April Fools’ 2016 Campaigns: My Favorite Brands Offer Up the Best Jokes and Pranks
April 21, 2016
Todd Henderson

April Fools’ 2016 Campaigns: My Favorite Brands Offer Up the Best Jokes and Pranks

Every year more companies are creating content for April 1st and surprising consumers with jokes and pranks in funny and clever ways. Typical content ranges from jokes to pranks, fictional headlines, fake content and products that won’t ever be released. This type of content is more than fun and games. These are campaigns that brands plan far in advance to bring their community together, increase their brand awareness, gain exposure and trend online.

This past April 1st, I fell for pranks from a few of my favorite brands and now see these brands in a refreshing way. I’m amused by the pranks that Netflix and Trader Joes played on consumers this year – both favorite brands of mine that placed big bets on April Fools’ Day. If you’re looking for an engaging way to connect with your audience, I recommend viewing these examples as case studies for your next campaign.

With the recent new addition of showcasing a featured show or movie on the top of the Netflix app, on April Fools’ day, the app highlighted a new series documenting the life of John Stamos. The trailer was effective, playing out much like a regular Netflix series preview, and although I couldn’t figure out who the audience was – was John Stamos now an overnight pop culture icon? Netflix took the joke a step further and posted tweets apologizing to John Stamos saying the show was a mistake. They also posted a subsequent apology video with an angry Stamos appearing halfway through the apology. It’s this type of joke that can easily engage viewers on multiple levels. By April 2nd, the Netflix joke was trending across the web. Consumers searched Google for the Stamos videos, read articles about Netflix’ April 1st buzz and shared the content across multiple social channels with friends: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all had trending content around John Stamos. Netflix planned for the April 1st joke as part of a social media campaign – they posted multiple videos on their app, promoted the new content as the featured show for a few days, engaged their audience on Twitter to view the videos and used a celebrity to appeal to their audience and highlight content in a clever way. The conversation on Twitter between Stamos and the Netflix audience lasted days after the joke, and there is still a buzz online. In addition, major online sources documented the campaign with articles posted in Adweek,  Business Insider, Variety and E! Online – reaching an even larger audience in the week following 4/1.

Yahoo took things a step further this April 1st and started fooling people a day early on March 31st by announcing that all Trader Joe’s stores would be closing in early 2017. @yahoonews and @traderjoes were both trending on Twitter on 3/31, with most consumers believing the stores were closing, myself included, after hearing the closure announced not on Twitter, but on one my favorite radio stations. Since it was the day before April Fools’ Day and the announcement came through what I perceived to be a credible source, I fell for the prank and went to Trader Joe’s to see if they were really closing. By April 2nd, this seemingly simple prank was one of the most talked about topics online. This type of campaign is driven via word of mouth tactics. Consumers read the news on Twitter, announce it on local radio and are quick to tell their friends. It’s an activation tool like this that makes it hard to imagine living without any given brand. It’s an easy prank, and any brand can replicate this for a future April Fools’ day campaign.

Jokes are memorable. In fact, I fell for a joke on LinkedIn about a decade ago that I still vividly remember – fake profiles of famous people you could connect with. The joke was simple, fun and not immediately obvious. LinkedIn even had links to the fictitious profiles and so many years later, the joke still resonates with me. With this joke in mind, I view LinkedIn as a fun company that is willing to take risks and play an occasional joke on their consumers.  If more companies had similar campaigns, they would likely obtain greater brand awareness and gain more of a loyal following.

So next year, take a chance on April 1st for your brand and consider planning for a campaign in advance. The chances of trending online, increasing your brand presence and gaining exposure are in your favor, and a silly joke or prank can pay off in a big way.