I’m not talking about the pranking part. I’m talking about the high levels of entertainment and relevance that marketers will be aiming for (and often achieving) today.
Let’s start with the entertainment factor. There’s an analogy with the Super Bowl here: it’s the one day a year when brands make the kind of TV ads they ought to be making all the time – big, emotive, entertaining.
April Fool’s Day has begun to look the same in social media. It’s the one day a year when brands worry less about ramming home their messages, and worry more about being entertaining.
Of course a brand shouldn’t be clownish every day. And not every brand is a suitable candidate for humour. But for those that are, why can’t we set the bar to ‘funny’ every day? Or at least shoot for funny, then we might at least hit ‘amusing’. I’ve seen too many briefs that put the word ‘witty’ in the tone of voice box. Let’s be honest - ‘witty’ refers to anything that you can tell is trying to be funny, but actually isn’t. How about if we tried to be as entertaining every day, as we are today?
Now let’s turn to the relevance question.
Online advertising has always over-indexed on relevance. Sometimes to its detriment, as when a news story about salmonella on a cruise ship triggers ads for cruising holidays.
Nevertheless, relevance remains a key goal for brands. Topicality is a quick way to get some, and it’s easier to be topical in Social than almost any other medium. Hence the orgy of “Eggcellent” posts around Easter time and Star Wars-themed posts on May the Fourth.
Yes, if done in a crass way, it’s very crass. But at least topical ads are speaking to something that is going on in people’s lives, rather than just what the brand wants to tell people.
We know that people aren’t very interested in brands. But because we live and breathe our brands, it’s easy to forget that. But what if we started each piece of activity with a firm determination to create communications that are relevant to people’s lives, and not just saying what we want to say?
So I’m looking forward to today’s April Fools. Being rather gullible, I may even be fooled by some of them. But mostly, I’ll just enjoy the fun.
Although, at the risk of taking a slightly heavy tangent for a column about April Fool’s day, there may be a more profound reason for our enjoyment of it. Apparently, one reason people are so keen to celebrate annual festivals such as Christmas, Easter and April 1st is that they fool us into thinking life is cyclical, rather than the reality of our straight-line journey to the grave.
And there you have it. April 1st - not just a bit of fun, but potentially a template for how brands should behave all year round, and also, deeply comforting on an existential level. Perhaps not such a trivial day after all.