“Set fire to your hair…poke a stick at a grizzly bear…Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die…”
I remember so clearly being in 8th grade at my school on the Gold Coast, QLD singing this iconic song. Little did I know at the time that this song was actually part of an advertising campaign for safety on public transport in VICTORIA!!!
The dumb ways to die campaign launched in 2012 has been considered the 12th best campaign of the 21st century. However it was questioned as to how effective it actually was in keeping Victorians safer on public transport. Now don’t get me wrong the virality of this campaign was enormous, it not only reached the Victorian population but as stated earlier it reached myself as a 14 year old girl living on the Gold Coast who had never even been to Victoria let alone been on public transport.
The campaign had 4 primary objectives:
- Increase public awareness and engagement with rail safety
- Generate PR, buzz and sharing around our message about rail safety.
- Invite a commitment to be safe .
- See a reduction of near misses and accidents at level crossings and station platforms over 12 months by 10 per cent.
However in the end PTV declared that they did not have sufficient data to provide us with a benchmark
prior to this campaign and hence were unable to measure KPIs accurately. This campaign was designed to set measurable objectives in terms of awareness & engagement yet it mostly just promoted a catchy theme song which most people couldn’t or didn’t even relate back to PTV. PTV lost control of their own campaign and instead of setting awareness to public transport users the whole campaign just developed into a song and eventually a app game that parents disliked their children playing due to its violence such as cartoon caracter dieing in rediculous ways.
Ever since the dawn of social networks in the early 2000s, marketers have been attempting to create curious online advertisements that people would be inclined to share and potentially go viral. But for so many businesses this is where they go wrong or lose control as many businesses still don’t understand that you can’t just make something go viral because in this new era of media it is often the audience that defines something as popular not the developer and for many things that go viral it is often released years before it even becomes popular. As Kevin Allocca mentions in his TED talk, virality is done through three steps, Tastemakers, who first discover the thing worth sharing, Participation, the people who follow on and participate in the sharing of content and unexpectedness, the fact that virality cannot be planned.
Social media marketing and virality is a high risk high reward kind of marketing scheme. This is because there is a high risk that your campaign will either not take off because its not worth sharing or that people won’t understand the underlying (like the Dumb ways to Die campaign which went viral but for all the wrong reasons). However viral marketing has high reward due to the fact that if your campaign does take off an become viral there is a high chance that it will reach a large consumer audience and be beneficial to your brand and image.