Christmas Day. Your birthday. April Fools’ Day. If you work in PR, these might just be the three most exciting days of the year, and thousands of creative marketers will have spent the night struggling to sleep in anticipation of waking up to a maelstrom of Fools stories to critique.
Make no mistake, no longer simply a day of whimsy, April Fools has become a major moment in the annual marketing calendar, with social media channels now allowing for instant shareability, and dozens of industry blogs and Twitter users taking pride in becoming the first to identify or analyse the content.
It’s all a far cry from the first ever recorded April Fool, when the Tower of London released a notice inviting the public to view the annual “Washing of the Lions” ceremony.
By 9am this morning, I’d been hit by more than 30 brand April Fools, on my Twitter feed alone. There can be no doubt that the ability to self-publish through owned channels such as Twitter and Facebook means that more and more brands are getting involved, with the likes of Virgin Atlantic, Domino’s and MINI all joining the fun today.
In fact, owned channel publishing seems to have become by far the most common way to land the humble April Fool, with considerably fewer instances of brand-led stories appearing in truly free editorial media.
But is this a good thing? And how can brands ensure their stories genuinely stands out from the crowd? For us, there are two key factors:
The first is credibility, and how clients can use their own channels and assets to truly build out the story in conjunction with third party endorsement, best exemplified by bringing an editorial media partner on board.
Secondly, it’s incredibly important to carefully tread the line between fact and fiction. Retain an element of plausibility and you stand a chance of hoodwinking even the most cynical consumer. Go too far the other way, and nobody will even entertain your story as a possibility. Online betting company Betfair erred on the side of the unbelievable today, with this announcement on the trial of robotic referees at football matches.
At Synergy, we remain a firm believer that a great idea, well executed, can still be played out to genuinely land a brilliant brand story. And sponsorship can be an incredibly powerful platform as the basis of an April Fool.
Handily for us, Capital One’s sponsorship of The Football League handed us a great opportunity. The premise was simple, with Plymouth Argyle FC players struggling to pick out their teammates due to a colour clash between the pitch and their green playing shirts, the credit card company stepped in to help by agreeing to spray their pitch orange. The Sun newspaper interviewed staff from Plymouth Argyle, and the club and The Football League announced the story on their own channels to further add credibility to the event.
Leveraging the relationships with media and key stakeholders, as well as maximising sponsorship assets, all helped to build a richer narrative to the April Fool and give Capital One a great voice today.
There were several other examples of stories that caught our eye, with a number of media outlets running their own April Fools. The Mail Online revealed that England’s kit sponsor, Nike, are producing a special edition Brazilian yellow shirt for England to wear at the World Cup, in homage to the host nation. And the Metro website got into the act by claiming Zenit St Petersburg are set to purchase Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil - and switch their kit colour to Real Madrid white in an attempt to bring the best out of their new signing – a story that perhaps feels more plausible to Gunners fans than should be comfortable.
You can’t please everyone all of the time, however, and drinks brand Tango represented those consumers fatigued of the April Fool showers, with their #BOREDOFAPRILFOOLS hashtag and satirical content a nod to those who miss the mark on execution.
Amongst the chaos of the day, however, there is the unlikely risk of a brand unwittingly being caught in the crosshairs of the April Fool. Perhaps this morning wasn’t the best moment for @adidasUK to retweet the link to their newest product innovation, a climate-controlled piece of sportswear endorsed by David Beckham. Research shows this is not, in fact, an April Fool, but many consumers will have been forgiven the double-take!
It might be becoming more of a scramble than ever to be recognised, but the opportunity certainly remains for brands to use April Fools’ Day to create genuine cut-through on this silliest of days.
By Donald Parish on April 1st, 2014
Tags: Blogging, Brand marketing, Branded content, Brazil 2014, Celebrity, Communications, Content, Creative, David Beckham, Default, Digital marketing, PR, Public relations, Sponsorship, Sport, Synergy, Viral Marketing, World Cup