It’s April 1st today, and rather than pulling a fast one on you, we’d like to get serious for a second. Not everyone is born with the comedic timing of a Seinfeld or a Letterman – and yet April Fool’s Day has become inundated with corporate and brand-based riffs and jokes crafted by marketing departments looking for the next big viral hit.
There’s no worse feeling, though, than seeing your clever bon mot flop in front of an audience. The small players and the big headliners feel the same pressure: evens mighty Google felt the sting today, as its satirical “Mic Drop” feature prompted a rash of complaints only to be swiftly shuttered. Humour and witticism should certainly have their places in your small business marketing strategy, especially when it comes to maintaining customer relationships, but small businesses in particular need to be exceptionally careful and considerate before trying out a gag, a riff or a bait-and-switch.
Poking fun at your industry can be a great way to get a rise out of your customers and a rise in attention for your business, but it’s important to avoid alienating others in what can be a tightly-knit community of small business owners and entrepreneurs near you. Consider putting a humorous spin on the way people use or interact with your products, or combining forces with another local small business to mash your identities together in a spray of non-sequiturs that will catch attention.
When making reference to other wildly successful pop culture phenomena, it’s best to strike while the iron is very, very hot. The temporary and fickle nature of online attention dictates that latecomers to any given party will likely stick out like sore thumbs. As a rule, if it’s the kind of thing your aunt would share on Facebook, avoid parodying it.
Don’t just play the humour card for the sake of playing it, or for a marketing move that might get lost in the noise (or worse, exposed online if it offends or strikes the wrong chord.) However, keep an open mind – it’s not a requirement to be straight-laced 365 days a year.