April Fools’ Day Marketing: 3 Brands Fake Out and Make Out

April Fools' Day Marketing: 3 Brands Fake Out and Make Out

No doubt your inbox (and maybe your house) was filled with April Fools’ Day pranks yesterday.

For me some of those jokes fell flat. (I hope none made you wince like the one I got pretending a beautiful historic building had been damaged in a fire. Yeesh. Not funny.)

But a few made me truly laugh out loud and then think, damn that was good marketing.

In case you didn’t get enough of the friendly pranks, I’ve rounded up our three favorite April Fools’ Day jokes that not only made us laugh, but also leveraged the holiday for some serious marketing. The three we chose have vastly different products but all managed to use prank day to do three things:

  • Highlight brand identity
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Turn followers into insiders

So check ‘em out:

  1. Grove Labs: The fake breaking news alert

You probably haven’t heard of Grove Labs, the Boston startup set on bringing an organic farm to your kitchen, but they could be in your house in the not too distant future. Founded in 2009, the company is now beta testing self-contained hydroponic gardens (fed by goldfish) housed in a chic maple (Or is it birch? Who cares, it’s freakin’ gorgeous) cabinet that would be at home in a West Elm catalog.

Imagine my surprise then, when I opened my email this morning to a YouTube video announcing their latest product launch, the burger module. (Note to Grove Labs: It’s not nice to tease me.)

First off, I felt special that I was an insider privy to the sneak peek of a new product launch. Second, by the time I realized it was a joke, Grove Labs had already resold me on their brand mission of putting fresh food in every suburban and urban kitchen. And third, when I was done I stuck around to watch another (real) marketing video about the cabinet maker, who makes those sleek housings. Winner, winner, organic dinner.

  1. Boden: The fake product recall

Really, I can’t believe I fell for it.

A recall on “inappropriate imagery” spotted on one of the printed dresses sold by the British clothier Boden known for their bright, preppy and feminine pieces. Since when have the Brits been shy about “inappropriate imagery”? (That’s our department in the US.) They’re the ones who birthed Benny Hill.

April Fools' Day Marketing: 3 Brands Fake Out and Make Out

But still I clicked the link in the Instagram profile that led straight to their Like to Buy where my early morning (pre-caffeine) naiveté was revealed. So I had a little chuckle, commented “You got me!” and spent five minutes (when I should have been getting my kids off to school) tapping around their latest shoe collection. Dangerous for me, but smart marketing for them.

  1. Redbox: The fake new product announcement

This one was sent to me by a friend because it was too good not to share.

Who doesn’t know someone who has elevated their pets’ lifestyle to that of an adviser to Her Majesty? (Maybe YOU’RE that someone).

In their veiled April Fool’s joke, Redbox announces “Petbox”, a movie service for your pet as they wait for you to choose a film.

You laugh because you’ve been that guy, standing in front of the 7-11 with people queuing behind you, when they just want to return their movie for Pete’s sake!, as you sort through the new releases, alphabetically. You click on the email because you’re like, what the?

April Fools' Day Marketing: 3 Brands Fake Out and Make Out

And then you laugh again because: Furry – The best war film since Spaying Private Ryan. And then you tweet it because, #Petbox is totally something your friend who sends her dog to daycare would buy. It’s a joke that practically dares you not to share the brand. But the best part is, the joke came with a promo code for 50 cents of your next rental. Everyone loves a joke that comes with a coupon.

April Fools' Day Marketing: 3 Brands Fake Out and Make Out

All three of these brands communicated with their customers and prospects without pushing their product because they focused their efforts on their customers’ experience, what would make them laugh, and what would make them click. And they didn’t make any jokes in poor taste, make their followers feel betrayed, or pull off half-baked schemes. These were polished, professional, high level jokes indicative of polished, high level brands.

Instead of it being a “jokes on you” day, it was an opportunity to create an inside joke. And who doesn’t love being an insider?

So now tell us, what were the brands on top (and bottom) of your list of April Fools’ Day jokes?

cover photo: Lotus Carroll

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What’s Your (Business) Story? Enter Our Services Giveaway Contest

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I’m a writer, so I have a love for a good story that goes deep down to my toes. I’ve spent my life crafting and reading stories with a hunger that can’t be satiated. Because a great story makes you crave the next line. It gives you a taste for words and images, a carnal urge to let them coat your tongue like the tannins of a good, strong red wine. When the last drop is drunk, you still want more.

I’ll take a story from anywhere, the news, a novel, a children’s book, The Onion, but my favorites are the true ones, the ones with an actual person firmly rooted in the engagement of life. Give me a lede about a human, mid struggle or triumph, and I’ll click all the way through to the kicker line.

You might be surprised to know then, that I love writing about businesses. Not “business” but actual living, breathing companies, embodied by passionate people, whose goal is to create and serve, and make a boatload of money in the process.

I bet the same is true for you. How much more attractive is Apple to you because of Steve Jobs? Not just because he was a visionary, but because he saw success and failure, gain and loss, suffering and joy. Watching it all, buying his products or not, we became invested in him and his brand. (And this from me the Android lover.)

Every company’s got a story to tell – from the entrepreneur working in her bedroom or the fledgling team in their workshop, to the $2 million company or the Fortune 500 firm. And the best stories, the ones that make investors, customers and competitors lean forward and furrow their brows in concentration, are the ones about the people behind business. How did they build it? Why? How did they break through those barriers? How are they going to change the landscape of the industry? How is their product going to change my life?

It’s what we all want, to read about people, like us, struggling and succeeding to build something. It’s the reason we take a whole day for a TEDxNavesink conference and why we watch and share TED videos late at night, long after we should have put our devices down.

That’s why we – Shannon the writer and Jennifer, the publicist – have launched an exclusive contest for TEDxNavesink attendees, because want to hear from you, the visionaries, the early adopters, the entrepreneurs, the game changers. Give us the narrative seed of this, this thing, that has taken over and become your life and your love. If yours is the one to resonate most with us, we’ll help you craft and deliver it to the people you need most: your customers and investors.

We love the opening line of a good story and we can’t wait to help you tell the rest.

So tell us, what’s your story?

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