Thursday, April 2, 2009

Foolish fools?

In my whole PR career, working for big and small clients, I have never taken part in an April Fools PR hoax for any of them. This has not been a deliberate strategy, its just never been something that fell in line with the PR objectives of my clients. So this morning, looking over the many April Fools played out yesterday, I got to wondering what PR benefit these companies will have derived from their efforts.

So first up, a selection of the jovality from yesterday:
- Google launched the gball... a football with GPS and other such tracking systems. Talent scouts can track great players online
- The Guardian (UK) announced that it is moving to a completely Twitter-based format
- Consumer forum Whirlpool told us that Stephen Conroy has been fired by the government (touche!)
- Farkin, the mountain bike company pretended it had been caught up in the government's net filtering plans and was being shut down
- GetUp! used the day to tell us that K.Rudd was offering free child care at your local MPs office (a dig at the disappearance of maternity pay from the political agenda in the wake of the GFC)
- The Herald Sun was trying to have us all believe that a Chinese consortium was attempting to have the MCG renamed
- Microsoft announced the launch of Alpine Legend - a yoddling version of Guitar Hero for the XBox 360
- Mumbrella panicked a few people with the news that the government was working on a secret plan to tax Australians per twitter update
- New Zealand's Herald told us that Microsoft had acquired Apple
I am sure there were many more...

So what did these companies get for their efforts?

Well Google always wins with its April Fools hoaxes - it has done them since 2000 and has built an expectation. I even saw online conversations on the 31st March indicating that people were excitedly awaiting this year's. The hoax concept fits very nicely with Google's brand identity as a fun company that doesn't take itself too seriously, and over the years this type of irreverence has probably been partly responsible for the company's continued maverick brand status despite its increasingly grown up behaviour.

The publication driven stories (Guardian, MCG renaming and MS acquiring Apple) have a different objective to those started by vendors. These are intended to sell papers and entertain. The Guardian one I retweeted, which may have gone some way to drive their twitter following, which may have been their plan.

Alpine Yodel I like a lot. It shows that even serious Microsoft can laugh at itself. Farkin got some nice newspaper coverage - well done there, and GetUp used the day to take a clever angle on one of their key political campaigns.

The key hurdle any company has to overcome with an April Fools PR idea is that many others are competing for the same article. Any publication will run one, maybe two hoax stories, but no more. Yours has to be pretty good to compete - especially against those who have established a certain ownership of the day (a la Google).

This year saw a lot of the hoaxes disseminated through social media - Twitter in particular. Perhaps as more companies get to grips with these media we will see more stories, both real and fake, distributed through these channels.

No comments:

Post a Comment