As a trusted channel, email is not usually the focus when it comes to April fools jokes. We typically scour the newspapers every year, trying to spot which are the real stories, and which are the April Fools.
Was the Holy Grail really found in Spain? Will Man Utd’s Old Trafford Ground be renamed in a deal with Nike? Did a man really lose 14 stone from Morris Dancing?
But our inbox is more of a personal space. An email is not a general announcement – it’s a direct message to an individual, and therefore not typically a relationship that marketers want to jeopardise. Why would a brand having invested so much time and effort in building trust, and sending content that is valued risk offending a customer?
Well, obviously there’s a good engagement opportunity here, but my point is that in email you have to be more careful, so that the joke doesn’t end up on you. Here are a few examples that I liked this year, where they got the balance of fun and trust right.
Marketo’s approach was to err on the side of caution, and to make it very clear that it was not a serious communication. Taking the theme of improving your marketing and making it “sky high” ,Marketo encouraged subscribers to download their guide to sky-based marketing, highlighting new marketing opportunities in ‘sky writing’, paper aeroplanes, and owls, amongst other things.
It’s not the most hysterical April fool I’ve ever seen, but it was a nice tongue-in-cheek dig at themselves, and an ironic wink at their own lead nurturing process, so probably a good relationship building exercise . Of course the best bit is that they were also able to reinforce a serious core message, about elevating marketing. What they also did to be doubly sure, was to remind people of the date, and that it was an April fool, so that any one who did try to “download now” (and I’m sure there were a few….) could be brought down gently.
With the next example, I have to confess that for a split second, I did almost believe the email as it was so well done. Zettasphere sent me the exciting news that there was now a way to animate subject lines. We’re all familiar with use of emoticons and images in subject lines now, and there’s so much cool stuff going on in email these days, so hey, why not animated subject lines as well?
The blog explained how this could be done by using a hack and exploiting a “discontinuity in the Unicode character set” which allowed a pointer reference to an HTML5 scriptlet block to be inserted”. Brilliant.
And they even showed how the animation could work in a hotmail inbox.
What I also thought was good about this email April Fool, is that as well as reminding those clicking through to the “full article” that it was April Fools, there was also some related content on how to improve subject lines, ensuring that both the trust was maintained, and that the recipient had not clicked through in vain.
Then lastly, as a different take on the email-related April Fool. I loved the Gmail “Shelfie” idea. There’s so much that Google are doing in the email space, with the new visual grid layout, the unsubscribe, the promotional inbox…. that it would be quite easy to believe in any development they announced.
In this announcement Google shared a way to enhance the custom themes they launched in 2012, with a “Shelfie“–a shareable selfie, that adds a nice social touch to email.
Their official blurb said;-
“Got an awesome selfie? Upgrade it to a Shelfie! Simply open or refresh Gmail on the desktop and share it with your friends. If you’re looking for inspiration, set your theme to Gmail’s top trending Shelfies. You can also see who’s currently trending on our Google+ page.”
And while it may not have been as funny as the April spoof they did with Google Maps (where they moved the blue pins to a slightly different place from the destination you were looking for) it did nothing to impact trust in the Gmail Platform, and everything to reinforce a serious message, that email development is core to Google’s strategy and that it’s still an exciting channel.