On Brands, Fools and Social Media: Some PR advice for marketers for April Fool’s Day

Tim Munroe

April Fool’s Day is a revered holiday for marketers that have a funny bone. We all love to see what brands will pull off the best pranks. It’s a good chance to be creative and off beat, and to put things in perspective with a little levity. Who can forget the left-handed Whopper, Gmail Tap, P&G’s Bacon Mouthwash, or American Eagle’s skinny, skinny jeans?

But before you execute your April Fool’s prank, assess carefully. As an office jester myself, some of us have learned the hard way that one person’s humor is not always shared by others.

Brands especially have to think April Fool’s pranks through carefully—you don’t want to damage your reputation or risk lost sales. Obvious, right? Yet chances are, a day after April Fool’s 2014 we will be reading about brands that make the mistake of being too clever, too cheeky, too dumb or too offensive in their attempt at humor.

Here are some tips to consider before you get egg on your face.

  • Most important get approval. Check with your human resources and legal departments and make sure they know, vet and approve the April Fool’s prank. Also enlist your most important senior executives for their support; they don’t like surprises. April Fool’s is fun but it’s better to avoid a potentially career-limiting move by damaging your brand.
  • Ask, is there anyone living (or dead) on this green earth that will be offended? If so STOP immediately and consider the April Fool’s prank no further. Today’s world comprises a million sensitivities and it is simply not worth putting your brand at risk for the sake of a few laughs. Ask everyone you know does this prank offend anyone in any way or any how. If it remotely steps on anyone’s hot button, abandon immediately.
  • Does it impact your brand negatively in any unforeseen ways? Sometimes when a brand plays an April Fool’s joke on an unsuspecting audience, there can be a negative, but unforeseen business impact. For instance, your prank may actually hit upon an unknown customer frustration, issue or sensitivity. You need to vet those out and consider the April Fool’s prank and all its possible ramifications before you find out the hard way that your brand had an issue you were not aware of.
  • Be on brand and execute well. Other than a few laughs, is there anything to gain from a brand visibility front, by pulling off an April Fool’s prank? The best corporate brand April Fool’s jokes somehow not only do not offend, they actually enhance the brand. The absolute expert on this is Google, who manages to always reinforce the fact that its brand stands for innovation even though it may be a bold-faced prank.
  • Poke fun at yourself. Self-deprecating humor is better received that making fun of someone else. Poking fun at someone else’s brand, product or services via social media or other public media is not only bad form, it’s an invitation to a lawsuit. Just don’t do it.
  • Let the prank-ee in on the joke, eventually. Make it easy for those that take the bait, to dig a little deeper and then let them in on the joke. The point is you want your audience gullible for a moment, not completely duped. Let them in on the joke so no one harbors any deep resentment that they have been April Fool’ed. Don’t let the April Fool’s prank go too long before you say “gotcha.”

 

Do you have any other advice to add? Let us know what brands made you an April Fool this year and why you think they were successful or not..

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