2016 April Fools’ Jokes Were Far Worse Than We Expected

April 9, 2016

4:00 pm

Do you think your company is funny? Many companies answer “yes” to this question. The answer demonstrated on April Fools’ Day this year was a resounding “no”. Here are a couple of the worst “yea-sayers” this year.

Google

Google added the Gmail Mic Drop button to Gmail. The button replaced the “send and archive” button in Gmail with a “send and mic drop” button. The button would attach a gif of a minion dropping a microphone and block all future contact from that email thread, indefinitely.

According to Business Insider, more than a few users were upset and a few even lost jobs because of it.

Google pulled the joke after 12 hours online, fortunately before most Americans were even out of bed. They also issued an apology and are working to retrieve the emails that were blocked.

Yahoo

Yahoo isn’t fully to blame this year, but they did publish a joke from an affiliate that rubbed many internet users the wrong way. The victim? Trader Joe’s. Yahoo announced on their website that Trader Joe’s would be closing all of their stores in 2017. According to the Wall Street Journal many took to the Internet to complain. Yahoo also violated an unspoken rule by posting the article outside of the 24 hour period that is April Fools’.

Swanest

Then along came Swanest. A fintech company that couldn’t resist the siren song of April Fools’. The joke? Completing a $10 millon fundraising round. The victims: TechCrunch, Business Insider and investment firm Andreessen Horowitz. Swanest announced in a fake TechCrunch article that they produced raised the round from the investment firm.

Business Insider picked up the story and ran it as actual news.

BI Swanest Article

Business Insider Screenshot – 04/05/2016. This article has since been removed.

This embarrasses all parties involved. Had they actually cleared the joke beforehand, the victims may have been more forgiving. Andreessen Horowitz actually contacted them and asked them to “correct asap”.

Swanest for its part has since apologized and is working on correcting everything. The fake site has yet to be taken down, however.

The lesson here is that if you don’t want to spend April, 2nd, or in this case April, 5th apologizing to everyone on the Internet, you should really think about how they will react.

In the cases of all of the above, the reactions were not good.

The “joke” may have gotten them exactly what they wanted, i.e. social buzz and traffic, but I think they probably burned some bridges that would have been very useful for their company. So, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “be careful on April Fools’ Day”.

If you do find yourself being a fool on April Fools’ Day, do what Taco Bell did on April Fools’ Day in 1996, or what Google did with the Gmail joke:

  1. Get in front of it quickly and admit your mistake (Google released an apology quickly and is working with users to fix it.)
  2. Apologize to all of those affected
  3. Remove the offending content (Swanest still hasn’t removed the original article)
  4. Use the increased attention to rebuild goodwill towards your brand (Taco Bell made a substantial donation after their joke went wrong).

As marketers and communicators, we’re charged with pushing our company into new spaces and increasing interest in our brand. Sometimes we make mistakes, but that’s no reason to stop working. As always, honesty and willingness to accept your mistakes goes a long way to building trust with your customers. Follow the above steps to recover quickly and remember the lessons learned next year.

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Eric is a Communications Manager at www.zenkit.com in Germany. He has worked with several tech companies, from SaaS and EMM to desktop search solutions. A lover of tech with a passion for learning new things.

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