April Fools' Day with Googly Eyes and Mustache

Pranks are the name of the game on April Fools’ Day, and increasingly brands are getting involved in the fun. This year we saw a flurry of businesses play into the trickery of April 1, but the majority fell flat. The notable few who rose to the top had viewers laughing out loud and were incredibly memorable. Aside from having viewers giggling at their desks, these brands successfully engaged their audiences through these stunts and turned an otherwise silly cultural holiday into a marketing triumph.

We’ve chosen two brands that truly won April Fools’ Day 2016. Read on to see why they’re topping our lists and how you can apply their marketing tactics to your business.

Quilted Northern’s Small Batch Artisanal Toilet Paper

The 44-second commercial introduces Quilted Northern’s latest product line of artisanal toilet paper. The rustic feel, craftsmanship, and departure from modern innovation are a few of the highlighted features in the ad. The toilet paper rolls look prickly and rough, even going as far as resembling a tree branch with its bark still intact for the “Extra Virgin Birch” product line. Clearly this is a joke, and a very clever one at that.

Why is it so amusing?

Quilted Northern played up the discrepancy between the characteristics of the new product line, which were tough, scratch, and in limited supply, and its core product’s values. Underscoring how implausible this new brand of toilet paper was subconsciously reinforced what Quilted Northern inherently stands for. Just think about it; would a toilet paper company really manufacture tissue that is truly “tree to toilet”? I don’t think so.

The absurdity of the commercial also speaks to the current pulse of the nation, which wants niche, locally-made, small batch products instead of the mass-produced, generic products that have become the norm. Of course no one would want this suite of toilet paper, just look at the woman’s reaction when she rejoins her friends who are seated on a plush sofa. Her discomfort is palpable and hilarious and makes evident that this product would not thrive in the marketplace. The nod to handcrafted goods is a fun and lighthearted spin on where the nation’s interests are leading in this moment. Quilted Northern understood the topical relevance of this subject and worked it into their April Fools’ Day campaign. They showed their viewers that they have their finger on the pulse of societal trends and that they know how to navigate the space without being offensive or simply not funny.

How can you apply this to your marketing strategy?

Emphasize the differences between your brand and an impracticable counterpart product to subtly inform your audience about your brand promise and underline the key differentiators between your business and the competition.

Keep up with trending topics and themes to generate relevant content that engages your customers in unexpected ways. Creating an advertisement that is of the moment shows that your business cares about the marketplace and what consumers are doing and saying. Bring your business to the people and touch on topics and issues they are talking about; it will breed more chatter in your favor if done well.

Esurance’s Election Insurance

Need a chuckle? The “Election Insurance” commercial is pure gold and worth every second of the 2:02 minute video. The advertisement opens with the same feel, tone, and narrator as other current esurance commercials. As soon as you’re roped into this being another informative insurance commercial, you’re hit with the company’s latest offering: Election Insurance, which offers home protection for those who want to move to Canada for four years based on the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. From there, the tiered benefits of this coverage are detailed. They range from “weekly home maintenance” such as mail collection and lawn care to “premium options like the holiday overachiever” who decorates the entire exterior of their home with seasonal holiday lights and inflatables, and more. The entire concept of the commercial is outlandish, but yet so relatable to the entire population. The underlying message is that this is a joke on politics, not citizens. The play on the current political environment and how a company would service its customers in such a crisis is genius!

Why is this commercial a home run of an April Fools’ Day prank?

First, it echoes the nation’s thoughts regarding the upcoming election and how displeased the general public is with the current presidential candidates. Again the relevant nature of the topic, which we’ve discussed in other posts as ‘newsjacking’, makes it timely and recognizable. Regardless of political affiliation or views, every American is aware of what’s happening with the candidates and how peculiar this race has been. Esurance capitalizes on this by creating this fake insurance, which is symptomatic of the nation’s political feelings. The commercial puts esurance in the national audience instead of creating separation from the people; they’re in this pickle with their customers. This sentiment is something consumers yearn for and actively seek as they choose their products and service providers.

Second, the commercial does not make a statement regarding either political party, and does not isolate any of its target audience. Without naming names, the commercial informs the viewer of Election Insurance’s benefits and interviews an array of citizens who are all opting to leave the country for the next four years. It is completely inclusive and leaves no judgment. The tagline for this insurance is “designed to give you peace of mind (no matter what happens in November).” This statement is free of personal opinion, and only reiterates the national buzz surrounding the election. Remaining neutral on such a politically and socially charged issue is difficult to do, but esurance managed to strike the right balance to deliver an ingenious parody that the population could enjoy.

How can you apply this to your business?

Make your brand part of the audience and include your business in conversation. Break down the wall between you and your customer, and craft a dialogue that places your brand and your client on the same plateau. These are surefire ways to bring your community together and increase the trust and belief in your brand.

Be mindful and stay neutral. Consider the feelings of others – even if they are not your target market – goes a long way and confirms the integrity of your brand.  If you want to participate in a topical event, such as April Fools’ Day, remember to be sensitive to regional, political and religious ideals. Pranks are meant to generate positive feelings, not ill-will. Keep this in mind before moving forward with any topical joke or reference from your business.

What do you think of our choices? We’d love to hear your thoughts about which brands won April Fools’ Day.

About the Author: Julie Chomiak is the Content Marketing Specialist for Webs and Pagemodo. When she’s not scouring the web for small business trends, Julie loves traveling, interior design, and animals of all kinds. Get more from Julie on the Webs Blog and the Pagemodo blog.

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