A Brief History of Communication Farces
April Fool’s Day is often met each year by one of two attitudes. There are people who roll their eyes, and put up with it, and others who are all in for a day filled with shenanigans. What most people do not realize is that this day has been a day of shenanigans for hundreds of years!
Although it is difficult to verify the origins of April Fool’s Day, many historians believe it is linked to the birth of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Up until then, many European cultures celebrated the new year around April 1st because of the renewing nature of Spring. The Gregorian calendar moved the celebration of the new year back to January 1st. Many people in Europe were slow to learn about this change, or refused to accept it. As a result, many people mocked these people and made them go on “fools’ errands” on April 1st.
These days, April Fool’s Day is used to spawn a myriad of miscommunication and a general state of confusion. Communication and PR companies often use the day to draw attention to their companies in a fun and unexpected way.
In 2014, Linked In created the Cats You May Know function on their site which recommended their users connect with cats such as T-bone the Laser Specialist, and Prissy Sissy the Hairball Hacker, rather than their regular professional network.
Risk and Reward
It can be a customer relationship risk for companies to prank their loyal customers. It could confuse or irritate certain customers who either do not realize that certain ads are intended to be humorous, or do not think that the jokes are funny. That said, the majority of customers will find humor in these ads, which can add to views on the company website or social media. Moreover, it can be profitable for some companies to use this day to create a buzz about a new product, create awareness about their brand, or increase foot traffic at a retail location.
One way companies create buzz is to create novelty products especially for the most prank-filled day of the year. ThinkGeek released the Useless Wall Switch in 2016, which as its name suggests, allows pranksters to install a wall switch that turns the switch off every time someone flips it. This allows ThinkGeek to not only generate added sales revenues for the novelty products, but also create brand awareness.
Petco is another company which took advantage of the April Fool’s opportunity to create brand awareness. This year, they conducted an e-mail marketing campaign which advertised the Doo Doo Drone 3000, available only on April 1st online. Most customers recognized when reading the ad that this product must be fake. Hopefully, for Petco’s sake, enough customers found the product video amusing, and shared it with their friends.