It’s that time of year again: April Fools day. The day when we spend four hours double-checking the office sugar pot before we put it in our tea and second-guessing requests from our colleagues.
I bring popcorn to work on April Fools day. I sit in anticipation of the numerous tech firms, marketing agencies and brands that decide to leap on the April Fools brandwagon. So many of them produce weird and wonderful pranks to hoodwink the public, but, as history has proved, this particular date also brings a wave of comms fails from brands trying to pull an Oreo-esque quirky stunt, an getting it terribly, terribly wrong.
This year the April Fools pranks have not disappointed.
This year once again we have been treated to the good: Google’s Cardboard Plastic Actual Reality Experience Headset a satirical take on the latest industry boom in VR, the bad: ‘Rogue One’ a prank pulled by a designer at Empire Magazine that no one believed, and the ugly: Farage’s EU ‘blag’ which was simply mocked as a bad attempt at a joke.
One particular brand has demonstrated that it is not just the little guys that can get it wrong. This year, the mighty Google’s Gmail April Fools prank, ‘The Mic Drop’, has backfired catastrophically. The ‘Mic Drop’ prank to involved users’ individual Gmail accounts. Google added a second special ‘Send’ button, which when hit, appended a gif of a minion dressed as a queen dropping a mic to the end of your email, and subsequently banished the thread to the archives, to allow you to “have the last word”. This prevented recipients from following up on these confusing emails – in many cases with much needed explanations…
The risky – and in many cases damaging – campaign caused a huge online backlash, causing serious distress to many Gmail users. Gmail issued a statement and the feature was pulled before the traditional midday April Fools curfew.
Trendjacking is always a risky business online. Done well, it can be fantastic, like Krisy Kreme’s #IOnceHadABossWho. But when it’s done wrong it can anger your audience and even put off potential users. Like shoe brand Kenneth Cole’s offensive tweet making light of the protests in Egypt.
This demonstrates the importance of sense checking any campaign before pressing the big red ‘Make Live’ button. If you, your team and your managers all think something risky or close-to-the-knuckle will come off as quirky and tongue-in-cheek, be sure to get the green light from someone who has had absolutely no involvement in the creation of the campaign.