Knock, knock. Who’s there? A broken pencil! A broken pencil who?
We all like to laugh. A joke is often the easiest way to connect with others, and a sense of humour is considered a “must-have” in a relationship by 37% of men and 58% of women, according to Match.com.
A good laugh has both positive short and long-term emotional, psychological and physiological effects. Laughter increases endorphin production, making us feel good. It reduces stress, soothes tension and relaxes us, improves our immune systems, relieves physical pain, and improves our mood. And perhaps most importantly for brands, laughter also increases memorability.
Using humour is a risky strategy, as it is subjective, but the rewards can be high. Humour is one of the most powerful ways of making a positive emotional connection between your brand and your customers; if you can make someone smile then you are on your way to creating a strong bond. Poking fun at yourself or playing with your brand orthodoxies can make you look more human, more authentic, more self-aware, and therefore more accessible and likeable. It gives you freedom to demonstrate your brand personality, and to show that you can be fun, no matter how serious your category.
According to BuzzSumo, who recently analysed the top 10,000 most shared articles across the internet, mapping each one to an emotion, the three most popular emotions invoked were: awe (25%), laughter (17%) and amusement (15%). Amuse your customers or make them laugh, and they will also share your content. Entertain them and they will follow your brand. Humour creates alignment.
April Fool’s Day is a good way for brands to have a bit of fun. Showing your wit can be a winner, but the stakes are high. The best pranks are sort of believable and reasonable for the brand. Ones that you would just like to be true – in a weird way! Getting it wrong, though, can damage your brand equity. You don’t want the joke to be on you. So, who got it right and who ended up with egg on their face? I’ll let you be the judge.
Pimm’s, the quintessential drink of the British Summer, announced a sponsorship deal with the Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben. The brand’s logo will be displayed across the dial of the world’s most famous clock tower throughout the summer as proof that any time is ‘Pimm’s o’clock’ – their advertising slogan. Veteran TV news broadcaster Peter Sissons filmed a special report as further proof!
BMW launched BMW xDrive Baby Boots, a revolutionary new shoe for toddlers to help stop them falling over. The new shoe uses BMW xDrive technology which dynamically reacts to any change in household terrain, such as ceramic tile or carpet, thus providing the ‘perfect combination of practicality and maximum walking pleasure.’
Right Guard launched a new deodorant for the left side of the body – Left Guard claiming equal rights for the left side of the body! Ending their ad with the strapline “It’s not right.”
SodaStream launched SodaStream Le Dogue – the first sparkling water machine designed especially for man’s best friend. The machine features a rhinestone encrusted bowl, paw print design and sensors that deliver fresh sparkling water at the touch of a paw. A selection of flavours are also due for release, including Scrumptious Salmon, Luscious Liver and Tasty Turkey!
Rust-Oleum announced the launch of DIY-FI, their new Wi-Fi enhancing paint created to boost unreliable, ineffective routers in the home.
Google UK Gmail
Google UK briefly introduced a ‘send and drop the mic’ button to its email service, Gmail that allowed users to send an email containing an animated gif of a Minion dropping a microphone that muted all further conversation. This symbolises that the sender had the last word, as recipients were unable to reply to the email. However, Google had not appreciated how many of their customers used Gmail for business purposes, nor how many would accidently use it, sending their customers and message board apoplectic. Faced with this backlash, Google quickly abandoned the option.
Kildare Now news website
Kildare Now, the County Kildare news website, posted a story claiming that a jihadist calling himself Paddy Jihaddy had taken over a Kildare landmark. A photoshopped picture of the tower with an ISIS flag flying from it was used as evidence!
They later apologised, removed the article and claimed that the story was unauthorised and not posted by a member of the editorial team.
Burger King France
Burger King introduced a new item to their menu in France – SINGLE FRIES™. Individually wrapped single fries in three different sizes, for those where fries and a burger proves too much!
RATP Paris Metro
13 Metro stations in Paris were given an overnight rebranding by the RATP on April 1. Anyone arriving at station Opéra was greeted with new sign Apéro (Happy Hour), the Pyrénées were renamed the Alpes and unsurprisingly, the station Quatre Septembre became Premier Avril. Each line tweeted images and videos of the changes to their stations, alongside emoticons of fish – the symbol of April Fools’ in France, where it is known as “Poisson d’Avril”.
Google introduced a self-driving bicycle to the world’s no.1 country of cyclists – 99.1% bicycles per capita. The Dutch cycle almost 900 km per year per person, equating to over 15 billion km annually. However, they have 350,000 cycling related accidents a year. The self-driving bicycle aims to make cycling safer, smarter and easier by removing the human element! The technology is based on Google’s self-driving cars, but adapted for bikes and provides the added bonus of allowing you to work whilst riding your bike!
Researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva and home of the Large Hadron Collider, confirmed the existence of The Force used by Jedi knights in the Star Wars movies! The announcement appeared on the research institute’s own official website and should have been an immediate giveaway as it was full of Star Wars puns, obscure TIE Fighter references and quotes from “dark-matter researcher Dave Vader”! Together with my very own favourite quote: “Very impressive, this result is,” said “a diminutive green spokesperson for the laboratory.”
Jeep Germany introduced Adventure Tyres – the first off-road tyre that integrated the latest tyre technology with actual rocks to create a tyre that provides the off road sensation on a city road!
German Embassy London
The German diplomatic mission in London claimed that a new policy had been announced in Berlin, aimed at establishing rugby as the country’s new national sport. The goal being to win the 7 Nations Championship (the 6 Nations is a rugby tournament) after footballing defeat to England in Euro 2016 friendlies.
So far so good; then they added “several far-reaching measures that will see rugby become an integral part of German culture, included hens that lay rugby ball-shaped ‘eggs’”. Ouch!
Porsche announced the launch of Porsche Eau d’Essence – a limited edition new perfume that “embodies a motorsport spirit with essences of both motor oil and tyre rubber”. Numbers are limited to just 919 units!
The Moscow Times, an English language weekly newspaper, revealed that a specially trained group of cats from St. Petersburg’s Hermitage museum will help in the restoration of Palmyra. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage museum, stated: “We know that cats can do amazing things given the right training — they can smell out landmines and use their whiskers to remove topsoil… More importantly, our cats know art and they know how crucial it is to treat treasures like Palmyra gently.” The cats apparently underwent secret training in Optina monastery. Having lived there in the 90’s, anything is indeed possible!
Chinese state news agency Xinhua
China, through the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, appeared to ban April Fool’s Day and to warn the nation not to spread rumours, stating: “‘Fools’ Day’ is not in line with our country’s traditions and socialist core values… We hope you will not believe, create or spread rumours” and ending with a smiley face emoticon. Many took this at face value as further evidence of the Chinese government seeking to curtail the influence of Western ideas. Others felt that the joke was on the West, as Xinhua were obviously pranking as payback for earlier humiliations. So, was it a prank or not?
Grab, a Thai taxi company similar to Uber, announced the introduction of GrabTukTuk as a new service. Not really so far-fetched, given it exists in Cambodia!
Google Japan announced the launch of Furikku, a flickable keyboard allowing users to enter text in a familiar way. The device consists of a button that users can ‘push’ and also a sensor that detects ’flick’ actions. This video has to be watched!
In the spirit of April Fool’s Day, Kit Kat Japan introduced Kit Kat Sushi to its vast range of over 200 flavours of Kit Kat via Twitter. However, no-one was really tricked, given the hashtag April Fools was included in the same tweet as well as appearing on the accompanying photo!
Virgin Australia launched a 100% adults-free Kids Class aircraft cabin via its YouTube channel. Features include kickable seats, a concierge Trunki service to the gate, a “dance-along” safety demonstration, teddy bear menu, chewable safety cards, bubble-filled cabins during story time, and tent forts to help kids get to sleep.
Contiki travel, who provide holidays for 18 to 35 year olds, recognising that a rite of passage for many Australians is the gap year world tour, introduced Contiki tours via a 360 degree VR headset. The VR itineraries offer 3D VR experiences for every activity on a typical backpackers list – experience Oktoberfest in Germany, trek Peru’s Machu Picchu, cycle through Vietnam, discover the Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil and paraglide in Sweden. The Company claim; “Travellers get the high of travel without the investment” in neither time nor money. Called Virtually Unlimited, and with a dedicated booking site, introduction video and compelling product descriptions, this was an easy one to fall for!
Members Equity Bank Limited, operating as ME, introduced a new line of credit cards with no limit, aptly named The Cardashians. With a strapline of “It’s all about ME, ME, ME” there are four cards to choose from, all of which are vanilla scented and come in different shades of nude: cim, chloé, courtney and cris. Each card comes with a host of extras such as a faux fur wallet to keep it in. For those who prefer debit cards then there is the ‘canye’ debit card with no overdraw facility, to responsibly manage any outrageous spending or debt complications!
Coles supermarket announced via Twitter the introduction of hover trolleys to replace creaky ones which only veer to one side.
Tasmania Police Department
Tasmania Police announced the use of specially trained sniffer pigs as their newest weapon in the war against drugs! The new Narcotic Detection Swine Unit is the first of its kind. With proven truffle detection skills, experts felt detecting drugs was a logical next step. Although, Police admit that they are occasionally distracted by mud puddles during training!
Australian Ethical, an environmental and socially responsible investment company, announced that their holdings in Priceless Penguins Ltd (PPAFH) have skyrocketed by 140% in the last month.
Priceless Penguins run a sustainable fishery that has trained penguins on the far southern tip of Hobart to catch fish of exactly the right size. They have a 0% bycatch rate (no other fish caught unintentionally), but have a 140% slippage rate as some of the penguins still in training eat the fish!
H&M, well-known for their collaborations, launched the Mark Zuckerberg Collection of seven basic grey T-shirts and one set of basic jeans with the strapline: “One less thing to think about in the morning.”
Quilted Northern introduced a new artisan range of hand-pulped, hand-crafted, hand-perforated toilet paper called Rustic Weave. The new range of three products: Small Batch, Cedar Loom and Extra Virgin Birch are designed to provide “a more memorable bathroom experience”.
Zumba Fitness and iRobot
Zumba Fitness and iRobot, creator of the Roomba vacuum-cleaning robot, introduced Zumba Roomba, the result of a joint collaboration. The idea being to bring some fun to two of life’s unavoidable chores -cleaning and exercising. A series of videos show the automated vacuum cleaner with a music dock on top playing dance music whilst the cleaning is being done!
T-Mobile introduced a headset called Binge On Up that provides users with a hands-free way to binge watch their favourite TV shows and movies via their phones. Available for free only on April 1st!
TodayTix, an app for buying last minute theatre tickets in New York announced the introduction of Dial-A-Drama. If you are running late for a show, this new service lets you call a hotline to be connected to an agent inside the theatre who will give you a blow-by-blow account of the action until you arrive!
The US Army issued a press release announcing that Army scientists have successfully ‘teleported’ 9 human research volunteers from a Massachusetts R&D facility to a training area in Germany, the Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSCC). Ultimately making overseas bases obsolete, as forces are instead moved from U.S. soil to remote trouble spots in the twitch of Spock’s ear!
Expedia Canada created a new airline for redheads only called Ginge-air.
No one has yet been able to clearly define what makes something funny or not, which is clearly evident from our round-the-world tour. But, to be blunt, determining what is funny for your brand simply requires you to understand your customers and what would be funny to them. To help, here are five tips to bear in mind:
- Be creative. Don’t play safe, and don’t be afraid to be a little edgy.
- Be relevant to your brand and to your customer.
- Be tasteful. Poking fun at yourself and other innocuous subjects is ok, but steer clear of controversial topics.
- Be relatable. Sarcasm rarely works! If it’s forced, it will look forced.
- Keep it short and simple. Complexity never works. It just frustrates!