April 1st was originally intended to be the day where people successfully pulled off the most elaborate pranks on those closest to them. These days, the annual celebration is arguably one of the most important days in the PR calendar for brands, businesses and media organisations who hope to make the headlines with their fake product launches and news stories. But at a time when every major company seems to be joining in the hilarity by promoting their made-up campaigns on the most obvious date of the year, have these stunts lost their potency?
2019 had some tough competition for the top spot as best April Fools’ in terms of marketing. Notable examples include clothing retailer Boden making a mockery of Brexit with their Breton shirt ban, announcing that new EU rules meant Brits wearing stripes could face a hefty €1000 fine. Their campaign also offered customers a Breton stripe removal service.
What this public relations stunt lacked in believability it more than made up for in relevance to the current daily Brexit updates we can’t seem to get away from. It brought the brand to people’s attention and contributed to the debate of Brexit whilst gaining Boden some successful engagement across social media and visits to their website. Learn more >
Another story that caught my eye was the BBC advertising their new ‘Skip The Sex Button’ which promised to fast-forward the racy moments of your favourite programmes and avoid the awkward moments.
This bogus campaign proved surprisingly popular with users on social media, leading to multiple requests for the public service broadcaster to make this fake feature into a reality. Is this something that the BBC can or will actually consider or is it an unforeseen problem with outrageous product launches, that clients might actually want them? Learn more >
Overall, this year’s April Fools’ day stunts were really much like any other: most made you roll your eyes at the un-originality, some made you disappointed the product was fake, and very few made you genuinely concerned before you realised you’d fallen for it. In a time of fake news and outrageous stories hitting the headline almost every day, some cases became harder to identify whether it was an April Fools’ Day prank or just a normal breaking news story.
But does it really matter whether consumers believe the bogus campaigns corporations put out on the day which is intended for pranks? The over the top launches, or nonsensical products might not be believed by many, but if the campaign hits the mark with making people laugh and engage, it might make the headlines anyway.
A successful, well-thought out April Fools’ idea, that chimes well with your brand values, could be a good opportunity of getting your organisation’s name out there. An increase in social media engagement, visit to your website, or even articles about your prank’s success can all bring your real messages to a bigger audience. On a news day where it can be easy to pick up coverage, showing the public that your business understands what a sense of humour is, can often bode well for your reputation even after the punchline has been revealed.
While April Fools’ day sounds like an easy sell, more and more companies are trying to be in the spotlight each year. And when every brand is trying to top each other for the funniest gag, is it harder to stand out? When everyone’s trying to win the ‘I got you’ game, your business runs the risk of being side-lined by more recognisable brands who offer a comedic twist on an already iconic product. On the most obvious day of the year to pull pranks, it’s really no wonder that 1st April becomes somewhat of popularity contest for a number of organisations.
When every business is playing prankster on their customers until 12pm, the joke launches can feel a bit overdone and become less effective. Some businesses want to jump on the bandwagon regardless of whether it is in-keeping with their brand, is worthy of the time, effort and money spent creating the joke, and not to mention how easily these hopefully obvious fake campaigns can cause confusion amongst the clients who have taken the story at face value.
Unless you’ve got a genuinely original prank that potentially shocks your clients or gets them begging to turn your fake launch into a real one – I would sit April Fools’ Day out. While years ago, it was easy enough to get your brand name out there with a somewhat simple campaign, now that it feels like everyone is competing for the best corporate gag, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Especially on the day when jokes are most expected, it could be more effective to not partake in the business banter and instead focus on your core products and services.
How do you feel about businesses taking part in April Fools’ Day? Is it harmless fun or a waste of time? Let us know with a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org