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Is your brand an April Fool’s joke?

March 21st, 2011 · 7 Comments · Customers/Clients, Innovation & Creativity

Some brands are better suited at being playful than others.  The same is true of their customers. With the pending arrival of April Fool’s Day, you may be thinking about pulling a fast one on your unsuspecting clients.  Tread slowly…

While most people enjoy a good chuckle… you walk a fine line when it comes to practical jokes.  Some people like to laugh but really hate it when the laugh is on them.

Last year, several big name brands shouted “gotcha” at their loyal followers and it seems like none are any worse for the wear.

Google asked members to sign up to test the newly unveiled “store everything” feature in Google Docs. Google Docs was allowing users to store more than documents; they could store their pet rock collections, winter clothes, apartments and even their pets for a competitive price.

Starbucks announced that in response to customers requesting more beverage sizes, they were introducing the 128-ounce “Plenta” and the 2-ounce “Micra.” Starbucks explained that the additions were a result of direct customer feedback from MyStarbucksIdea.com and a year’s worth of research.

As seen above, Nike released a video revealing the secret behind where they get the air for Nike Air shoes. The video explains that the air is collected from star athletes to help you perform at your best.

GameStation added an “immortal soul clause” into their terms and conditions in which consumers surrendered their souls to the company if they chose not to opt out of the clause. GameStation collected a total of 7,500 souls who decided to skip the terms and conditions (or didn’t mind the new clause).

Coldplay revealed on their website that they had released a perfume called, “Angst.” The  bottle was featured in the band’s online store but unfortunately it was all sold out. Frontman Chris Martin said, “This is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. People like to smell nice and we thought we could help them out.”

What do you think?

  • Is this a gimmick that only works for big consumer brands?
  • Can you see this playing well with your customers?
  • Is the risk of it backfiring worth taking to create big buzz?
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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Kneale Mann

    Unless we’re working on the account, none of us can know the true strategy behind these types of campaigns but I will take a stab that someone is trying to breathe life into a (perceived) plateau and revenue is not often far behind. Humor is dangerous sport and can cut a brand at it’s knees in an instant. And since brands reside between customers, the problems almost always occur when a company misunderstands what the brand means to its customers. I think the Nike spot is clever but I have no emotional investment in it.

    If Starbucks tries to be funny after 20 years of Jack Johnson music and $32 travel mugs, that may be a stretch.

    Coldplay Angst cologne – that’s funny – but perhaps over most heads and not important enough to even start the joke.

    And so on…

    It’s not enough to know your “brand” but you must know your customer. In our quest to stand out, we can miss the mark with a cheap joke or a misguided campaign at the wrong audience.

    • Drew McLellan


      It’s a sticky wicket, isn’t it? When it works — it can explode in terms of buzz and even goodwill from your consumer base.

      But when it misses the mark, as you suggest, the costs can be staggering. One might argue that to not try it is to be playing it too safe but I think you’re point is closer to the mark.

      The real answer, I think, is it depends. It’s about who you are…but it is also about the type of relationship you have with your customer.

      If it’s a brand of borrowed esteem/cool like Nike — I think you can probably get away with it. But if the relationship is more intimate and personal — perhaps like a Starbucks, or a healthcare provider — then I’d guess this isn’t a strategy for you.

      I also think this doesn’t play as well in the B to B space. What do you think?

      Drew McLellan recently posted..Is your brand an April Fool’s jokeMy Profile

  • Drew McLellan

    Kneale –

    And in the B2B space, odds are you are positioning yourself as an expert. I don’t want my experts to be tugging on my leg!


  • Andy @ FirstFound

    I think it can backfire hideously in the B2B market – you want trustworthy suppliers, not comedians.
    Andy @ FirstFound recently posted..Five Million Choose Firefox FourMy Profile

  • Erica

    I saw this today when I was looking to login to my insurance policy. I’m guessing this is April Fools, but there is no additional content on the page…yet. Although I’m not completely certain what the goal was here, I think this company does a good job of taking the seriousness and negativity people feel about insurance and turning it into something more light hearted and fun.

    link to progressive.com

    • Drew McLellan


      It seems like every brand out there was intent on playing an April Fool’s joke. I’ll be curious to see if there was any backlash. I agree — progressive has changed the way people react to the word insurance.


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