Hah. See what I did there? “April Fools!”… Hah. Hah. Hah. Um. Never mind.
On the internet, it's April Fools' day everyday. https://t.co/0iAScnKlvt
— Shahin Khan (@ShahinKhan) April 1, 2019
So brands, please turn off the bot-generated April Fools’ Day content pollution. It’s not funny. It doesn’t make me want to click. It makes you look foolish and desperate. It irritates me — and judging from what I’m reading on Twitter, I’m not alone.
Brands should get real…
1. Nothing is less good for your brand than mediocre jokes or jokes that just don’t land. Why do you think April Fools Day changes that? If you discover an incredible gag — hugely funny — go for it. But your approval process needs to demand that it be over-the-top exceptional. Otherwise, just go about your business.
2. Your content is basically an April Fools’ joke every day. It tries to draw attention with absurd, exaggerated headlines. And when the consumer arrives at the site, it turns out to be the dullest and most uninteresting content around. (Maybe the hope is that at least the writer of the content gets to enjoy his job on April Fools Day.)
3. Consumers tend to start every communication from you with skepticism — figuring you may be lying in what you say. Nice job using April Fools’ Day to prove to them that you really are fully capable of lying to customers. Yes, I know they’re in on the joke about April Fools’ Day. But should you really reinforce what they might already believe?
But let’s not stop at April Fools’ Day. Why has every tiny, minor “holiday” become a digital advertising celebration?
It may well be that the short-term focus on counting clicks leads brands to find great click rates with this stuff. My guess, though, is that the ROI on it isn’t very good. A click is not a click is not a click.
In fact, there’s a general rule in the subscription biz: The harder you have to work or the more you have to give away to get the subscription, the shorter the time it will last.
I do NOT need “Boxing Day” ads — I live in the US after all and have only some sense it’s a Canadian thing. I do NOT need special content to celebrate National Pencil Day or any of the 1,000,000 other special days that clutter the calendar.
Are you making a difference? Probably not.
The first brand to use April Fools’ content may have gotten some decent attention from it. But now that everybody does it, you just fade into one vast sea of sameness with your April Fools content.
Apple hit a tremendous home run with their 1984 Super Bowl ad — and that grand slam swing echoes still today. Their success, though, relied on being the first to do it — it seemed so radically crazy for this tech company to buy the ad. Today, that same action gets a massive, collective “yawn” — because we’ve already seen it.
There’s a Jon Steel observation (from Truth, Lies, and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning) noting that the first homeless guy to stand by a ramp holding a sign “Will Work for Food” was saying something fresh. Four years later, it was stale and ignored. So the guy who stands by a ramp today with a sign saying “Why Lie. I need a Beer” gets attention — because he found a fresh new way to talk.
Freshness and “getting through” are critical. Just as critical is the day-to-day hard work of keeping consistent messages in front of customers.
We often get carried away — figuring the grand slam home run is what builds strong businesses. Not often.
Truth is that we may SEE the grand slam home run that eventually comes through hard work and finally puts a business solidly on the map. What we don’t see are years spent in the trenches building the business.
So let’s stop figuring the grand slams are the goal. Yes. It’s lovely that on one day of the year the brand gets a bunch of clicks. No, it doesn’t make or break your business.
Brands would, in fact, be far better off to use today for one thing: Just keep chipping away at the hard work of building mental and physical availability (to use Byron Sharp’s wise structure for brand).
As for me, back to the grindstone. I have a report to pull together today to help some good friends build a business from scratch. THIS is work that matters deeply.
©2019 Doug Garnett — All Rights Reserved
Through my company Protonik, LLC based in Portland Oregon, I work with clients to drive innovation success with better marketing of new and innovative products and services — work which needs to start before market analysis. I also work with clients attempting to bring new life to Shelf Potatoes or take their existing products to new markets. You can read more about these services and my unusual background (math, aerospace, supercomputers, consumer goods & national TV ads) at www.Protonik.net.