Today is April 1, one of the worst days on the internet every year. For the rest of the day, the internet will be filled with a never-ending parade of dumb PR stunts, fake products, lie-filled press releases, and just plain non-funny jokes filtered through layers and layers of corporate branding teams. by normal people unrecognizable as humor.
Last year, the holiday came at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; Faced with the unspeakable human tragedy that unfolded on a daily basis, most companies chose not to participate in the holiday. Some, like Google, have wisely chosen to re-joke about the April Fools in light of the current state of the world.
And yet April 1 has been spun again, and as vicious treasure hunters in an Indiana Jones movie it seems brands just can’t stop opening the box of forbidden knowledge and melt their faces
The latest example of this cautionary tale is Volkswagen, which messed up so spectacularly earlier this week with a fake rebranding that caused such a severe backlash that I really hope it puts an end to the practice forever.
As it stands now, there are only four options for a brand in 2021 pulling this nonsense:
- Don’t joke about April Fools. Put the time and energy into something productive that will substantially benefit the world (or, less idealistically, your business). Or just don’t do anything. Remembering completely would still be a net positive of running out of resources and mental energy.
- Do an April Fools “joke”, but really do your stunt. This might not be a joke because you actually made a video game skin or a real product that people can buy, but it doesn’t really hurt anyone.
- Do an April Fools joke, but be very clear from the start that this is a stupid joke and that you have no intention of doing anything that you “humorously” pretend to do. Does this run counter to the purpose of making an April Fools’ joke for not fooling anyone anymore? Absolutely. (See my first two points.)
- Lie to your customers and successfully make them believe that you are creating a product, rebrand or service that you are not. By doing this, you will almost certainly annoy everyone once your cheating is made clear for the extremely small profit of pointless PR. The aphorism is that there is no such thing as bad publicity; the seemingly endless line of companies willing to fool themselves has proven this time and time again.
In a more logical world, brand managers and social media strategists around the world would just take a day off, realizing that there is simply no point in taking the anger of your customers (or, in some cases, your very good name). risk to celebrate a toxic internet. vacation that was never fun in the beginning. Unfortunately, today – as every year – brands will almost certainly refuse to learn.