Condoms, mustaches find mutual cause in Movember

Movember 2015 Kick-Off Party
Source: Movember Foundation USA

This Movember, SKYN by LifeStyles wants you to grow a mustache and remember to use protection. The Ansell Healthcare condom manufacturer is teaming up with The Movember Foundation to raise awareness for men's health issues.

"(Movember) carries a serious message, and it's actionable for us because this is something that we're all about," said Carol Carrozza, Ansell Healthcare vice president of sales and marketing for North America. "America is a funny place. We're trying to get messages in everyone's lives around nutrition and health. This was a great alignment for us with what we're trying to say every day with our products."

For 2015, the Movember Foundation and Ansell Healthcare will hand out sample packs at selected events throughout November. It will also donate to the organization 50 cents per special Movember box of condoms sold, up to $50,000.

If you're flipping through your calendar wondering why you can't find Movember listed, it's because it's a pop culture holiday that has gained popularity thanks to the Internet. Brands are latching onto these meme-worthy dates for marketing opportunities, relying on social media buzz to help spread the word about their causes and companies.

On Friday, UberEATS teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to deliver Little Nero's pizzas to select customers, in honor of Home Alone Day. The month before, Universal Pictures teamed up with companies for Back to the Future Day. Stunts ranged from Lyft drivers offering rides in Deloreans, Toyota recreating a 2016 Toyota Tacoma truck to mirror Marty McFly's drive in the movies, and Pepsi releasing a limited edition Pepsi Perfect drink inspired by the soda sold in the movies. In June, Krispy Kreme handed out doughnuts for National Donut Day.

"Aside from a few sporting events and some spectacular entertainment, very few things attract mass participation like holidays," said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of marketing agency Digo Brands. "So, to own a branded holiday — your own month — it's become the marketer's new treat. It's part of the trifecta of marketing now to have your own social holiday."

DiMassimo said the trend of turning holidays into marketing vehicles can be brought back about a century ago to Christmas, when stores realized the event could become a great retail opportunity. Soon after, other holidays became tent poles like Easter and the Fourth of July.

"To me, we're in the age of the social holiday," he said. "We're in a social marketing age where we're all connected and we want to participate in these holidays. That's created a long tail for niche associations."

According to the Movember Foundation, the annual "holiday" started in 2003 in Melbourne, Australia, when 30 men jokingly tried to bring the facial hair back to fashion. (However, an Australian news outlet first reported on the trend in 1999, when a group of Adelaide residents grew mustaches during November for a pet charity.)

The next year, the foundation recruited more people turned it into a fundraiser for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Since then, it has become a global phenomenon in honor of men's health causes, inspiring viral memes. In 2014, the foundation was ranked the 72nd best nongovernmental organization by Global Geneva.

"(Movember) allows us to cut through the noise and clutter of other events and holidays," Ansell's Carrozza said. "It happens to be in the month of November, but these are clearly issues that men deal with throughout the year."

The 'Movember' mustache movement is growing
The 'Movember' mustache movement is growing

Ansell Healthcare's partnership with the Movember Foundation has a deeper meaning. DiMassimo explained that traditional social marketing was most effective when it rallied people around a real cause. Now that people can participate around buzzworthy events online, these dates don't really have to have a charitable component for them to be successful.

"It's really about what gets people excited and engaged in social ways," he said. "There is no difference between an altruistic cause and a pop culture event from a marketing sense. Both of them are things people use to define themselves and reasons to get engaged. It's times for brands to buy audiences and hit them over the head with your message."

He warns though that while it might seem original for the time being to create your own fun special date, advertising works in fads. If too many marketers turn every day into a holiday, consumers will be turned off.

"Novelty works really well because it creates stories," he said. "It feels fresh and gives people a new option to express themselves, but this strategy is getting old. These things are like fashion, and marketers jump on them, and then everyone jumps on them. Then, the world gets cynical. Brands should try to be earlier in the cycle, and not just copy each other."

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.