April Fool’s Day: The Power of Humour in Marketing
Remember a time when putting a whoopee cushion on the seat of your teacher’s chair was the height of all April Fool’s jokes? Well, these days, brands are pushing the boat out just a little bit further.
But why bother with them? Well, like any form of ambush or hijack marketing, brands have an opportunity to leverage the noise surrounding a particular event to their own advantage. It also gives brands permission to go off-script from their regular advertising campaigns, whether in style, tone, or content – this can be very effective if they’re wanting to change perceptions or connect with your audience in a new way.
From a behavioural science perspective, April Fool’s campaigns are particularly effective because brands can use humour and fun to communicate their message. Research into the ‘humour effect’ shows that we pay more attention to humorous things than non-humorous things, which means we are more likely to remember them.
Capturing your audience’s attention is further enhanced by the fact that such April Fool’s campaigns disrupt the normative pattern of behaviour from brands, injecting an element of surprise. Whether consciously or not we come to expect our brands to communicate to us in a certain way and this predictability can be problematic for brands.
Such campaigns can also benefit from social stimulation. How many times have we either taken to friends, colleagues, or social media to assert the fact that you’ve clocked the April Fool, express admiration for the initiative, or to question whether the campaign is indeed a Fool or not? With the exception of the Christmas advert conversation, not too many other events spark such social stimulation (outside marketing circles), though while the Christmas adverts run for 6+ weeks, April Fool’s campaigns really are a one day hit and run.
Audiences now look forward to seeing what brands have in store for them on April Fool’s Day, and here lies the challenge. Competition is fierce and so campaigns must be carefully planned and thought through to have the desired impact. When executed correctly, brands can benefit from increased brand exposure and awareness but, like any campaign, things can backfire if you don’t understand your audience and/or you get the tone completely wrong.
Last year, Deliveroo France sent fake email confirmations to their customers for pizza orders totalling more than €450 as part of their April Fool’s campaign. Naturally customers were calling their banks in an attempt to block the payment with many thinking their account had been hacked. So, although these campaigns don’t need to be expensive, they do need to be smart (and actually funny).
There are so many brands who get this right time after time, here are a few of our favourites:
Sainsbury’s Pink Avocados
Burger King’s Chocolate Whopper
Duolingo’s Language Learning Toilet Roll
Paypal’s Money Printing App
For some brands, using humour will not be the right approach i.e., you may have just suffered from a bout of bad PR, or your line of work/brand image is not suited to comedy (e.g., you work in a funeral home) – if that’s the case it’s probably best to steer clear of this type of campaign. But for many businesses, this is your chance to have a little fun, be creative and keep your audience engaged. You may not hit the headlines, but it’s a chance to connect with your employees and audience in a way that show’s that your business does have a sense of humour (even if it’s only every now and then).
The Team have been in the business of creating brands and design experiences that drive positive change for 40 years. Specialising in brand activation, brand strategy and employee engagement, we are a blend of consultants, strategists, and designers who connect people to brands to drive business success.
Using insight, behavioural science and our unique approach to brand, we work with you to create trust with the people that matter most.