April Fool’s Marketing: How Not to Do It

Author: Gina Hall | April 4, 2016

Online April Fool’s Day pranks can be a boon for business or backfire completely. Should you take the risk of fooling your followers with April Fool’s marketing or play the party pooper?

A funny marketing campaign can build goodwill and deliver clicks to your website, but a digital prank gone wrong can draw groans at best or, at worst, will completely alienate your customers.

This year, an April Fool’s Day prank backfired on Google. The Mountain View-based company had to recall its “Mic-Drop” prank on Gmail only a few hours after it launched. The feature allowed Gmail users to “send and mic drop” their emails, which automatically attached a GIF of a mic-dropping Minion, an animated character seen in the animated feature film “Despicable Me”.

Unfortunately, the prank “send button” looked too much like the regular send button and many users unknowingly sent the nutty GIF attached to serious business emails to bosses and clients. Some users complained that it even cost them jobs.

“Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year,” Google wrote in a blog post. “Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs.”

So how do you join in the fun without the regret? Here are the do’s and don’ts involved in a prank-based marketing campaign.

1. Do: Make sure April Fool’s marketing humor fits with your brand

Is your social media feed snarky? Do you post blogs with an attitude? Then you may be ready to build a prank into your marketing campaign. If you want to pull a prank on your customers, make sure the joke is a play on your brand and doesn’t make fun of a competitor or come across as mean.

Does your company have a serious purpose? Best to steer clear of pranks that could be deemed in bad taste.

2. Don’t: Make a false promise

Claiming that your company will offer a product or service for free, no matter how outrageous, rarely ever works. Remember “The Simpsons” episode where the radio DJs offer Bart a cash prize or an elephant? Guess which one Bart wanted?

Offering something implausible may seem funny at the office, but when people find out the deal is a prank, it turns them off to your brand.

3. Do: Drive clicks to your website

If you’re going to do something clever, make sure it drives traffic to your website. But remember, if you send out a prank tweet, you’re going to have to follow through with the joke on your website. Make sure you have the time and resources to dedicate to the marketing effort.

4. Don’t: Take the joke too far

Remember that April Fool’s Day is funny for, well, a day. Don’t commit to a marketing campaign that takes place for more than 24 hours. You don’t want to answer emails about the prank weeks later.

5. Do: Keep the April Fool’s marketing jokes grounded

The joke will be funnier if people believe it’s true, even if it’s just for a moment. If you offer a product, add a silly bell or whistle to it. Are you a consultant? Email your clients about a service that seems just a little off base. Run your prank idea by a few trusted associates to make sure it’s actually funny.

Happy pranking!

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