Every year new brands enter the April Fool’s Day fray in an attempt win accolades as being the ‘cleverest of all’ with consumers. But in an unforgiving online landscape where wit is common and misreading the room can have potentially damaging consequences, is the effort really worth it for brands? Let’s explore!
In this year’s competition, to the surprise and delight of an ever-watchful populace, we’ll see everything from off the wall how to’s to cringeworthy attempts at humor and everything in between. Some attempts will come complete with groundwork laid days or even weeks in advance leading up to the gag, while others will pop up on the day itself.
Either type of prank has an equal chance of hitting its mark, depending on how probable it is—and on what the prank’s intent actual is
Various Kinds of Brand Pranks
Some pranks are obvious and know that they’ll be immediately identifiable—those pranks are creating a touchpoint and generating good will (hopefully).
Others may also crave that awareness quotient but aim for the golden ring. They want to make consumers question reality and wonder about the veracity of the claim, inspiring them to potentially spend a few moments googling to see if it’s a real thing or not. These searches often reveal a second level ah-a that brings readers in on the gag
A great example here was when IHop hinted toward a change to “IHob” with the “b” standing for burgers:
For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb. Find out what it could b on 6.11.18. #IHOb pic.twitter.com/evSxKV3QmT
— IHOP (@IHOP) June 4, 2018
They did this at a time of year when no one was expecting a prank and that’s because the goal was to build momentum for its burgers, not to win the ‘best prank’ battle. Though it does offer an interesting aside to consider: If a brand really wants to be believed (to some degree) and create buzz about its brand in a fun way, plan a prank to take place months before or after everyone else.
This year, we have brands gearing up to enter the competition to out-ridiculous each other, and we’re here for it, as are many consumers who enjoy coming along for the ride. Previous year offerings leave us with some stiff competition, setting the tom foolery bar with the likes of 7-Eleven’s “tiny gulp” and PayPal (in 2018) allowing people to print money from their phones.
There have even been posts that seemed silly in the moment, but in our rapidly advancing age of generative AI, seem increasingly possible. For example, although AI-powered image recognition isn’t being used in bot-to-bot combat (yet), it can certainly help head off nefarious purposes when someone seeks to misuse a brand’s logo or other copyrighted imagery.
Returning to today, we see some interest in April Fool’s Day online, making the day somewhat relevant to brands, if one has the bandwidth.
April Fool’s Day Numbers That Are Definitely Not Made Up
We explored the breakdown of coverage around the day and see a largely lackluster response as the day approaches. Net Sentiment sits at an unimpressive -4, on a scale from -100 to 100 and passion intensity – the driving force behind interest and often action, is registering at a dismal 9 out of 100
But if awareness is the magic a brand is after, the impressions have it! Take Little Ceasars’ Corncob Crust promo for example:
Introducing Corncob Crust from Little Caesars! You’re Welcome, America pic.twitter.com/H9IMni4M0m
— Little Caesars Pizza (@littlecaesars) March 21, 2023
Beyond the vanity metrics we can see above, looking beyond the retweets, quotes and likes, for this tweet alone, the brand earned more than a million potential impressions:
And its April Fool’s stats overall for previous years were impressive as well. Sharing the breakdown of coverage around search terms “April Fools” AND “April Fool’s” with sub-terms included around “Brand,” “Little Caesar,” “Announcement” over the past few years, we have
March 16, 2021 – April 5, 2021
- Posts: 4,943,781 (+4,244%)
- Net Sentiment: -7% (-90)
- Potential impressions: 25,423,743,798 (+1,996%)
March 16, 2022 – April 5, 2022
- Posts: 4,494,015 (+5,144%)
- Net Sentiment: 23% (+11)
- Potential Impressions: 211,516,830,138 (+1,479%)
March 11, 2023 – March 24, 2023
- Posts: 52,962 (+50%)
- Net Sentiment: 6% (-32)
- Potential Impressions: 8,132,910,110 (+81%)
Billions of potential impressions for a bit of forwarding planning fun? Sounds like a win-win perhaps!
Should Your Brand Participate?
It seems consumers react more negatively to ideas that are completely out of left field and totally unbelievable. It makes sense, as there’s too much to see and do online and who has time for nonsense that they aren’t intentionally seeking out on Reddit or elsewhere?
The food industry is typically a safe space for funny combinations and offers little risk of offence. The key to it all is audience understanding. Knowing who your consumers are beyond the surface metrics is so essential as audience metrics shift constantly. Understanding who is following you, whether they’re your target market and then having a solid understanding of how they feel about all kinds of topics, including April Fool’s Day, is crucial.
According to YouGov America, “Americans under 30 are the only age group to consider April Fool’s Day pranks more comical (50%) than annoying (40%). Men under 30 are especially likely to believe the practical jokes are funny (60%) rather than irritating (35%), while women in the same age group are split (42% vs 44%). All other age groups either lean toward finding the tricks annoying, or are divided on the issue.”
And this aligns with Little Ceasar’s audience, where we see those under age 34 over-indexing for engagement:
They obviously understand their market and their audience, creating fun engagements for the crowd to react to and engage – and hopefully eat – some more.
What do your audience metrics look like this April Fool’s Day? Reach out for a demo and we can help you sort it out. We can even apply our “back in time AI” to backdate a killer post for you and win market share! No, not really. Reach out!