In the summer of 2013, my ten-year old daughter introduced me to the catchiest tune I had heard in a long time.
But it wasn't a song on the radio.
It was "Dumb Ways to Die," the musical soundtrack for a public service campaign presented by Metro, the franchise operator of Melbourne, Australia's railway network. The campaign was created to raise awareness of the potential dangers surrounding commuter trains.
The clever song accompanies an animated video filled with charmingly simple characters, many of whom resemble friendly jelly beans. While most of them "die" in a darkly humorous but improbable fashion, the last three characters meet their demise by acting foolishly around trains: jumping between station platforms, driving around crossing gates, and falling onto the tracks.
Both the song and the video are so engaging that you can't but help listen and watch over and over again. As of late January 2014, the video had been watched nearly 70 million times on YouTube alone.
The campaign has its detractors, but according to Metro, it helped reduce near-miss accidents at railway crossings by more than 30% within three months of its release. And an executive behind the campaign estimated it had received at least $50 million in global media value from the social sharing and 700 media stories it encouraged.
What's the Takeaway for You?
The creators of "Dumb Ways to Die" knew their message of "be safe around trains" had to be heard and shared if it was to stick. So, they made it irresistibly enjoyable as a piece of entertainment first, and then slipped in lessons that looked and sounded just like the jokes. It's what I refer to as the "spoonful of sugar" approach.
As your customers are exposed to a greater number of media messages each year, your company's marketing becomes harder to notice and recall, unless you begin with an unusual approach and the commitment to creating truly memorable content.
By the way, those very cute "Dumb Ways to Die" characters are about to pay off in another way: they'll soon be coming to stores as a series of plush toys. (Read the story.)