COM 584 PR Campaigns

Inspirations, deep thoughts, surprising insights, or random ideas on how social media intersects PR.

Contagious Content


Man sharing viral content. Picture from 

It doesn’t have to be good to get shared. In fact, it can be straight-up dumb. One of the most shared PSA campaigns proved this with their humorous morbidity video, Dumb Ways to Die, which featured animated characters dying in various, ridiculous ways. Some of the ways include poking grizzly bear, using a clothes dryer for a hiding place, eating expired pie and more. It finally ends with the last three examples highlighting ways people walk or drive in front of a scheduled train passing – perhaps one of the dumbest ways to die.

With a catchy tune and some basic shock value, the content went viral. An ad created in Australia, marketed to America, and banned by Russia was eventually sold to a Canadian insurance company, after the concept took the world by storm. So what made it viral? Mark W. Schaefer, author of The Content Code, would argue it possessed two essential characteristics: it struck an emotional chord by making people laugh, and it raised awareness about a cause.

It also made it easy to share by creating various platform sharing opportunities. The concept started as a YouTube video, and then made the top 10 lists on iTunes within 24 hours of launching. But it didn’t stop there. The Melbourne agency that created the campaign went on to create a free game app with the Dumb Ways to Die characters – characters, by the way, that you could purchase as stuffed character toys. Then, to continue their salability and content strategy, the campaign created an educational children’s book which was distributed to children to raise train safety awareness.

Because of this campaign’s viral content success, train fatalities decreased by 21%.

Dumb Ways to Die showed us that contagious content simply needs one or two strategies to create a viral sensation.


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This entry was posted on September 26, 2016 by in campaign, Chapter 3, dumb ways to die, shareability, social media, Uncategorized.

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