Some ten years after the brand was initially launched, the original Dumb Ways to Die mobile game has raced to the top of the iOS charts globally, sparked by a viral trend on TikTok, and fueled by a nimble approach to user engagement by PlaySide Studios.
In 2012, Metro Trains launched a YouTube campaign to promote rail safety. The centrepiece was Dumb Ways to Die; an online music video with animated characters, offbeat humour and an undeniably catchy tune. Within 24 hours, Dumb Ways To Die reached Top 10 on the iTunes chart. The launch was shortly followed by the release of a portfolio of related mobile games and educational apps, with PlaySide being engaged to develop several free-to-play game titles. PlaySide later acquired the entire DWTD brand in October 2021.
One of the first initiatives undertaken by PlaySide was to re-engage existing fans, and reach new users via TikTok. Its mobile-centric, short-form video format was a critical platform for user engagement and key to the strategy of growing the franchise among a mobile gaming audience. Throughout 2022, the DWTD theme song has proven to be a popular backing track to UGC on TikTok, where creators film their own mishaps and misadventures, pausing their clips just before disaster strikes – to hilarious effect.
In January 2023, TikTok user blakefloyd04 uploaded a video with this theme using a template from CapCut. The clip proved hugely popular with other users and ultimately sparked a viral trend.
PlaySide almost immediately identified the trend gaining traction on TikTok, and quickly agreed on a coordinated strategy across the entire business – with mobile, marketing, and creative services teams working in unison to respond to the viral success of the brand.
Key to PlaySide’s strategic response was actively embracing the virality of the trend, and seeking to highlight engaging user-generated content through Dumb Ways To Die brand channels,
Active daily media monitoring across all platforms became a core responsibility for the entire Marketing & Communications function, which allowed the team to quickly identify new content on the platform, both from popular creators and new audiences engaging with the trend. Leveraging tools such as Level Up allowed real time identification of new trending and entertaining video content, and empowered the team to be nimble and reactive as new content emerged.
Armed with the ability to identify new content using the Dumb Ways To Die template, the PlaySide team leveraged custom animated and live action ‘Bean’ reactions to respond to and engage with content on the platform. By utilizing platform native formats such as the Duet function on TikTok - PlaySide were able to drive engagement, both with the Dumb Ways To Die brand channels, and promoting the ongoing success of the trend.
Other channel content quickly pivoted in line with the global trend format, with weekly ‘highlights’ reels, and live action Bean stunts and fail videos becoming regular content across all Dumb Ways brand channels . Likewise, content frequency increased dramatically across Dumb Ways To Die brand channels, from 3-5 posts per week, to 3-5 bespoke video posts per day - further fueling brand engagement and the momentum of the global trend.
Community interaction also became a focal point for the team - responding to comments, engaging with creators, and driving positive conversation on both brand and creator channels. Engagement rates on Dumb Ways To Die TikTok skyrocketed to over 10% - over double that of the average engagement rate on the platform.
By embracing the creators and the content driving the trend, and empowering them to leverage the brand, PlaySide Studios saw Dumb Ways to Die rapidly climb the global App Store charts.
Live Action Bean Duets
Live Action Bean ‘Fails’
Animated Bean Duets
Over 65,000 user-generated renditions have been created using the CapCut template on TikTok, amassing over 1.4 billion views worldwide in the past three weeks alone- over 150m of which have been driven by Dumb Ways To Die brand channels.
The trend has gone truly global, with celebrities (JoJo Siwa, Nicole Scherzinger, and The Wolf of Wall Street AKA Jordan Belfort), star athletes (Coco Gauff, AJ Dillon, Kyle Busch and Olivia Dunne), and some of TikTok’s biggest brands (Barstool Sports, Duolingo, Juventus, Tottenham Hotspur) all jumping at the opportunity to share some of their amusing fails.
To achieve this kind of scale across traditional user acquisition or brand marketing channels, an investment of tens of millions of dollars would have likely been required, and could never have guaranteed the viral and cultural impact.
Since the trend exploded on TikTok three weeks ago, the @dumbwaystodie account has doubled to over 3m followers, making it the 6th most followed gaming brand on TikTok, more than PlayStation and FIFA.
Since early February, Dumb Ways to Die has reached #1 for Games on the iOS App Store in 34 countries and the top Action Game in 57 countries, including the US.
The virality of the trend has also directly influenced the downloads of other Dumb Ways to Die titles (including Dumb Ways To Die 2 & 3, And Dumb Ways To Draw 1 & 2), driving over 400k new users to download the mobile games each day.
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