For the past month my 11-year-old son has been preparing himself for the most epic of April Fool’s Day. That means I better watch everywhere I sit, every morsel I eat and be prepared to giggle at his pending parade of pranks. There’s a slightly terrified part of me but more of me is excited to see his creativity in action.
All of his recent talk got me reminiscing about my favorite business April Fool’s Day pranks gone past. While Google takes the prize for the most April Fools jokes they aren’t the only ones who know how to have a good time.
Here are three of my all time favorites …
1) Need to pack ear plugs for your next flight? Travel booking website Skyscanner will give you the needed insight. One April Fools Day they revealed a new feature – the ability to predict the probability of sitting next to a crying baby or kicking toddler on your next flight. They even presented search results in a playful graphic.
2) In 2011 LinkedIn tapped into our inner wanna be celebrities by updating the “people you may know” with some playful additions include Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and Albert Einstein.
3) It’s not all about high-tech. In 2002 Tesco ran a newspaper ad advertising whistling carrots that had been engineered with air holes that would whistle when they were done cooking in boiling water.
What makes these smart brand builders?
April Fool’s Day brings out the silly in many of us but it is also serious business for marketers. A good April Fool’s Day prank can put a smile on the face of customers and non-customers alike. It tells the world you aren’t afraid to have a little fun. And if done well offers a subtle but effective view into your culture and value proposition.
But all April Fool’s Jokes are not created equal so keep these guidelines in mind.
1) Don’t scare people – You want to make people laugh not scare them. A bank sending out an April Fool’s Prank that your account is overdrawn is NOT funny. Instead, get to your audience’s funny bone.
2) Be playful – This is the time to have some fun. If you take yourself too seriously your attempt will fall flat. Don’t overly complicate the joke by making it complex to execute OR understand.
3) Tie it to your core message – I might be able to convince my clients that I’m closing down my consulting practice and opening up a dance studio but what good would that do my brand? Instead, make sure your April Fool’s Fun has a tangible relationship to your core business.
4) Make it plausible (at least sort of) – Don’t you hate it when someone tells you a joke and is laughing the whole time? The punchline is destined to be disappointing. A good April Fool’s joke must at least be believable enough to make you pause. The more serious it sounds, the more likely people will think for a second before getting their giggle on.
5) Don’t forget the punchline – The goal of a good marketing prank is to have some fun not to embarrass people into feeling foolish. Play up the plausibility of your joke, but make it far enough away from reality to make it clear you are kidding around.
Go ahead! Get your April Fool’s Day fun on. I’ve got one or two tricks up my sleeve I can’t wait to use.