We’re not big fans of April Fools jokes. Especially now when credibility and corporate culture are currently battle ground issues for news, media and marketing.
We get that April Fools pranks can be seen as a way to humanize a person or company not otherwise associated with a sense of humor. But that can be a strong reason not to engage in a prank.
Three years ago, we wrote a blog about an April Fools prank on Good Morning America that we thought undermined the credibility of ABC News and of George Stephanopoulos.
This year’s candidate for worst practical joke: Elon Musk.
Tesla Goes Bankrupt
Palo Alto, California, April 1, 2018 — Despite intense efforts to raise money, including a last-ditch mass sale of Easter Eggs, we are sad to report that Tesla has gone completely and totally bankrupt. So bankrupt, you can’t believe it.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2018
This was followed by two other related tweets.
None of them funny given last week’s news about a significant recall of 123,000 Model S cars that generated headlines like:
- “Tesla’s Model S Recall Is Just Its Latest Problem” (WIRED).
- “Tesla recalls almost half the cars it ever built” (NBC).
- Tesla Recalls 123,000 Model S Cars Over Bolt Issue” (WSJ).
The result: a 5 percent drop of its share price on Monday, the first day of trading since the faux-bankruptcy Tweets (one of which mentioned a last-ditch Easter egg sale to bring in cash to stave of bankruptcy). Worse, it continues a streak from Sept. 2017 that has seen Tesla lose 36 percent of its share price.
The lessons here include:
- Respect your corporate brand.
- Humor can humanize a brand but make sure it’s the right kind of humor.
- It may be a good idea to humanize your brand but make sure the humor works with your brand and your corporate culture.
- Don’t joke around when you’ve had bad news because that makes it seem like you’re not taking the bad news seriously.
- If you’ve had to issue a substantial recall and $10 billion in debt, don’t joke about bankruptcy — especially if you’re the CEO of a publicly held company.