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Engaging the Changing World of Work with Pete Bombaci

Various styles of moustaches

This article originally appeared in Lēad Magazine, Issue 15: The Value of Brand Attraction.

According to a 2012 study conducted at the University of Calgary*, the amount of charities in Canada increased by about 21% between 1992 and 2008, while the amount of foundations almost doubled. The same study also reports that, of those many organizations, health related charities made up only 6% of the charities in Canada in 2008, while health-related foundations made up only 14% of all Canadian foundations. What these statistics show us is an increasingly competitive Canadian non-profit market; a market that Movember – the 2004 brainchild of a few Australians that has prompted men around the world to grow moustaches every November to raise money for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s mental health – boldly entered in 2007.

Back then, with just 2,400 Canadian participants (called “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas”), Movember raised just over half a million dollars. A mere eight years later, the country boasts 173,000 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who last year alone raised $32 million CAD, further solidifying Canada’s place as one of the top fundraising Movember countries in the world. “To date, Movember Canada has raised over $149 million CAD, and that’s an outstanding amount that we are very proud of and all made possible by our passionate Mo Bros and Mo Sistas across the country.” says Pete Bombaci, Canadian Country Director of Movember and (so far) six-time Mo Bro.

When asked about why he thinks the movement has become so successful in Canada, Bombaci says it’s got a lot to do with the fun of it. “I think it’s the humour in it; the irreverence. Canadians enjoy poking fun at one another, and when you match that with such incredible causes, it’s hard to not get involved. The simple act of growing a moustache has created a community that is truly making an impact on men’s health.”

The movement’s distinct branding reinforces that same humour and irreverence. The Movember website (www.movember.com), featuring a simple yet striking black-and-white motif unabashedly plastered with assertive typefaces and feral iconography, simultaneously parodies and pays homage to old-fashioned machismo, not unlike one who sports an early twentieth-century handlebar or twirly moustache in the early twenty-first century. “Movember’s a global brand, so our campaign theme is identical in all 21 countries we operate, but each year we strive to change, so any moustache style stands a chance at the spotlight.”

Of course, it’s all in good fun, and that’s exactly why Movember’s marketing in Canada and around the world has transcended the traditional strategies used by many other fundraising organizations: it turns men into walking, talking billboards for men’s health, and they are literally able to start conversations that get men to open up about their health. As Bombaci says, “With all the funds that we raise, if we can’t get a man to go to the doctor when he’s in need or when he’s feeling under the weather, then all the programs and all the research are for naught.”

But it’s more than just the fun that attracts people to Movember. According to Bombaci, Movember’s success is not only reflective of Canadian society, but of evolving societal values everywhere Movember has taken root (pun intended) – and those changes, along with a unique and relevant branding strategy, are crucial to attracting more Mo Bros and Mo Sistas as well as the right talent to lead the campaign year after year. “I think the world is changing,” says Bombaci, “and I think more people than ever before are looking for jobs that have a purpose. They want to feel that they’re making a difference and contributing to something that’s having an impact. When it comes to hiring, we look for passionate people who truly want to stand up and make a difference in the world.”

Finding the right people, especially to be employees, is particularly important. When asked about the demographics Movember tends to attract, one might expect Bombaci to answer that it’s primarily Generation Y, who are by many accounts considered the most socially conscious generation to date. However, according to Bombaci, Movember transcends age groups as much as it transcends borders. “It’s more about psychographics than demographics,” he says. “We’re not only looking for people with the skills to own the challenging roles we have, but also the right personality, drive, and commitment to get the job done – and more importantly, a desire to make a difference.”

When it comes to brainstorming those local strategies that continually push Movember to engage with other organizations, Bombaci says, “In Canada, it’s about identifying various communities that are important. The oil and gas industry, for example, loves to have a little camaraderie, so we’ve run online Movember Network Challenges, like the Oil Rig Rumble. From campuses to the insurance industry to hockey, we’ve created fun and engaging Network Challenges for all the communities we are highly engaged with.”

Regarding the team’s engagement in planning, Bombaci comments that ideas from everyone, regardless of their departmental function, are most welcome. “We’re a small, tight-knit organization, so everybody has an opportunity for input. Our open forum team meetings allow everyone to contribute. The minute a campaign ends, we go straight into planning for next year, which is a collaborative process that reflects on the last campaign and informs how we can do better.”

Such inclusiveness is not only a staple of Bombaci’s leadership style, but also of Movember Canada’s employee value proposition/employer branding proposition – and it, along with an ingenious branding strategy and customized Canadian outreach efforts, is a cornerstone of the team’s success. “I will say that my philosophy in business is about treating your staff with respect and empowering them to come to work motivated every day so that they give you their best,” says Bombaci. “The learning I’ve had as a leader working in organizations and speaking with HR people over the last 20 years of my career has provided me with great guidance on how to build an organization and how to lead a team. As a result, there’s always a little bit of HR in everything that I do.”

*Payne, Abigail. Changing Landscapes for Charities in Canada: Where Should We Go? Calgary: The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, 2012.

About Pete Bombaci

Pete BombaciPete Bombaci is a veteran of the hospitality and alcohol industry having worked for over 20 years in sales, trade marketing, and brand development. Prior to joining Movember, Pete led his own consulting firm where he helped clients understand that delivering remarkable experiences every day is key to building a strong brand. As Canadian Country Director of Movember, a global charity supporting men’s health, Pete focuses on growing, grooming, and thanking the Movember community across the country throughout the year by working with community groups, businesses, men’s health partners, and many others to help create their Movember journey. Pete has a passion for making a difference in the world and takes pride in helping Canadian Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who share this conviction.

About Lēad

Since its first issue in 2007, Adecco Canada’s Lēad Magazine has been keeping employers on the cutting-edge of developments, trends, and breakthroughs in workforce management. Featuring articles from some of Canada’s foremost economic, legal, diversity, political, and HR experts, Lēadis an invaluable guide through the dynamic and ever-changing world of employment affairs. To view past issues, please visit our Lēad archive.

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