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How to Actually Get a Laugh This April Fools’

March 30, 2021
By Maddie Hamb

While April Fools’ Day used to bring to mind innocent elementary school pranks and the occasional brand hijinks, the all-encompassing presence of social media and increasing desire to go viral has led brands in every sector to compete for ownership of the April Fools’ Day conversation with a moment that is funny, relevant and authentic. Easy, right?

What started as a few brands doing huge stunts or fake newspaper ads in the 1980s has evolved into an explosion of April Fools’ Day content. Via social media and owned channels, brands can reach their consumers directly and April 1 is the one time a year where they feel fully comfortable letting loose and showcasing their more “human side” and personality. While the majority of brands wisely skipped any antics last April Fools’, with positive vaccine news on the horizon, consumers may be more open to humor this year — but brands should still tread carefully.

April Fools’ Day offers brands the ever-elusive context to insert themselves in a relevant cultural conversation. Even if it’s crowded, it’s an opportunity to make fun of themselves and others and get away with some of the edgier PR and marketing techniques that normally wouldn’t fly. So how do you ensure your prank ends up on the “Best Of” lists and not the most-cringeworthy?

Be authentic to your brand voice

If you’re joining in on the fun, your prank should tie into your existing brand story. It can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of April Fools’, but if your brand is known for a strictly professional, no-nonsense tone and content, don’t force it. Consumers can spot inauthenticity from a mile away and an out-of-the-blue joke will fall flat. If you’re not ready to laugh at yourself, consumers probably won’t be either.

Don’t overdo it

April Fools’ jokes should be short, lighthearted and to the point. It’s great to poke fun at yourself and even competitors, but avoid anything that could have a lasting impact on consumers or causes genuine — not playful — confusion.

Take a temperature check 

More than a year into living in a pandemic world, not every consumer is going to want to see brands focused on fun, quippy jokes. There’s been a growing sense of fatigue around brands trying too hard to jump on the current news cycle or make light of serious topics, and this feeling has only escalated in a confusing online world of “fake news” and disinformation. And, keep in mind that even if they’re positioned as lighthearted, some things shouldn’t ever be joked about. Remember, even the best intentions don’t always come across that way in execution, so it goes without saying to gut check with others and don’t ideate in a silo!

Before jumping in with a joke, don’t forget to ask yourself if it’s truly additive to the existing conversation. In fact, some companies have even gone so far as to ban April Fools’ jokes all together to avoid getting caught in a negative news cycle.

And if all else fails, the classic whipped cream for shaving cream swap is a surefire way to celebrate April Fools’.