23 April 2014 | Team Tamar

What can we learn from #nomakeupselfie?

The Word of 2013 was awarded to “selfie” by the Oxford English Dictionary, and its popularity doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Last month you may have noticed your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds being dominated by selfies of women with no makeup on (with the hashtag #nomakeupselfie)… and even some of men with a full-face of makeup.

Originally, the movement was started by 18 year old Fiona Cunningham, who set up the Facebook page “No Make Up Selfie For Cancer Awareness”, where she encouraged women to post selfies of themselves with no make up on, as well as donating to Cancer Research UK.

So what can marketers learn from the success of this campaign?

KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid

Now, you may not think that taking a selfie is ‘easy’, what with finding the right angle and filters to get it just how you want it; but the process in general is quite simple. Get a camera, point, and click. Just think, if you don’t have to worry about getting your makeup perfect, the whole thing is made a lot faster. Although the #nomakeupselfie didn’t start off officially associated with any charity or organisation, Cancer Research UK was able to leverage the trend into over a million of pounds.

Make sure you keep track of trends

In order to create campaigns that integrate seamlessly into people’s behaviour, it is vital to monitor online trends and crazes across all the main social platforms. Adapting an existing trend is a great way to engage with a new, younger audience that you may have previously considered ‘unreachable’. The #nomakeupselfie has transformed a guilty pleasure into a cause to support.

The #nomakeupselfie was unrivaled by previous campaigns due to it’s originality and the extent of it’s viral nature, meaning that there are very few examples available to compare. Now that brands are becoming more aware of online trends, don’t be too surprised if you see more campaigns like this emerging in the not so distant future.

Celebrity Involvement and Sacrifice


As much as we hate to admit it, the behaviour of celebrities does have an impact on us. When we witness those around us participating in a trend, as well as celebs, we feel more inclined to join in. This is especially true when the trend is for a positive cause and shows people in the public eye willing to put themselves in a more vulnerable position.

The photos are proof to the world that they are happy to go bare-faced and open themselves up to insults, making it far less daunting for the rest of us who don’t have millions of followers.

Olivola and Shafir (2011) found evidence that a certain level of suffering and effort endured for a good cause can help motivate people to take part. Seeing your friends, family, and public figures show a level of sacrifice gives people the courage to join in and share the ‘pain’.


Despite criticism emerging over the root of the trend being narcissism and not to raise awareness for a charity, the #nomakeupselfie was undeniably incredibly successful. If you are eager to replicate their success, make sure your campaign checks the following boxes; simple and easy to do, has a level of sacrifice, and most importantly is a unique variant of an existing trend. Don’t be too disappointed if you’re not able to raise £2 million in 48 hours though.

Team Tamar