A Not So Dumb Way to Get Your Message Across: A Look at Metro’s “Dumb Way to Die”

One thing I love about the technology and science field is that how great ideas come from the strangest and most unexpected left fields.  Very often these people, unconstrained by conventions or prior experience use technology in a way that really cut through the noise in very effective ways. Dumb Ways to Die team has definitely hit the ball out of the park when they decided to go one step further than most marketing team would have envisioned.  Turning a technology that is associated with entertainment, mobile game, into an educational tool.

Dumb Ways to Die, for those that don’t take public transport in Melbourne, was Metro Trains’ public safety announcement campaign pushed out in 2012.  It went viral overnight with its catchy tune and video.  Today it has spawned a series of sequel app games, junior games, soon to be upcoming VR game (more on this in a minute) and merchandise lines.

Looking for an innovative way to catch the attention of teenager and young adult bracket (“who thinks they are invincible”), Metro’s marketing team decided to approach it from a fun perspective.  The brilliant step was that, rather than stopping at the usual passive channels (e.g. poster, ad, song) of an advertising campaign, they went further in releasing a mobile app game where you actively prevent your “bean” from dying in a really “dumb” ways.

By making their audience participate, it reinforces the message but it also helps the message stay relevant.  There have been game updates for every major event to the game and their social media.  And as anybody who plays mini-games know, limted time updates are the key to keep people coming back for more.

But I think the most important point of this story is that by using technology in a way that works with human behaviour (rather than getting human to adapt to technology…looking at you iPhone X…), Metro has found a way to get their message out and stuck in the minds of people (over 10 million downloads of the original game at last count).

How effective was their campaign? As one of the panelist mentioned during the Dumb Ways to Die discussion at PAX Australia, “To have a mother once wrote to us saying you have saved my daughter’s life today. That is what matters.”

As mobile device (and hopefully one day our Internet infrastructure) technology becomes more sophisticated, it is shown time and again that technology originally made for entertainment would be used in everyday functional ways.  I am sure the game developers on the Dumb Ways to Die never imagined that their game writing skills would indirectly save someone’s life.  This is true in a lot of technology careers, just because a piece of technology doesn’t seem useful right now, doesn’t mean it never will be….

Good on Dumb Ways to Die team for showing us that!

(If you want to have a catchy tune stuck in your head for the next few days, have a look at their YouTube video above.)

For the original mobile app games and Junior games (latter more appropriate for the 3+ age group): Android Play Store or iTunes

The VR Game

As a sneak preview, they showed at PAX Australia their in development game in VR. While it is still in a mini-game format, the VR has allowed them to put in a dimension of multi-tasking that is required.  The aim is that character “Botch” is in a camping ground and you must keep him warm, fed and safe all at the same time…. which I am sure a lot of parents will find familiar.

It is not available yet, but I hope it is released soon.  We had a tonne of fun playing it.


This is an unpaid post and we have no affliation with Metro Trains, Dumb Ways to Die or PAX.

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