Why April Fools Is As Important As Super Bowl

My wife put the boys’ bowls of Cheerios in the freezer overnight. When they tried to have their breakfast this morning, the milk was frozen. We had a funny chuckle. When I went to put my shoes on, they had stuffed toilet paper in the toes, and the boys bellowed loudly after they “got daddy.”

April Fool’s Day is cheeky, light-hearted fun when you have kids, but the practical joke making has move to Madison Avenue. Pulling off a good April Fool’s Day prank is now almost as important to marketing as the Super Bowl when it comes to earned media, that kind of free publicity conversation about your brand that marketers love.

The Super Bowl is epic for weeks before the game and the days after the game as everyone willingly watches commercials to see what all the fuss is about. The commercials are creative, they’re viral, and in an era of PVRs and time shifted digital media, it is one of the few events where your brand message will be listened to, consumed, and even shared by your audience.

April Fool’s Day is going the same way.

Pulling off a great, clever, and fun April Fool’s Day stunt is an easy way to get earned media. Today is a day when, just like the Super Bowl, news and media are looking for good stories. They want to share a laugh and spread the viral fever of a good joke.

If you have a fun and energetic brand, today is the day to underline those brand attributes and win emotional points with the audience. WestJet goes viral twice a year: at Christmas with heartfelt videos, and at April Fool’s with funny and sarcastic ones that play right into their light branding. They’ve had planes for animals, storage cabins for kids, and this year they introduced WestJet Smart Seats.

Guess what everyone is talking about today? April Fool’s Day is like Christmas. Those who are creative and enjoy outside the box thinking countdown to the first of April with anticipation to see what sort of fun will be had.

Travel Alberta teamed up with Pantone this year to celebrate the centennial painting of Lake Louise.

It’s the most popular question tourists have about the Lake. “How does it get to be that colour?,” and sometimes locals will joke that they paint it. Bringing that sort of humour to April Fool’s Day is getting them earned media around the world highlighting one of the epic reasons people visit Alberta: Lake Louise.

Already Mashable and CNN have curated some of the best April Fool’s jokes for 2015. Earned media abounds for brands who do it right. Do it wrong, however, and you’re in the same sort of trouble many brands find themselves in when they try to execute real time marketing.

To successfully play on April Fool’s Day you need to be smart, clever, positive, and cute. You can’t colour too far outside the lines to go off brand messaging and you can’t offend anyone. Pro tip: If you have to explain your April Fool’s joke is an April Fool’s joke, it’s not a good April Fool’s joke.

Along with the creatives celebrating the fun side of April Fool’s Day, there are some cynics complaining about the lame, half-assed attempts at humour. John Oliver and Last Week Tonight explains how betrayal isn’t funny.

Still, April Fool’s Day is a fun day to take life less seriously. Bad jokes will always be bad, no matter the day, but for brands who get it and do it right, today is an important day to step up and get some free publicity without the rate card attached to a Super Bowl buy.

Don’t like it?

Enjoy half a day without media or the Internet and come back in the afternoon.

Super Bowl XX on Flickr by Cory Gurman

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