co Is April Fool's Day Another Marketing Opportunity? |

It’s becoming more and more popular for businesses to play April Fool’s jokes on their customers. Google has been doing it for years. Other online brands followed suit. Now big brands and brick-and-mortar businesses are getting in on the act. It appears as if the race is on to produce the most outlandish April Fool’s Day joke to see how many consumers actually fall for it. Even news organizations are getting in on the act.

There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun, but what if your joke goes too far?

I think we’re all in for the long haul now. It seems that this trend will not let up any time soon. Commercial April Fool’s jokes are here to stay. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to give a few warnings. If you want to make your customers laugh, then follow these simple guidelines for jokes and be sure you don’t overdo it.

  1. Be cautious about jokes that use scare tactics – In this day and age, with increased terrorist threats, you don’t want consumers running to law enforcement, and you certainly don’t want to create a mass panic. So err on the side of caution if your joke has the potential to scare a large number of people.
  2. Use your joke as a branding tool – Some of the most successful commercial April Fool’s jokes involve brands introducing fake items for sale, new product lines based on previous successful ones, and jabs at the competition. Be careful with that last one. You don’t want to get sued.
  3. Don’t offend – Many groups are sensitive, so make sure your joke doesn’t offend any groups or classes of people.
  4. No outright promotions – Remember, you’re not promoting anything. You fooling around. So keep your jokes focused on making people laugh once they figure it out. That will increase your brand awareness much more than an outright promotion.
  5. Be careful with discounts and special offers – If you offer a discount on April Fool’s Day, be sure it is so outrageous no one could possibly take it seriously. A 50% off coupon would not be funny, but a 50,000% off coupon might. With some discounts, you might have customers show up who actually expect the discount.

If you do plan an April Fool’s joke for next year, put some thought into it before you do it.