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April 12, 2019   |   6 min read

Trending on Social: Big Impressions with Unofficial Holidays

Julie Sablar   |   Director of Social Media

More and more, brands are trying to find ways to connect with their fans on a deeper level that will increase engagement and loyalty to the brand. “Unofficial holidays” like National Donut Day and Star Wars Day have started trending on social over the years, yet brands don’t always plan and execute on the correct holiday or in the right way. With the “unofficial holiday” April Fools having just passed, we took a look at how names big and small pranked their way to success. Few campaigns actually went viral, but many were able to connect their company vision with trending social topics for a newfound level of believability.

Let's hear it for the brands who made April Fools' their own.

On Twitter alone, there was close to 100k mentions of the jokester holiday. But what’s even more interesting is that there was 3x the amount of people engaging with the content, coming in at over 600 million potential impressions. That’s a lot of eyes on branded content in just one day, and the content was definitely giving fans something to talk about—most of which was positive (67%).

Four main themes of content for April Fools were highlighted, each taking ques from fans and trending social topics. Let’s look at who really topped the list of strategically connecting their brand to the holiday’s trademark humor.

Millennial Mania: Bring on the millennial pink, rainbow unicorns, and Instagram-worthy moments.

  • Winner: Three Olives® Vodka announced its rebranding of Roosevelt Island to Rosévelt Island, the new home of rosé. Connoisseurs from around the globe were welcomed to an open bar featuring a signature Rosé Spritz Cocktail and endless afternoons of fun. The lighthearted but humorous take on Millennials (and their love for everything pink and Rosé) was spread through a web video that prominently featured on the brand’s Instagram TV channel.
  • Honorable Mention: Hello Fresh’s bold new Unicorn box came complete with three colorful recipes that helped you capture the perfect Instagram pic while channeling your inner unicorn. Check out their saved Stories and IGtv for tips!

Food Focus: From brunch pics to late-night binge snacking memes, food has been all the rage on Instagram the past few years.

  • Winner: For the person who isn’t “real hungry and only wants a bite,” Amazon Restaurants delivered tiny food. Need more than just a taste? Don’t worry, they ended their April Fool’s prank with free delivery that day by using a code which appeared in their Instagram Stories.
  • Honorable Mention: Your soy vanilla, no whip Frappuccino suddenly had an upgraded non-dairy option. Introduced was FreshDirect’s latest innovation: Caulk. A unique (read: gross) option derived from cauliflower, that came with rave reviews and its very own shopping section filled with Caulktail recipe and Cauliflower favorites.

Animal Obsession: The dependable consumer win with animals hit a new stride, because really… who doesn’t love their pet and consider them a member of the family?

  • Winner: The US Open’s official Twitter account announced adding puppies to the 2019 contest for the first time. Users were so excited about the real possibility they began submitting photos of their pets to apply for the positions. What the Open learned was that by adding puppies, anything will be better, and people will show up in droves.
  • Honorable Mention: With wedding season looming, Petco strove toward equal opportunity by recognizing that even animals deserve to find love. Cue the Petco Furever Weddings! A landing page chock full of wedding ideas turned everyone into gullible guppies. But unfortunately, when you went to book the appointments, you found out it’s just an April Fool’s joke. Luckily, to console you from the loss of your potential pet wedding, they offered a 20% off coupon for grooming so your special friend can still get all dolled up.

Dating Help: With the rise of online social dating apps, catfishing, ghosting, breadcrumbing, and more, appealing to the tortures of modern romance was a no-brainer. 

  • Winner: A top complaint on social media about dating apps is that men lie about their height. Well Tinder heard you, so they introduced Height Verification for men. In a faux press release on their blog they stated, “Only 14.5% of the U.S. male population is actually 6’ and beyond. So, we’re expecting to see a huge decline in the 80% of males on Tinder who are claiming that they are well over 6 feet.” And while the humorous addition to the app was just a prank, they did encourage users to have an open mind while swiping. The instant-hit April Fools’ joke received an enormous response on social channels. Users joked and asked for it to be a real feature on the app.
  • Honorable Mention: Build-A-Bear’s mission is to add a little more heart to life. So, for April Fools, they took everything they know about making long-lasting friendships and used it to add a little more heart to the lives of those who love us. No more swiping. No more liking. Just a match-making app called Build-A-Bae. Fans learned more about the new dating app through a detailed landing page and corresponding Instagram Stories.

How you can use "unofficial holidays" to your advantage.

More brands are entering the world of “unofficial holidays” on social media each year as a way to connect with their fans. But, is it right for your brand?

Both local and global brands have a right to play in this space. Connecting your brand to the consumer in an authentic way will drive the success of the post. Local Columbus, Ohio newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, used the recent spike in young adults moving into the area and development within the city to release an article about a new shopping complex being built geared directly to millennials. It was so authentic to the area and what was currently going on, that readers had to read into the article to realize it wasn’t actually being developed. Comments followed on social applauding the timing and humor of the joke.

  1. To get started on the strategy for the potential post, first determine what your goal is with participating in the holiday. Do you hope to gain followers, increase engagement or conversions?
  2. Then what’s the payoff for the consumer? This is where many brands stop their strategy. But social users have so many options for content nowadays that for a brand to stand out, the consumer needs to have a type of benefit for engaging with your content. It could be to have their voice heard in a poll or a discount that day for an actual product they can purchase. This year Dollar Shave Club didn’t disappoint with their Bath Jerky prank. Not only did they amuse social fans with a video and posts, they even had a limited amount of actual product fans could buy just to be “in” on the prank. Talk about taking it to the next level. Who knows—maybe Bath Jerky will be their next product line?
  3. Once you can weigh the benefits for the brand and the consumer, you can move onto where to execute. A key question is what channel are the majority of your fans on and do your audiences overlap on channels? If you have different audiences per channel, you could look to execute it a little differently per channel. And depending on the type of prank, each channel would react differently. Twitter tends to bode well for virality. An example is this year’s April Fools tweet from Tom Brady about retiring from football, which spread like wildfire among news outlets and fans. Instagram allows you to tell more of a story because of the multiple types of creative formats and the ability to show imagery. Facebook usually has a larger fan base for most brands, but can make the post seem more “official” as the platform is common grounds for PR-related content on typical days. Niche Networks like Pinterest or Houzz wouldn’t have the right type of appeal to consumers, and we recommend steering clear of those for timely content such as this.
  4. As for the unofficial holiday April Fools, brands have to evaluate the risk vs. reward with the posted prank they are delivering. There are several successful formulas for creating a buzz on social during this day as we saw in the above themes this year. There is also the opportunity to take the holiday in a completely different direction and give back in an Anti-April Fools’ Day way. Look at Papa John's, who announced support on its social channels by donating one million meals to Feeding America.
  5. Be prepared. Community manage the post by having a plan in place on how to react to different types of comments on your social channels. React swiftly and monitor with social listening throughout the day to engage with fans and shut down any potential harmful reactions.

Don't be a fool—take the opportunity!

Overall, these types of “unofficial holidays” can really connect brands to their fans in a deep, profound way. They reveal what really engages and interests consumers by tapping into that sense of belonging every quality consumer wants to have and share. Build your strategy in advance, find the emotional ties, and you’re sure to succeed. We can’t wait to see what next year has to bring!

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