An open letter to April Fools' Day

Today is my least favorite marketing holiday, April Fools' Day. 

One of the first references of April fools is in 1392 in Chauncer’s Canterbury Tales when the Nun’s Priest’s tale is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two there are some arguments that it might have been transcribed wrong and should be May second but the origin points to the understanding that it might be March 32nd, which would be April first.

I don’t hate jokes, I don’t even hate them being played on me, what I hate are brands that don’t understand what is at stake today (or every day) and are willing to throw away all of the clout + trust they have gathered for a media soundbyte or a bunch of pageviews.

Look at it this way, your customer trusts you and they understand that when they come into your place of business or watch your show, or download your podcast or follow you on Snapchat – they know what they are getting. But let’s say they wake up today and their favorite podcast says that Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift died last night. The hosts will say they did it in order to get attention and then when they take the heat they say…it was an April Fools' prank.

The problem is that the joke is not worth the expense. If the people listening to the podcast or the radio show, as I just merged two radio April fools stories into one, are affected by the story – you just ruined their day on purpose which is both terrible branding and terrible joke telling. 

We are in a connection economy and every time we do something that violates that connection or trust it costs us. Every time we raise the price, shorten the hours, fire someone they love, change the color, drop a menu item all of it ends up on a trust balance sheet and if you get in the negative, you close your doors.

So why on earth would you spend a nickel of that currency on a single day lazy joke a thon? Especially if you are a mass medium where people are running from you at a pretty healthy clip. I just read an article on the all new which is amazing by the way and it talked about how HBO Now and Netflix are going to increase the pressure to lower cable packages and open the door for better streaming deals or services. Should DirectTV have an April Fools prank today? Absolutely not, if anything take the day to do something amazing. Call or email your best customers and give them April free for HBO to enjoy Game of Thrones – build equity today don’t waste it.

You want to play an April Fools prank – cool, go for it. But if you are a brand or doing it on behalf of a brand – think about the cost of it, then count to ten, then think about the cost again and then decide against it and play that prank on your friend. The game has changed and the costs are real. Don’t waste your customers loyalty on anything as dumb as today.

Have a killer Wednesday. Go do something amazing

Eric HultgrenComment