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Tempted to Play an April Fool’s Joke? Ask Yourself These Questions

From T-Mobile’s Sidekick shoe-phone to Scope launching bacon-flavored mouthwash, April Fool’s Day pranks are as a part of western capitalism as limited time offers and celebrity endorsements. But are they for you and your brand? Before you start daydreaming about all the accolades and new Twitter followers your hilarity and media attention will spawn, consider these questions about engaging in April Fool’s Day shenanigans.

Is an April Fool’s prank really in line with your brand? Not all businesses are funny. Medical devices? Not so much. Office supplies? Maybe. Brand strategy consulting? Absolutely! As tempting as a prank may be, ask yourself, will your customers really appreciate it or will it simply annoy them?

Next, will everyone get it? A lot of companies tend to forget that the entire world does not think about, dream about, or otherwise obsess about their business. That’s natural. But, before engaging in anything, make certain it’s not too much of an inside joke.

Also, take a minute to try on some other people’s shoes:

  • How will competitors react? Are they a hungry dog just waiting for you to hold out a juicy bone in the form of self-mockery?
  • The media? You’ll most likely get some sort of a pass since it is April Fool’s after all, but don’t assume you’ll get a get-out-of-jail-free card—especially if you’re a publicly traded company and you joke about solvency. (Yes, Elon, I’m talking to you.)
  • Employees? If you’ve been light on raises in the last couple of years, best not to drop a ton of money on a slick April Fool’s ad unless you can prove it’s good for your bottom line.
  • Are you making a joke at someone else’s expense? Burger King once announced the creation of a Whopper for left-handed people, which either annoyed or disappointed about 10% of its customer base. If your joke mocks anyone, it had better be you. You might be able to get away with mocking the human race in general. But Vegans? Dads? Millennials? Steer clear.

Speaking of dads, is your prank really funny? Is it original? Or, is it a “dad joke”? NASA once posted that they had proof that there was water on Mars. Cut to a photograph of a glass of water atop a Mars candy bar. Nothing harmful to their brand, really. But funny? Meh. So, best to check the general comedic pulse (with people who do not report to you).

Assuming you’ve run through all these questions and you’re still a go for your prank, okay! Keep in mind that the key to a good April Fool’s joke is to find the dead center between “not at all realistic” and “that could totally happen.” You know, like a brand strategy firm offering a free brand overhaul to the company who shares this post most widely.

Douglas Spencer

Douglas Spencer is founder and president of Spencer Brenneman and an independent consultant with the 2GO Advisory Group. Douglas is a brand strategist who helps mission-driven organizations reframe their focus and remaster their messaging to thrive in any environment. He has more than 30 years of branding and marketing experience, working with professionals from around the world in verticals such as financial and professional services, high tech, higher education, healthcare, and not-for-profits. He has worked with professionals from around the world in verticals such as financial and professional services, healthcare, biotech, media, and nonprofit. Before starting Spencer Brenneman he was most recently Vice President, Global Head of Brand Management for Thomson Reuters, a leading provider of intelligent information with offices in more than 100 countries worldwide. In that role, he guided the migration of the multiple Thomson and Reuters businesses to form the new Thomson Reuters brand which consistently ranked within the top 50 of Interbrand's Best Global Brands survey. Douglas is also the author of Do They Care, a book that shows business leaders how they can create meaningful connections with customers, employees, and others. He is a frequent speaker on how strong brands improve business performance through strategic alignment, employee engagement, brand governance, verbal and visual identities and more.

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