Over the years, I’ve learned to take anything I hear on “April Fool’s Day” with a grain of salt. So I wasn’t surprised to scroll through my Facebook newsfeed on April 1, 2011 and see various posts about incoming babies, layoffs and phony marriage proposals.
One joke that caught me by surprise was the announcement of Starbucks Mobile Pour, a delivery service that allows you to make your morning latte order on the go. You simply download the Starbucks Mobile Pour app to your phone, place your order and a barista on a scooter tracks you down. The only problem: The announcement was “fake news!”
Fake news is an attempt by companies to generate interest in their product online or through word of mouth. According to Communiqué PR, a global strategic public relations firm, fake news can be an effective way of generating goodwill toward your business. If executed poorly, it can be hurtful to your customers, your brand and your relationships with the media. In a blog by Communiqué, they provide the following tips for successfully distributing fake news:
- Timing is critical: April Fool’s Day is a popular holiday for these type of announcements because people expect to encounter hijinks throughout the day.
- Offer a form of disclosure: Provide some hint to your customers and the media that you’re joking. Otherwise, some poor reporter may actually believe the news is real.
- Don’t be offensive!
Overall, I think this is an interesting concept and can be useful for a company to at least generate traffic to their website. In the case of the Starbucks app, I actually told several people around me about the product before realizing that it was a hoax! Now if only I could find a way to have baristas bring me coffee while I’m walking around the city…. For more examples of fake announcements, read this April 1st blog entry by Communication Overtones.
With that said, I ask you:
Do you think “fake news” is a useful marketing tactic? Why?