Can brands still make a difference with the April Fool’s joke?

Once a tradition practiced by family and friends, in recent years brands and media have increasingly engaged in April Fool’s jokes, making well-done jokes about famous people and products.

One of my favorites was Aldi’s announcement of a brand new range of candles inspired by the greasy Scottish frying pan. Based on “customer research”, the new range, Eau d’Écosse rangeshowcased future favorites like Breathtaking Beechwood Bacon, Antalizing Tattie Scone, and Pudding Noir.

Others include the introduction of The new heart-shaped chips from Walkers, “made with love by the world’s first heart-shaped potato farm,” and Ant and Dec’s discussions about joining the Bond franchise. More than a few April Fools’ jokes have revolved around the royal family; The one that made me laugh was the claim that Prince Harry would be starring in a new biopic by artist Van Gogh.

Not all April Fool’s Day attempts have been so successful. Royal Mail bosses were forced to apologize after the Gloucester North delivery office hung a poster promising workers – who have been embroiled in a long-running dispute over wages and working conditions – an 11% pay rise. The organization described the prank as “misjudged” and tried to make amends for “any upset caused”.

The problem with the Royal Mail stunt is not only that it left a bad taste in the mouth, but that it was too realistic. The whole point of a great April Fool’s joke is that there are just enough hooks to make you think, but ultimately they’re not believable.

I would also argue that it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve the shock value required for brands to make their mark with April Fool’s Day stunts.

Ever since technology made it possible for anyone to create content, bloggers and vloggers have made the unexpected practically commonplace.

Elaborate pranks – check out @airracks brilliant $1 million scorpion venom trainers fooling even the most avid sneakerheads — and survivalists, like spending 24 hours in the desert with just one bottle of water, have become commodities for YouTubers and their clickbait currency.

The sheer volume of April Fool’s Day gags has also created tremendous competition for column fees and airtime.

While we saw many great examples of brands making rapid breakthroughs over the weekend, few of them made headlines and, as the Royal Mail example has shown, such tactics can even carry some risk if not carefully considered become.

So is the April Fool’s joke for brands over? Not necessarily. Do it for fun, do it to entertain customers, do it to be human. Laughing is never wrong, as long as it’s not at the expense of others.

Charlene Sweeney is Director of Media Relations at GREAT partnership

Adam Bradshaw

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