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This April Fools' Day companies should up their game

  • Clock logoMarch 30, 2018
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This April Fools' Day companies should up their game

Too often, companies that try and show their lighter side in April do so simply to generate some free publicity. And that, according to Geoffrey Boulakia, General Manager EMEA of TSC (Sitel Group's digital CX agency) is a missed opportunity for greater customer engagement and closer customer relations.  

What do Burger King's left-handed Whopper, Amazon's Alexa voice assistant learning how to understand pets, and the addition of a vacationing on Mars section to the Expedia website all have in common?

Humanizing with humor

Apart from being genuinely amusing April fools jokes, each is an excellent example of a brand strengthening its customer relations. Even though playing an April Fools' prank is considered a form of lying and therefore something that can create mistrust - a corporate joke can do more than simply raise a smile and generate a handful of shares on various social media platforms.

If it's well conceived and well-executed, an April fools jokes will make a company seem more human, and therefore more trustworthy especially when the prank is inclusive - ie your customers get the punchline, rather than find themselves being the punchline.

Getting it right results not only in more conversation around your brand, but with your company having an active, positive say in the discussions.

Making a connection is no joke

And today, being an active part of the conversation around your business has never been more important if you want to develop your brand and build trust, particularly among Millennials, for whom humor can be a strong selling and engagement tactic.

"Thanks to the profusion of digital channels at consumers' fingertips, word of mouth and online reviews are now more effective than any traditional form of marketing or advertising in winning new customers or keeping existing users loyal," explains Geoffrey Boulakia.

Time to engage

In recent years, public trust in traditional corporations and institutions has taken a knock. One of the most effective ways of closing the trust gap and reengaging consumers is by giving a firm a face, a personality and a set of human ideals or aims.

This wholesale change in consumer attitude has helped startups in the sharing or trust economy to thrive - Airbnb does more business than the Hilton Group!

What's more, it's these types of companies that are the most likely to commit to an annual corporate joke or, in the case of Google, several.

Yet it's the delicate nature of consumer trust, especially towards well-established companies, that means a host of huge businesses with massive marketing budgets, such as Apple, won't do April Fools for fear of alienating their customers.

"Creating trust has become a critical challenge for businesses and the companies that are succeeding are the ones that are developing a more open, transparent exchange with their customers," says Geoffrey Boulakia.

(trust economy whitepaper link)

However, using a human face or projecting human traits in order to build stronger brand-based bonds is neither new, nor exclusive to the Lyfts, Ubers, eBays and Amazons of the business world.

Trust in a figurehead

For proof, look at T-Mobile in the US. As well as a great line in April fools jokes -from branded onesies to head-mounted smartphone holders, since John Legere became CEO and established himself as the public face of the corporation in 2012, it has seen a huge boost in business and brand loyalty. According to BI Intelligence, it has the best customer loyalty rates of any US network provider.

Likewise, as the face of a host of different business and services, Sir Richard Branson has managed to cultivate and maintain Virgin as a very human brand, because when customers think of the company, they think of him and his appetite for pranks. Only last year he announced he'd bought Pluto and had it reinstated as a planet.

This anthropomorphizing of a business and its values is one of the reasons that there is so much love for Tesla and why it's probably the only car company with a household name as its CEO.

Of course, not every business is in a position where its leader can step into the limelight and make everything about its products and services feel personal. However, all companies, big or small, and regardless of sector, have the capabilities to plot a new path that takes them closer to their customers.

First steps

It starts by redefining your brand in terms of your customers - understanding where your product or service fits in with their life story is crucial to clear communication and targeted marketing.

And it continues by encouraging conversation around your company. This can be done simply with ratings or reviews, or can be taken much further by building and nurturing a community where two-way conversation and sharing is actively promoted. In other words, transparency remains key.

Conversing with a community

Building a community can pay dividends in terms of feedback, gaining a deeper understanding of where value can be added and could even serve as a test bed for speeding up the development of new products or services.

"A community becomes a living, conversational body of people, interacting to produce content via social channels about your company and as such, if managed correctly can become a powerful business and promotional tool," Geoffrey Boulakia explains.

When fully optimized, a community becomes a source of free adverting and marketing content through identifying and working with its strongest voices and brand advocates and converting them into ambassadors. In fact, those companies with the strongest communities and the best ambassadors can even bring these people on board to help develop and "sell'" an April Fools' prank.

However, no matter how much you commit yourself to building bonds with your customers, the ultimate measure of trust and therefore customer loyalty still starts with offering a great, service, complete with an optimized customer journey and using the channels that your customers prefer. Get that right before you start planning a practical April fools joke, or the joke could be on you!

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