In a development that was greeted by many with gratitude, Microsoft has forbidden its employees from engaging in any outward facing April Fool’s Day Pranks that have become an increasingly stale part of tech industry culture.
Microsoft Bans the April Fool's Day Prank Tradition
There are times when corporate micromanagement can strangle innovation and hold companies and brilliant workers back, but this week Microsoft has shown that sometimes there still needs to be a cowboy every once in a while to keep the creative herd in line.
The Verge broke the news today that Microsoft's head of marketing, Chris Capossela, has circulated a memo “asking” the various teams at Microsoft to not pull any of the April Fool’s Day Pranks that have become a customary, unfunny, and monotonous annual event.
“It’s that time of year when tech companies try to show their creativity with April Fools’ Day stunts,” Caposella writes. “Sometimes the outcomes are amusing and sometimes they’re not. Either way, data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.”
The practice has grown in popularity among tech companies since 2000, when Google first began the putting up joke services or pranks onto their page every April Fool's Day. As Google went on to become Google, tech companies all over the industry took note and started pulling April Fool’s Pranks of their own, creating a custom whose utility was never apparent and whose pranks increasingly induce groans rather than laughs.
As Caposella rightly points out, if you make the customer laugh, you might move the needle a bit, but no one is going to go with your product over a competitors because of a cool prank. With no positive upside, these pranks are all downside: if you're lucky, you'll make your customer or user feel stupid because they thought your prank was real and possibly embarrassed themselves as a result—good luck “disrupting” that emotional association with your company brand—, and in the worst case, you're prank can misfire and actually mess with people's lives.
Diplomatically, Caposella calls these "unwanted news cycles," but what they really are is a needless and easily preventable own-goal.
The Suits at Microsoft Go 2-for-2 This Week
It's heartening to see Microsoft come out decisively against the whole April Fool’s Day schtick, especially because they already started off the week strong by immediately dispatching some development team's plans to bring back Clippy the Paperclip of all things, one of the most divisive features Microsoft ever introduced into their product line.
Microsoft’s “brand police” took any talk of bringing back Clippy and crushed it within a day. Good. It’s about time tech companies started remembering that public perception of their company is everything, that the respect and loyalty of their customers and users isn’t something they should ever take for granted, and that it needs to be repeatedly earned and reinforced. Microsoft is definitely off to a good start.