Plush just the start for Dumb Ways to Die

Vinyl figures, games and blind bags in the pipeline for cult brand which started life as a train safety advert.
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Underground Toys will soon be distributing a range of Dumb Ways to Die plush toys, says licensing agent for the brand Evolution, and this is just the first in a series of toy moves for the brand.

Dumb Ways to Die started life as a safetycampaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia, but its song and video went viral, its YouTube account has over 70 million views and its app has now mustered over 35 million downloads.

A plush range is on the way from New York-based manufacturer Commonwealth Toy and Novelty and Evolution believes that it is just the start.

“There’s an appetite for the characters and Commonwealth has developed a phenomenal range,” Evolution’s president, licensing and retail, Travis Rutherford told ToyNews.

“The product is beautiful. As long as it’s priced right and in the right stores, I think it will sell very, very well.

“The Commonwealth line is multiple skus. They have a plush range and vinyl figures. You’ll see vinyl skus probably stage two, they just haven’t had them tooled yet but they are in the plan. Then, as the brand grows, we’ll look into blind bag opportunities and there certainly could be game opportunities and novelty.”

The plush range will be launching in specialty stores first, with the first product shipments expected Q2 2014.

Rutherford believes the brand should prove lucrative for toy stores due to already enormous popularity of the videos, and its characters.

“The characters are beloved by millions and millions of people,” continued Rutherford.

“Metro is investing and we’re spending a lot of time developing new content strategies for the brand so there will be on-going entertainment as we make the transition from a safety message to an everyday character initiative.

“They’re funny, quirky and a little macabre but it’s taking a fun twist on what is normally a boring subject matter and making it more innovative, interesting and different. Everybody loves to think up different dumb ways to die.”

The brand sees characters die in ways ranging from the cartoonish to train-related incidents, but all are presented in a light, irreverent manner.

Despite this, Evolution is aware some stores unfamiliar with the brand may approach with caution, but Rutherford believes the brand offers retailers something different than anything else currently around.

Rutherford added: “Retailers may be hesitant. Mass-market retailers are a pretty conservative sort of bunch. We’re starting the distribution plan at specialty and mid-tier to start with. We’re letting it find its consumer base and letting it find a home, and we’ll expand from there.

“If you take a step back and think about this, we’re not promoting dumb ways to die.

“We’re poking fun at a story angle that reinforces train safety. That message is a global message and can be delivered in many many languages around the world.

“They’re cute characters, they’ve got personalities and backstories and that’s it. With Dumb Ways to Die, there are great looking characters, they’ve got a reason for being, there’s a backstory here, there’s a good message for parents and kids and we think it’s commercially viable. We think the characters are great.

“When you look at what the intent was, and if you talk to parents, you understand this is a fun way to get a train safety message and a good public service communication tool out into the marketplace. It makes sense.”

And despite the macabre nature of the brand, Evolution has already seen Dumb Ways to Die fully embraced by children.

“Kids have immersed themselves in the brand,” revealed Rutherford.

“Look at the impressions on YouTube, the game stats and the user content generated with schools creating campaigns, stories and songs. Just look at Tumblr or on Twitter and everything else that’s gone out there in the social space. It became irreverent and quite broad reaching.”

The next step for the brand will see the original safety campaign repurposed around the world in multiple territories to push mass media reach for brand awareness and consumer impressions.

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