Once again it is upon us. The one day of the year were it is accepted, and somewhat expected, that colleagues pull pranks on each other, the media divulge incredibly false information and the world becomes a little bit less serious for a short while. If you work in marketing April Fool’s Day is above everything else, a day where you can flex your creative muscle and do something big without the need of having the truth to back you up. In fact, for the past 10 years the special marketing campaigns created by some of the biggest or brightest brands in the world continue to marvel us even after they were proven to be nothing else but a joke.
If you run or work in a small business, you need not be afraid of participating in this growing global phenomenon. After all, you compete with the bigger brands on a daily basis, why should April Fool’s Day be any different? The rule of any marketing campaign targeted for this special day is that the truth must come out by noon, or, latest, by the end of the day. Beyond that, your efforts might not only be useless but you might even risk offending loyal customers. Here is how to make the most of your marketing on April Fool’s Day:
Cause an uproar
April Fool’s Day does not change the ultimate goal of marketing, getting the attention of new or existing customers. As I mentioned before however, you are allowed to tweak with the truth or just downright ignore it for the day. Back in 1998 the New Mexicans for Science and Reason published a newsletter where a headline read, “Alabama Legislature Lays Siege to Pi”. The article continued by saying that Alabama had voted to change the value of Pi (3.142…) to the ‘Biblical’ value of 3.
This article was quickly shared in print and even quicker on the Internet. The author behind the article declared it a hoax by the evening and explained that the point was to draw attention to potential legislation which would affect the way evolution is taught in schools. However the declaration came too late and the state department kept on receiving calls from angry or confused citizens and scientists for many days later.
Make them look twice
People today are so accustomed to the usual marketing techniques that they have become immune to their effect. It is up to marketers to up the game and come up with a solution to keep the public interested and bemused. This was Qantas’ intention when it issued a post on its social media page that following decades of its name being spelt incorrectly, it would be adding a U and would therefore become Quantas. The airline stated that this spelling would make it easier for foreign passengers accustomed to a U following a Q.
Qantas went a step further and posted a picture of one of its airliners with the amended name to really fool people. The change was to occur at noon on April Fool’s Day. The light hearted prank was quickly ousted, but it was shared and commented upon hundreds of times. It even got mentioned in international news. This unexpected post succeeded in engaging Qantas’ fans and led to it standing out from the rest of the posts done during the same period.
Offer the improbable
This is where your marketing strategy needs to adapt to April Fool’s Day perfectly. You cannot offer something completely impossible because then people would immediately know that it is false. However, if you are able to propose an improbable, but not impossible product or service, then you’ve got your audience hooked. This tip comes from a brand which needs no introductions when it comes to April Fool’s Day jokes, Virgin. The group founder, Sir Richard Branson, is a strong believer in the positive effects of special marketing on this day.
In 2013 Virgin Atlantic’s blog issued a statement that it had been keeping a new plane under wraps. This plane had the distinct feature of having glass flooring allowing passengers to see directly below them as they fly. The airline boasted that they would be offering clients direct views of amazing landscapes, which intrigued many who thought it possible. Forgetting the fact that even if a transparent floor was possible, the passenger’s view’s would be blocked by luggages, the airline still succeeded at creating a temporary hype of interest.
Give them a laugh
Laughter is infectious and with today’s technology laughter can be spread across the world in seconds. By creating an obvious fake product or service which is funny or cute, people will enjoy the humour and will share it with their friends. You do not need to go to great lengths to achieve this, since funny (and cute) is all around us, especially with pets. In 2015 Groupon UK started offering a new service, Dog Barking (for beginners). Who wouldn’t want to learn how to communicate with their dog, in their dog’s language?
The company also created a video case study of how this course benefits dog owners and those working in the dog caring industry. This simple and low budget marketing stunt succeeded at making the public like and share the video and raised awareness of Groupon UK, which is less popular than its US brother.
At the end of the day, the most important result of your April Fool’s Day marketing efforts is to have your story and your company featured in the media. The effect may be short lived, but if you carry out such marketing campaigns annually people will start looking forward to them, just as they do for Amazon, Google and Virgin. That is no joke!