Lessons to be learned from Metro Trains’ ‘Dumb Ways to Die’

Metro’s viral campaign promoting safety around trains recently won the Grand Prix in PR at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, for their unique, quirky and creative solution to a perpetual issue.

The video, which featured a song titled ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ and a film clip including cute animated figures experiencing absurd deaths reportedly exceeded all goals for reach and behaviour change following the campaign’s release. The team behind the video set the goal of 25 per cent campaign awareness amongst their target audience within one year of launch. After one month, they had reached 46 per cent.

So what can we take away from this campaign?

Simple and consistent messaging

The ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ song has received tens of millions of YouTube views and iTunes downloads for what is essentially a playful tune and catchy lyrics. The title is repeated over and over throughout the lyrics in a repetitive chorus, leaving it stuck in the listener’s mind for hours.

If you can boil your company’s message down into a couple of key messages and ensure they are communicated consistently and continually throughout all your channels, your company’s mission and message will be clear to anyone who engages with your communications. Too many messages spoil the content.

Think like your audience

The masterminds behind the video were given a very clear target demographic for the campaign: 13-25 year old Australian public transport users – who typically have ignored the safety message thus far. In order to reach this audience effectively, they needed to establish what their target wanted to hear and how they wanted to hear it. Their strategy was specifically designed to “feel like it was coming from a peer, not from an authority. It had to be content, not advertising focused. And it had to be housed on social platforms that encouraged peer-to-peer sharing.”

Not all audiences will respond to the same channels in the same way. Some companies will be more suited to social than traditional media. Some will prefer longer-form, text based content whilst others more willingly process visual elements. Some audiences will expect you to maintain a formal, corporate style whilst others will like you to be more relaxed. Get to know your audiences and tailor your communication accordingly.

Don’t get trapped in the traditional

This campaign was described as “so deliberately different to the norm, it couldn’t help but create a conversation around the message”. Nothing Metro has ever released before has looked like this – and because of that, people took notice.

Whilst it may not be appropriate for every campaign and every company, don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the square when you have a chance. Novelty, humour and all things wacky draw attention for a reason – and if you can capture that audience’s focus even for a few minutes, you can use it to get your message across.