April Fools’ Day marketing pranks: Wins and losses

Thousands of brand managers took advantage of the prank-filled occasion online, with some going above and beyond to get the last laugh. Here’s one success story, and one utter failure.

When it comes to consumer engagement, brand managers know the importance of a good joke.

As a need for consumer interaction grows, social media managers use Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to deliver messages. For April Fools’ Day, prankster-marketers for well-known brands took to social media in hopes of getting the last laugh.

Here are two noteworthy brands’ pranks, starting with the day’s biggest loser:

Google’s botched ‘mic drop’

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt—or in Google’s case, until enough users complain and you have to apologize for your April Fools’ Day prank.

Some sneaky Gmail developers decided to add a button next to the email platform’s send button labeled “mic drop.” When sent, your email would automatically include a GIF of a minion dropping a mic.

Here’s how Google initially described the silliness in a blog post:

Email’s great, but sometimes you just wanna hit the eject button. Like those heated threads at work, when everyone’s wrong except you (obviously). Or those times when someone’s seeking group approval, but your opinion is the only one that matters (amirite?). Or maybe you just nailed it, and there’s nothing more to say (bam).

Twelve hours later, crisis managers stepped in, and the button disappeared. Why? Some of Gmail’s 900 million users didn’t get the joke. Many didn’t notice the button, and clicked it in place of hitting “send.”

Business Insider cited this example of the email going terribly wrong from one funeral director:

After more complaints rolled in—some users even claimed to have lost their jobs—Google’s brand managers took down the plug-in and issued this apology:

Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.

Even if only a few of the complaints were sincere, the joke this year was on Google.

Netflix goes to great pranking lengths, and it pays off.

Who doesn’t love actor John Stamos?

This was the thinking behind Netflix’s spoof to introduce its latest documentary series, “John Stamos: A Human, Being.”

Brand managers for Netflix and the star himself took to Twitter to introduce the fake series:

The mock trailer—which appeared front and center on Netflix’s home page—listed the release date for the series as April 31, 2016 —a nonexistent day. After looking at their calendars, fans began to catch on. The gag, however, didn’t stop users from praising the brand online.

Many commended the streaming service for its social media managers’ first-rate production efforts:

As Stamos currently stars in Netflix’s “Fuller House,” the documentary seemed plausible enough to get most of the Internet talking—and laughing.

As of this afternoon, Netflix’s home page is still entirely dedicated to Stamos. How long will the prank last? Netflix has yet to issue a statement. Perhaps brand managers will wait until the laughter dies down.

What about you, Ragan readers? What laughable or laudable marketing efforts did you see brands making for April Fools’ Day?

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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