The start of April might feel like an opportunity too good to pass up. When better to roll out some levity than with permission from the calendar and marketing gods.
I get it. Geopolitical aggression is on the march. We’re still making our way across pandemic land, and any proportional sense of the ridiculous has taken a holiday. So it’s understandable why you may want to try and lighten the mood with some April absurdity.
But while trying to land fool’s gold and go one up on whatever someone did last year, have you considered the risks of your prank? What could possibly go wrong is a question best asked without irony!
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Stand up comedians hone their lines for months and try them out on a few audiences before going big. So, it bewilders me why organisations without a funny bone feel like they can come from nowhere and stick the landing.
What’s people’s motivation?
Every year there’s a global grab bag of gags from businesses, councils and government departments alike. Colour me cynical, but April Fools ghosts of the past suggest some ‘aren’t we clever’ ego is involved. More look at me than this is for you.
Even when businesses avoid the urge to try on some funny, they can’t completely give up on the marketing opportunity.
Last year well-known April Fools’ prankster T-Mobile dropped the gags and urged people to #givethanksnotpranks encouraging donations to education charity Donor’s Choose. Nothing wrong with supporting a good cause, still there are other days (or any day) when those efforts would make more sense.
Here’s an idea: do nothing.
Everything you do either adds or erodes value from your brand, including pranks. Unfortunately, few are deft at having fun without making fun of others, and the distinction is crucial.
Having fun done right is a boon to accumulating social capital, topping up people’s goodwill and conveying that they are part of the tribe. But few practice humour as part of how they conduct business every day.
Making fun strip mines my confidence. No one enjoys life as the butt of the ‘joke’, and that’s if the gag goes as intended. If the prank goes awry, the organisation becomes the fool and this year’s cautionary tale.
Even if the gag doesn’t go wrong, is the cost to your brand worth it? Are you adding any value to why people chose you and what matters most?
“It’s all in good fun” band-aids many stupid and questionable acts. Instead of trying to trick people, do the opposite with a genuine show of appreciation for your team and customers.