April Fool’s Day Email Strategy

This holiday is totally unimportant, irrelevant and not fun. Brands should ignore it.

Explore all 89 April Fool’s Day emails

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April Fool’s Day can be a great hook for an email campaign. It humanizes your brand, builds likability and engagement and can get people talking in positive ways. But there’s a big caveat: You must know your audience well enough to trust they’ll get the joke. You also need the creative chops to design an email message that provokes laughter and sharing instead of groans and eyerolls.

Most importantly, you want to avoid offending your customers so much that they not only unsubscribe but also expose your gaffe on social media, thus damaging your brand.

Email Examples

LOL

You don’t have to be a dog person to LOL at this totally on-point email from Barkshop that checks off every must-do for an effective April Fool’s Day joke.

The content gently mocks dog owners who obsess over every detail (the preheader “So you’ll always remember your dog’s first…” is irresistible) while subtly acknowledging that the brand shares that obsession. Best of all, it doesn’t blunt its punch by shouting “April Fool!” in the email.

Help your customers prank one another

You don’t have to create the email equivalent of a “Saturday Night Live” skit to create an effective April Fool’s Day.

Some April Fool’s Day emails work hard to prank their customers, with varying and often cringing results. Kelty’s email shows you how to play it straight by helping your customers prank each other.

Let the bombast begin

The bombast begins with the subject line: “Our Best Product. Ever.” The preheader goes a step further: “If you buy nothing else, buy this.” But when you open the email you see a tough guy lifting a couple of 2-pound pink hand weights in his meaty fists.

That’s silly enough, but the copy goes on to claim its “best product ever” is the “Uncle Rico headband” — complete with sweaty smell. The bottom callout completes the April Foolishness: “You really should click on that button because there is a special prize.”

Self-deprecating humor is a-okay

Prefer not to to prank your customers? Take King Arthur Flour’s self-deprecating approach. Its roundup of April Fool(proof) recipes “details the far-ranging ways we’ve baked and failed this year.” Instead of making its customers feel foolish, King Arthur encourages them by demonstrating how even the pros sometimes experience “disasters” in the kitchen but still carry on baking.

Gotcha!

If you prefer to reveal the April Fool’s Day joke in your email, you have to string the reader along far enough to make the “gotcha” stand out like a punch line. That’s exactly what this Stonewall Kitchen email does with its “Gently Used Jams” angle. The progression of jams from Grade A to Grade D (ugh!) encourages the reader to keep scrolling to find out just what level of lunacy the joke will reach. And then, gotcha! It’s a subtle but well-thought-out approach.

April Fool’s Day Content Strategy

Know your audience inside and out

“Tragedy is easy. Comedy is hard.” Ever heard that? That’s one of the first rules of comedy-writing and the reason why so much humorous writing falls flat.

Know who your customers are – age, gender, location, plus some good guesses about what they like and don’t like. You probably can’t zero in too closely on whether they appreciate being pranked, but do your products appeal to people with a flexible sense of humor? Are they kind of quirky and thus more likely to attract quirky people?

A good April Fool’s joke can be a little edgy. How well do you think your customers will react? If the idea makes you a little nervous, then start with something subtle.

Be authentic

Just as you need to know your audience intimately, you also need to stay true to your brand voice and culture. All of the emails featured in our gallery above use humor that springs from truths about the products, the brand or the kind of customers who flock to those companies.

The worst thing you could do is to fake a brand of humor. This goes double if the people who create your emails aren’t like the people who buy your products. Get second or third opinions from people not on the marketing team if the prank or joke veers too far away from your day-to-day messaging.

Play it straight

Some of the best April Fool’s Day emails we’ve found in the MailCharts database look like any other messaging until they take a distinct left turn. The Barkshop email in the gallery above is a gold-medal example.

But you don’t have to be funny to create a guffaw-inducing message. See the Kelty email in the gallery above. The creators use their knowledge of camper culture to help Kelty’s customers prank their friends, which can be just as much fun and less likely to offend.

Both Barkshop and Kelty’s clever concepts are true to their brands and executed with a straight face.

Reveal the "gotcha" on the landing page

Many campaigns shout “April Fool!” in the subject line, but why telegraph your gag before you’ve even started? Since your email’s job is to drive traffic to your website, save your punchline for a custom landing page — one that tips your customers off the moment they arrive.

If you do prefer to insert the “gotcha” in the email, try spooning out your nutty premise gradually so your customers remain intrigued longer than the second or two it would otherwise take them to catch on. The Stonewall Kitchen email in the gallery at the top of this page shows you how to build a silly hoax effectively before letting your recipients in on the joke.

Invest some time to create a memorable campaig

A half-hearted attempt to capitalize on April Fool’s Day won’t get your emails noticed. Remember that every other brand is going to slap on a subject line that’s a variation of “No fooling ….” or “It’s no joke …” or something similar.