Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
April Fools’ Day has been a favorite holiday with pranksters for centuries. Over the past decade or so, some of the world’s biggest brands have embraced the April Fools’ spirit in a bid to connect with their markets.
April Fools’ Day also offers excellent opportunities for small businesses to launch fun, lighthearted campaigns that connect with their audiences. Sharing a joke is a powerful tool to create exposure and build rapport quicker than straight-faced marketing campaigns.
Related: 5 Funniest April Fools’ Day Marketing Stunts
How big brands have embraced April Fools’ Day
From scratch-and-sniff iPads to the 111th birthday of YouTube, April Fools’ Day has captured the imagination of marketing teams worldwide. In the United States, some of the biggest brands have recently played jokes on their audiences, including Tesla, Google and Burger King.
1. Google Tulip
In 2019, Google launched a machine learning-based product allowing users to communicate with plants. Complete with its own website and landing page, the campaign was widely shared on social media and generated a lot of positive feedback from the public.
Admire him or not, Tesla founder Elon Musk knows how to generate headlines. In 2018, he used April Fools’ Day to tweet a photo of himself holding a bottle of “Teslaquila,” a fake tequila brand. The tweet went viral and generated a lot of media coverage, which helped to increase Tesla’s brand awareness.
The story does not end here. Since then, Musk tried to patent the name and launch a real tequila product. The result is Tesla Tequila. As it turns out, the name Teslaquila falls foul of industry regulations.
3. Burger King’s Chocolate Whopper
In 2018, Burger King announced the launch of the “Chocolate Whopper.” The burger featured a chocolate patty, raspberry syrup, white chocolate rings, candied oranges and vanilla frosting on a bun. Initially only a joke, the campaign generated a lot of buzz on social media and increased Burger King’s brand awareness.
In 2021, the company took its idea beyond a joke, launching a Chocolate Whopper in some of its Asian markets. Because the product was launched on April 1, customers took it as a joke at first. But the limited-edition burger made it on the menu.
Related: Volkswagen’s Name Change and Cauliflower-Flavored Peeps Are Among 2021’s Top April Fool’s Day Jokes
How small businesses can replicate April Fools’ success
April Fools’ Day marketing campaigns have great potential to benefit brands. The key to launching a successful April Fools’ marketing bid is to align it with your audience, brand personality, and overall brand messaging.
Surveys show that April Fools’ jokes are particularly popular among younger consumers. They also tend to be received better by men than women. In addition, April Fools’ campaigns should not deceive or seriously mislead customers.
So, how can smaller businesses tread this fine line to increase awareness without alienating customers? Here are three ideas any business can try:
1. Create a “fake” or limited-edition product
Think of a product that is just close enough to your company’s actual products to make it realistic, yet outlandish enough to get your audiences talking.
For example, in 2019, T-Mobile launched a “Smartshoephone.” The product pretended to be a shoe that consumers could use as a smartphone. This campaign generated buzz on social media, resulting in shares and comments. Another option is advertising a product that is available for one day only.
2. Put humor at the heart of your campaign
April Fools’ Day is all about humor and pranks. Small businesses can use that to their advantage by creating a funny video or meme showing their brand in a lighthearted way. This is a great way to stand out and create memories.
Netflix achieved that in 2016 by releasing a “docuseries” called John Stamos: A Human, Being. The series simply showed the actor eating various foods. It generated significant buzz on social media.
3. Launch a contest
Ask your audience to share their best prank stories or create a funny video related to your brand. With the right prize, this kind of contest can truly drive engagement. Snapchat led the way in 2018 by hosting an April Fools’ Day “Prank Challenge,” which invited users to share their best prank videos. The winner received a $50,000 prize, and the campaign generated significant engagement.
Related: 2017’s April Fool’s Gags, From LOL to Nope
Marketing tactics for April Fools’ Day
Like any other marketing campaign, an April Fools’ Day campaign needs to be well-planned and well-considered to achieve the desired results. While this can be a time to try out new marketing tactics, brands can also choose to rely on the tactics and channels they already prefer. Here is a look at some of the most effective tactics for brands in 2023.
- Social media marketing: Social media marketing channels are ideal for reaching a wider audience on April Fools’ Day. A fun and engaging post featuring images and videos can quickly go viral. Use hashtags and shareable content to increase the reach of your post.
- Email marketing: A humorous email that uniquely highlights your brand is another great way to engage audiences. Personalize your email and match it to your audience’s interests to increase the open and click-through rates.
- Influencer marketing: Identify influencers in your niche who have a large following and a sense of humor and approach them for collaboration. You benefit by increasing your brand’s visibility and credibility.
- Guerilla marketing: If your brand personality is creative and unconventional, guerilla marketing tactics like a flash mob, a street performance or a creative installation will get people talking.
- Product placement: Partner with a popular TV show, movie or video game and create a humorous product placement, even if it is just for a day. You will increase your brand’s visibility and credibility among your target audience.
Be inspired by real life
In some cases, life writes the best stories, and you do not need to travel far to find inspiration for your company’s April Fools’ Day marketing. The flexible workspace platform Vallist is one such example. The company opened its doors on April 1, 2020, just as the pandemic took hold. While the team may have launched during a time of extreme uncertainty, they could not have picked a better time for their product.
In fact, their vision turned out to be somewhat prescient. The irony of launching when other businesses were forced to shut down was not lost on Vallist’s founders either. Thanks to sustained growth over the past three years, the company is now expanding and opening another flexible workspace platform in New York City’s Bryant Park on April 1, 2023. No joke, but the pun is fully intended.
Related: How to Drive Major Sales on Minor Holidays (Like Today’s April Fools’ Day)
April Fools’ Day gives brands a unique opportunity to reach audiences lightheartedly and memorably. Choose these creative marketing tactics to engage with your customers and increase brand visibility and credibility. Remember to keep your messaging aligned with your brand’s values and personality, and have fun with it!