The #nomakeupselfie - Why it worked, and what Dove already knew

It’s day 6 of the #nomakeupselfie campaign, and the newspapers claim to have uncovered the source – a teenage Mum from Stoke.

Fiona Cunningham wanted to do something to raise awareness of [breast] cancer as it had touched her family. What happened next was an unprecedented viral campaign which has raised more than £8m in less than a week – one of Cancer Research UK’s most successful fundraising campaigns to date.

£8 million raised by #nomakeupselfie
Picture shared on Twitter by @CR_UK

While Cancer Research may not have come up with the idea, they certainly helped it along, putting their weight behind it and setting up a text number to make it even easier to donate and share.

The premise is a simple one, post a picture of yourself on social media wearing, shock horror, no make-up and make a donation to help beat cancer.

The celebs got on board, and people began nominating eachother – an idea clearly borrowed from the earlier #neknomination craze – a very different ballgame. 

This peer pressure only served to spread the word further.

The #nomakeupselfie is simple

There is no doubt that success lays partly in its simplicity – anyone with a mobile phone and internet connection can post their picture. No props required. In today’s fast-paced world, the limited time and effort required to participate is surely a factor.

The #nomakeupselfie piggy-backed a popular trend

The campaign uses a recent popular trend. It was so prevalent last year, that ‘selfie’ was voted The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013.  The self-taken photo recently came again to the fore when Ellen DeGeneres, @TheEllenShow, posted THAT Oscars selfie.

The #nomakeupselfie hit us where it hurt

Cancer has long been a subject that touches people – it has been estimated that more than 1 in 3 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives*, and many, many more will be touched by it. The very mention stirs up emotion within us all.

The #nomakeupselfie was controversial

Yes, in the beginning critics slammed the campaign for being irrelevant, citing the fact that there is no hardship in posting a make-up-less photo online….And, arguably, they should be right.

But I think one of the key success factors is that the #nomakeupselfie taps into women’s obsession with beauty.

Like it, or loathe it, a fact of today’s society is that women place a huge emphasis on outward appearance. The campaign uses this in a very real way – fostering feelings of vulnerability and togetherness. 

And its success cannot be denied

The relevance to cancer is neither here nor there, Cancer Research UK just happened to be the worthy recipient in this case.

And the difference the money will make is life-changing.

Dove already knew a lot of this…

It can’t be a coincidence that the top viral ad last year was the US ad Dove-Real Beauty sketches - a campaign from the Ogilvy Mather agency.

One of the aims was to ignite a global conversation about beauty proving that “you are more beautiful than you think”.

A forensic artist sketched women based on their own descriptions, and the descriptions of someone they had only just met. In all cases the language used by the stranger was much more positive and the resulting picture was much more attractive, and showed a greater likeness to reality.

Critics said it focussed too much on looks, But receiving over 4m shares across social media platforms, and 15 million downloads of the film in a month, the campaign tapped into the raw emotion of women’s self-perception.

As in all great stories, the women in the film experienced a change for the better – a change in attitude, a new-found realization and that they are beautiful – a lovely sentiment for Dove to associate themselves with, and not a hand-pump cream dispenser in sight.

It is this positive outpouring of emotion and empathy that inspires sharing

It is not surprising then, that the subject of women’s beauty ideals, a charity close to this country’s heart, and a simple on-trend task, proved to be a potent combination. 

Especially when you add the sharing ‘incentive’ of nominations.

Unfortunately for the big brands, this is not something that can be forced.  The mere whisper of a large budget and a boardroom of execs rubbing their hands together is enough to stop many a potential-sharer in their tracks.

The one thing that has become very clear in the world of social media is that people trust friends far more than they trust brands.

Even if what their friend is asking them to do is something that they don’t necessarily want to.

My #nomakeupselfie
My #nomakeupselfie


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