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How to run a marketing campaign for April Fool’s Day

5 minute read

Rachel Ingram
calendar for April 1

It’s one morning in the year when everyone has a legitimate excuse to descend into silliness, but how could April Fool’s Day help you grow your brand? Today I’m looking at how you can cash in on the 1 April mayhem to get some extra attention for your business.

Brand benefits of an April Fool’s Day prank

Let’s start with a quick rundown of the reasons why you might want to get in on the April Fool’s act with your business. Here’s why it’s worth the effort:

  • Awareness – the best April Fool’s stunts have the potential to get widely shared, raising your brand reach and awareness
  • Traffic – you can use an April Fool’s joke to drive traffic to your site, some of which may convert to paying customers
  • Links – because great pranks get shared, they’re also likely to bring links from other sites to yours, which has great SEO benefits
  • Personality – April Fool’s Day is a great opportunity to show a bit of personality. The fact that your brand has a sense of humour demonstrates a human side that people can relate to

Convinced? Then keep reading to find out how to dream up and plan your own April Fool’s Day prank.

Coming up with an idea

There’s endless potential for April Fool’s Day fun, but the key is to find an idea that works with your brand and niche. The best April Fool’s pranks have just enough realism to be convincing, so try to think up a prank that’s relevant to what your business does. If you’re stuck for ideas, brainstorm with your staff or take inspiration from some of these ideas from big brands…

Once you’ve settled on an idea, the next thing to figure out is what content you need to make it work. You don’t have to create a sleek, big-budget video like Burger King’s Chocolate Whopper to do a great job of fooling your followers. It might be as simple as a social media post, but what image and copy will you use?

To take full advantage of the attention you can garner from an April Fool’s Day prank, make sure you create some website content around it to encourage clicks from social media. A simple web page or blog post is enough to bring people to your site, and it also gives other sites a page to link to, so you get some SEO benefit.

To be convincing, your prank will need to look authentic, so maintaining your brand tone of voice is crucial. The content should also look ‘on brand’, meaning that images should be in the same style as those already on your site, and fonts and colours should be consistent. If you’ve created a humorous fake product, for example, make sure it’s on your site as a genuine product page that looks like all the others.

The chances are that those clicking the link to your prank landing page might have a look around at the rest of your site, potentially even placing an order or keeping you in mind for the future. You can use your prank landing page content to encourage people to do this; see DuoLingo’s ‘Pillow’ page, for example, which features calls-to-action leading to the main site. Don’t forget to add social sharing buttons to encourage people to share it, too.

Launching your joke

Having come up with an idea and created some entertaining content around it, how will you unleash your joke on the world? The best campaigns roll out across multiple channels, so if you’re on social media then make sure you post across all your platforms so that it’s easy for as many people to share it as possible.

Make sure all your staff are in on the joke so that they know how to respond to any customer queries, and you may also want to come up with a strategy for replying to comments on social media. It’s a good idea to have someone continually monitoring the response in case it’s not taken in the lighthearted way it was intended.

Don’t forget that April Fool’s Day isn’t actually a whole day – you only have until 12pm to fool around, so time your joke for first thing in the morning to make the most of the day.

Debrief

There are always going to be some people who don’t get that it’s a joke (either you were too convincing, or because they didn’t notice the date), so it’s advisable to come clean later on April Fool’s Day. The traditional cry of ‘April Fool!’ is a good way of announcing that it was all a bit of fun, either in a new post or as a comment on the original post.

Perhaps this is a good moment to mention that April Fool’s Day jokes – fun though they are – should also be treated with caution. They do have the potential to backfire if someone doesn’t see the funny side, or people feel foolish because they’ve fallen for a prank. Even the biggest brands get it wrong sometimes – see Google’s disastrous ‘mic drop’ April Fool or H&M’s confusing Mark Zuckerberg prank.

April Fools’ Day marketing dos and don’ts

Nobody wants to end up in the round-up of the worst pranks instead of the best ones, so to try to make sure that doesn’t happen, here are some final ‘Dos and Don’ts’ to help your April Fool’s Day marketing campaign go without a hitch.

  • DO run your ideas past a few different people to make sure it’s not just you who thinks the joke is funny
  • DO plan your launch carefully and cover all your marketing channels for a consistent message
  • DO create a landing page on your website and link to it from your social media posts to encourage traffic
  • DO make it easy for people to share
  • DO involve your whole company – everyone in your business should be in on the joke
  • DO drop a subtle hint that it’s all a joke – look at the media quotes on the H&M prank
  • DO let everyone know that it was a joke later in the day – you can do this with a follow-up post or by commenting on the original post
  • DON’T choose April Fool’s Day to announce or launch something that isn’t actually a joke – it’s a sure-fire way to confuse people
  • DON’T say anything controversial and claim it’s a joke
  • DON’T do anything that will cause trouble or inconvenience to your customers (see the Google mic drop example) – and if you do so inadvertently, be sure to issue a profuse apology

My final word of April Fool’s Day advice is DON’T force it. If you really can’t think of a genuinely funny idea, it’s better to do nothing at all than run with something lame!

Rachel Ingram is a freelance copywriter with a background in digital marketing. She's written copy for clients ranging from the United Nations World Food Programme to The North Face, and particularly enjoys working with lifestyle and travel brands. In her spare time, she volunteers for Guide Dogs and flies light aircraft and helicopters.

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