Pity the (April) Fool

At the risk of being a killjoy, what’s the point of April Fools’?

A quick Google to find its origins doesn’t provide any definitive answer, although it’s a tradition found in various parts of the world as well as the UK, including Poland, the Philippines and Ukraine, and it’s generally agreed that pranks can only be played up until midday.

But still, what’s the point?

Mr T – Credit Tom Simpson at https://www.flickr.com/people/gameraboy/

Famous April Fools’

One of the most well-known April Fools’ jokes was the BBC’s Spaghetti Tree – a segment on Panorama showing a Swiss family during the annual harvest of the Spaghetti Tree. So many viewers believed the segment, that the BBC was inundated with calls from viewers asking where they could get one of the trees for themselves and how best to care for it.

Other famous April Fools’ include a story that the state of Alabama wanted to redefine pi to the value of 3, in accordance with the Bible, Moo-R codes which would allow to view an individual cow’s social media profile, and a Guardian travel piece about the islands of San Serriffe, with islands named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse.

What’s the harm in April Fools’?

At its worst, April Fools’ Day has led to real stories and important information being brushed off as a joke. Google’s April 1st Gmail launch was dismissed as a joke, partly because they had such a long tradition of playing tricks on their users and announced massive amounts of storage in comparison to their rivals. Google were caught out again with their ‘mic drop’ prank in 2016, when it replaced its ‘Send and Archive’ button with a ‘Send and Mic Drop’ button– automatically putting a minion mic drop gif on the email and preventing any responses from being seen. Many people claimed that this caused problems, confusion, and even job losses.

More seriously, warnings about a tsunami which killed around 160 people were ignored as people assumed it was an April Fool.

Should your business take part in April Fools’?

Most April Fools’ may seem like harmless fun, but the whole premise is based on someone you trust taking advantage of that in order to trick you. If you’re a business and you make your customer feel like a ‘fool’, are they going to feel warmer towards you?

The whole idea behind Public Relations is to build a relationship with the people important to your organisation. Large corporate organisation will have huge PR teams who carefully plan a strategy to get messages out to the right people at the right time, building customer loyalty and adding value to the company. Sole traders and small businesses spend lots of time and effort building relationships with their customers.

So why undermine all of that for a quick laugh which is unlikely to show your brand in a positive light, and may even make people feel badly towards you?

From this perspective, it’s those who participate who are the real fools.

What do you think? Are April Fools’ just another way to engage, or are they damaging? Let us know in the comments.

And if you want some help or advice about communicating effectively, get in touch.

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