By Kate Hellig, Account Executive
April Fools’ Day consists of practical jokes and hoaxes and, for most, is a bright spot in bleak times. Though, with a global focus on Ukraine and other conflicts, the yet again rising Covid numbers, the escalating cost of living and the ever-increasing amount of disinformation across news channels and social media, gauging the tone of a decent April Fools’ joke has become a lot harder for companies.
However, that being said, if we only look back to a week ago, 2022 saw no shortage of April Fools’ campaigns across a variety of brands.
What do brands hope to achieve?
Brands see April Fools’ Day as a way to help their brand appear more light-hearted, humorous and appealing. (However, there is a fine line.)
For 364 days a year (365 days every four years) brands work hard to create content to build and strengthen trust with their audiences. Yet, on this single day of the year, brands willingly suspend their trust-building efforts and throw caution to the wind by publishing content intentionally meant to fool (or even worse, make fools of) their audiences. (Sounds crazy!) And a lot of the time, it is.
When it fails
Sometimes there is absolutely nothing funny about April Fool’s pranks, especially those by companies that are taken seriously. It can even create a crisis. Remember Volkswagen’s 2021 April Fools’ campaign?
Three days before April Fools’ Day, Volkswagen (VW) announced it would rebrand itself as Voltswagen to help call attention to its growing line of electric vehicles. The timing immediately caused confusion, the announcementwas questioned, and, because VW refused to deny it as fiction, outlets ran it as ‘fact.’
The result? When VW came clean, media organisations across the globe, from the BBC to Reuters, were incensed, customer trust was lost, and VW’s reputation was damaged. What a disaster.
When it flies
On the flip side, well thought-out, appropriate light-hearted pranks are all in good fun and can absolutely achieve the objective of a successful April Fools’ spoof, skyrocket engagement and broaden audience reach as seen with Aldi’s 2022 April Fools’ campaign.
The supermarket announced its desire to launch a budget airline, AldiAir, which would take on Ryanair and easyJet (easily!) with a Twitter user even responding: “You’d do a better job”. The store even revealed a logo containing the slogan ‘Specialflys since 2022’, which is a play on its famous Specialbuys aisle.
The slogan was clever, the prank resonated well with Aldi’s audience, was share-worthy and achieved (humorous) customer engagement and banter.
A successful corporate April Fools’ joke is all about timing and specificity while carefully connecting with audiences on a less corporate level. Being playful on April Fool’s Day could be a rare opportunity to show audiences a lighter side, making brands appear more relatable.
However, organisations must ensure that the joke is related to their brand and not a joke about their brand while maintaining consistent brand tone: the bottom line is, if said brand content has never used humour or the element of surprise then don’t do it on this day.
Instead take a backseat and let other brands do the fooling. Don’t become the fool.