Fake news used to be cute but these days it’s hard enough to keep track of what’s real and what isn’t real.
Updated: It's not 2021 anymore, but it's still a big no from us for April Fools' Day stunts.
PR stunts have always been a part of the landscape, and many of us have stories about the ones landed well, but there are many, many more that fall flat. Chief among them are April Fools’ Day stunts. This year, it’s “Volts”wagen.
At a time when conspiracy theories abound, do you really want your audience to struggle to know if your marketing message is real?
We’re putting a stake in the ground - no more April Fools’ stunts. Here’s why:
Risk Versus Reward. Think about the business value and ROI. Is taking part in April Fools’ Day right for your brand and audience? Will the ROI outweigh the potential crisis that forces you to pull together emergency resources to clean up a PR mess if your stunt backfires?
Case in point -- the Volkswagen stunt that unfolded this week - fooling even the AP. Some on our team thought it was a genius move -- doubling down on electric vehicles with a clever twist on your iconic brand. It was soon revealed as a “pre” April Fools’ Day joke and Twitter imploded, telling the automaker, there’s no such thing as “pre” April Fools! And this morning, the headline on CNN tells the story. The company is under fire for potentially misleading investors with the stunt.
Read the Room. It’s 2021 and we’re exhausted. Repeated assaults on news integrity over the past few years, so much so that ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ have become a part of the lexicon, have worn us out. Regardless of your political stance, we can all agree that journalism -- the fourth estate -- is critical to our functioning democracy, and that conspiracy theories only serve to further divide. Don’t make us speculate.
Don’t get us wrong - we still have a sense of humor. We fondly recall 2018, when IHOP announced a plan to change its name to IHOb to promote its new burger menu item. The campaign successfully changed people’s perception of the brand as a breakfast dining location and increased burger sales. We got a chuckle. But that was 2018.
Get Creative for Good. Stunts are self-serving. Maybe they get some brief buzz, but more often they are a waste of creative energy. Consider instead the many ways that brands put their creative thinking to work for good in 2020. This piece in Digiday is a great reminder of what happens when brands put their best efforts into service for their customers … Uber giving free rides to essential workers and delivering food to seniors while reminding us to stay home … Airbnb offering a lucky winner one last chance to spend the night at the last Blockbuster … Chase inviting homebound, graduating seniors to #ShowMeYourWalk.