If Marketing About Avoiding Death Can Be Funny, Why Is Your Content So Somber?

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Dumb Ways to Die can be considered among the most innovative public service campaigns ever. The campaign launched in November 2012 in Australia, aimed at promoting train safety, an onerous topic, boring to deliver yet important for public safety. Railroad departments the world over run such campaigns to get commuters to listen to them, and to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.

None of them comes to mind however when you’re asked to recall train safety campaigns. None barring Dumb Ways to Die. Why is that?

Related: 6 Viral-Marketing Lessons to Learn From the Ice Bucket Challenge

You just have to watch this video once to understand. This campaign achieved what those that issued it wanted, and some more. It was an instant success and brought the number of near-miss accidents in that part of the world down by 30 percent. They even went on to make a mobile game out of it, the Android version of which has received more than 10 million installs.

While a seasoned advertising firm created the content for the DWTD campaign, there are lessons in it for all content marketers. If your content marketing efforts have been feeling increasingly stale lately, maybe it’s time for you to shake things up a bit.

1. It’s more important than ever to stand out. Content marketing is a huge industry now and therefore very competitive, almost saturated in places with so many also-rans and wannabes. To do the most obvious things, like writing a how-to post on dismantling fire alarms, isn’t going to get many excited.

You need to raise the bar every once in a while to prevent your followers from falling into a slumber. Shock them. Excite them. Entertain them. Do something out of the ordinary, while also conveying your point. Rest assured they will notice you and pay attention to what you have to say.

2. Preachy doesn’t cut it. “Papa, don’t preach,” sang Madonna in 1986, when admitting to her father that she was in deep trouble and needed help.

The self-help industry in general and the how-to space in particular is proof enough that people want to learn new things and help themselves in all spheres of life. That is why they seek out information (often from those totally unfit to give advice) in such big numbers.

And yet, start preaching and they tune out. Start selling and they want nothing to do with you. The key to making your content welcomed by a large number of people is to present it the right way. Not too serious, nor too frivolous. Don’t dilute the message, but do execute it in a light-hearted manner that people can have a chuckle at. It may catch on.

Related: 5 Tips to Rehab Your Pitch

3. Catch phrases and jingles help. Whether you sell medical equipment, window glass or dog accessories, a humorous jingle can help you not get the attention of your target audience and strengthen their recall of your brand.

This is not news, yet surprisingly few businesses make use of jingles in their content marketing campaigns.

4. Entertaining is the best way of educating. The DWTD advertisement brings together a number of scenarios. It educates people about what they do that puts themselves and their loved ones at risk.

No topic is more serious than death but this campaign doesn’t come across as morbid. Some might say it’s flippant in its treatment of death. The point remains that people do dumb things and sometimes they die as a result.

If you sell products crucial to fire safety, don’t bog down your readers with scary statistics and why they must buy fire-fighting equipment. Instead, consider making your point via a cartoon strip. It’s simpler than an Infographic, way more catchy and humorous images stick in the mind longer than numbers and stats.

Make sure not to be insensitive, however. South Park-like humor doesn’t always work.

Everybody wants to produce viral content but few think out of the box. While the black comedy of the DWTD campaign may not be to everybody’s liking, people in large numbers took note of the campaign and its message. Whether they all implemented it or not is beside the point. As a marketer your first challenge is to get your message out there in front of as many of your targeted segments as you can. An unorthodox approach significantly improves the chances of that happening.

Related: How the Ice Bucket Challenge Exemplifies Viral-Marketing Serendipity

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