In what is now a pretty irksome tradition, as the calendar has rolled over to April 1st, our social media feeds have been inundated by brands try to pull one over on us. These ‘pranks’ [generous term] are conspicuous in their stupidity and fool hardly anyone whatsoever, and yet brands feel obliged to get in on the action in a case of what can only be described as collective commercial FOMO.
What’s even sadder than the tepid efforts trotted out across Twitter feeds worldwide is the thought of social media managers staying late on a Thursday night in mid February to sign-off on these posts; the only thing keeping them from despair is the glow of the 6 retweets and 13 faves their ingenuity will reap.
This year we’ve been treated to Kopparberg’s Fruit Lager, a cracking half-arsed effort by the British Milk Council and Nigel Farage suggesting he’ll be supporting the Stay campaign in the EU referendum:
This tweet – the hashtag, the exclamation mark, all of it – is the single worst thing I’ve ever seen on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/iF5Um99wT2
— Jamie Ross (@JamieRoss7) April 1, 2016
As I’m sure you’ll agree – this is stuff to get the pulse racing.
One brand actually came up with something quite good though. Step forward Innocent Smoothies.
Innocent decided to swap out the creamy fillings of several of your favourite sandwich-style biscuits for toothpaste and leave them in their office kitchen for their staff to eat. They then set up a hidden camera and livestreamed the feed via Periscope so everyone could watch unsuspecting Innocent employees get an unexpected mouthful of fluoride.
We’re attempting to get our colleagues to eat biscuits filled with toothpaste. We’ll probably get fired soon https://t.co/0x3BtcFv2p
— innocent drinks (@innocent) April 1, 2016
The idea is brilliant in its simplicity, and yet it reveals an insight that a lot of other companies seem to have missed when it comes to April Fools’ shenanigans:
People don’t like to be tricked.
Most of the jokes or pranks we see are published with the intention of fooling the brand’s followers – posting a ridiculous new product concept in the hopes that someone who follows them is gullible enough to believe that it’s true, share it and suffer the mild embarrassment when they realised they’ve been tricked. However light-hearted it may be, it turns your consumers into the butt of the joke and probably conveys a mild disdain for them.
What Innocent did was to smartly invert that dynamic and ask its social followers to be in on the joke and invite them to join them as they laugh at someone else’s expense. It’s a simple but powerful tactic – it creates a sense of collusion between the brand and their followers and underlines their status as a ‘fun’ company.
The result is that their feed has been doing good numbers all day as they successfully anticipated that, really, people enjoy the misery of others just a little bit and that everyone loves a joke, as long as they’re not the victim.
Furthermore, it’s good to see someone actually using Periscope in an interesting way for advertising purposes. Rather than shamelessly blatant self-promotion, Innocent have provided their followers with something worth tuning in for. The tension as someone hovers near the biscuit tray or sends a wistful glance towards the plate provides a sense of voyeuristic pleasure and anticipation as you hope to catch someone in the act. The candid camera style video footage has a sense of naturalism, rather than artificiality, matching up nicely with the rest of Innocent’s brand positioning.
April Fools’ Day is invariably lame, but Innocent have managed to come up with something smart, simple and funny. By switching the target of their prank and the focus of their humour, as well as harnessing tech properly, they’ve found a way to stand out from the crowd.