If you haven’t yet seen the recent PSA video from Melbourne Metro Trains, “Dumb Ways to Die,” you’re missing out. This fun, creative, and important train safety warning is taking the web by storm! In only six days after being uploaded to YouTube, the video garnered more than 14 million hits; today that number is 27,914,061 and growing. As a testament to its success, you can now buy “Dumb Ways to Die” on iTunes and a karaoke version of it has been released so you can sing along or make up your own words! And this is just one element of a larger planned campaign that also includes Tumblr and an interactive site, and a future media spend.
What’s so striking about this short video is that its main message, to promote safety around trains, is not even mentioned until 2:22 into the video: dumb ways to die if you’re not safe around trains. And yet, the message of safety around trains seems to be resonating and in fact it has been called one of the greatest viral campaigns ever.
As Social Marketing professionals, we’re often faced with driving awareness and promoting behavior change around difficult and challenging topics and we’re tasked with encouraging people to make better decisions around their health, livelihood, and their safety. And in order to address these issues with the seriousness that their deserve and warrant, we often forget that sometimes humor is just as, if not more, effective in creating the behavior change that we’re after. Done well, tongue and cheek campaigns taking on critical issues have been, and continue to be, widely successful – for example, CDC’s successful Zombie Apocalypse campaign for disaster preparedness, which claims that “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” And they’re often credited with reaching new, particularly young, audiences, a sometimes challenging target for public service announcements and public health promotion.
So, with the catchy tune of “Dumb Ways to Die” still in my head as I write this, where do you stand – should we start taking ourselves a little less seriously? I’m certainly considering it, as just in the 20 minutes writing this blog, the video on YouTube earned another 105,842 views.