different millennial segments have widely diverse drivers to action when it comes to participating in social or environmental initiatives – and millennial men are no exception. Organizations looking to target the millennial male with a cause message should keep these key insights in mind:

  • Stick to the hard facts: Although storytelling can be an effective way to convey social or environmental messages, millennial men are more motivated by facts and figures. This group prefers information on corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts in the form of numbers and data related to impact over stories (30 percent versus 18 percent of millennial females). The Movember Foundation provides data on the work it funds in the form of “report cards.” Each report card gives essential information such as funding to date, project status, what organization or individual implemented the program, and what has been accomplished so far.

  • Entertain, while educating: Millennial men see videos (36 percent versus 34 percent of millennial females), games (28 percent versus 24 percent) and infographics (21 percent versus 10 percent) as effective ways to learn about CSR commitments. So, it’s important to make sure that content is fun and engaging in order to grab the attention of this audience. Movember Foundation tunes into these unique drivers through the “Run Mo Run” mobile game, which includes in-app game purchases to support the foundation, and the Movember Radio weekly podcast, highlighting men’s health issues in an informative and amusing way. Movember also partnered with College Humor to use humor to raise awareness for men’s issues.

  • Get social: Like most millennial segments, millennial men are more likely than the average American to use social media to address or engage around social or environmental issues (62 percent versus the 53 percent U.S. average). Movember Foundation is tapping into millennials’ social nature by featuring Top “Mo Space” Fundraising Pages on the foundation’s website. To infuse an element of gamification, pages are ranked by the number of Facebook Likes and Tweets each gets – the more social a fundraising effort is, the higher the “Mo Space” is featured on the site.

  • Involve friends, family and networks: Over 75 percent of millennial men said they’d tell friends and family about social or environmental efforts. So, programs should be built to make it easy to spread the word and get others involved. Movember Foundation created Industry Challenges so that participants could band together and compete against other teams in the same industry. Challenges include industries such as Agency, Gaming, Healthcare and Pharma. To inspire younger millennial men to action, the foundation also created challenges for MBAs and “Big Moustache on Campus.” The foundation also provides event guides for those who would like to put on their own Movember event.

For the last 20 years, companies have leveraged cause marketing as a way to win the hearts of female consumers, with products and campaigns doused in pink, red, and a rainbow of colors as a way to raise awareness for social issues. Yet, too often men have been an overlooked target audience. Now, the tide may be finally changing. This group is coming of age and into the shopping aisles, with 80 percent of millennial dads now claiming primary or shared grocery shopping responsibilities and millennial males spending twice as much a year as non-millennial males on items like clothing. But don’t think the old models of cause marketing will apply; this group needs different content and engagement to inspire action.

Whitney Dailey is a senior supervisor at Cone Communications on the CSR Planning & Insights team, where she leads the development and distribution of industry-leading research studies, including the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study and 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study. Her expertise in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and social media helps to guide thought leadership at the agency. Whitney is a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College and Simmons College and tweets at @WhitneyDailey.

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