Sometimes when marketers can't beat a trend, they join it. So Gillette, which for years has been losing face to the less-shaving movement, will for the first time in the U.S. back Movember, a campaign that urges men to grow mustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer.
Movember, a 2003 Australian idea picking up momentum stateside, is only the early stubble in a hairy manscape for razor makers. According to Wahl Clipper Co., which has backed Movember since 2009 in the U.S. and a year earlier in the U.K. and Canada, the facial-hair trend goes well beyond November.
Wahl Marketing Director Steve Yde said during his nine years at the company, the percentage of U.S. men sporting the stubbly look at least part of the year has grown to 16% from 3%. The mustache, thought to be a creature of the 1970s and "80s, has been a fixture on about 40% of men's faces at sometime each year for decades, Mr. Yde said. And the goatee has remained even more popular, worn by 55 million to 60 million American men at some point each year, he said.
For Gillette, whose Procter & Gamble Co. sibling Mr. Clean also has promised on Twitter (@RealMrClean) to grow a virtual mo, Movember this year was a natural fit -- both to support men's health and because the brand has launched a Fusion ProGlide Styler to trim facial hair, a spokeswoman said.
Facial hair was common prior to World War I, when the Army required men to be clean-shaven so their gas masks would fit, Mr. Yde said. After soldiers returned, Col. Jacob Schick (yes, that Schick) used ads equating being clean-shaven with patriotism, Mr. Yde said -- a notion that stuck until the 1960s.
Now, marketing is starting to back facial hair. Via agency HY Connect, Milwaukee, Wahl is backing its effort with ads on us.movember.com and 15-second spots in Times Square. P&G, meanwhile is doing a three-city eMo'gency Styler Tour featuring Andre "3000" Benjamin, one of its "Masters of Style" from its Styler campaign, and a billboard on Times Square in December by BBDO, New York.
Part of the popularity of Movember comes from men's reaction to the ubiquitous pink of October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, said Movember Chief Operating Officer Jason Hincks.
"When we looked at money being raised for charity, No. 1 is women's health issues," Mr. Yde said. "No. 2 is children's health. No. 3 is dogs. And No. 4 is men. So we were trying to get above the dogs."
Mr. Hinks said 175,000 U.S. men have signed up to grow charitable mustaches as of Nov. 8, already ahead of last year's 145,000.