Of all the days of the year, April Fools’ is the most cursed day on the internet. Cringey branded memes, inconvenient pranks, and annoying social media scares — this age-old tradition is now the day when anyone looking to preserve their sanity should just log off.
But in 2019, Microsoft has emerged as a hero among tech giants by banning corporate pranks in an internal memo.
The memo, obtained by the Verge, was written by Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s marketing chief. It reads:
It’s that time of year when tech companies try to show their creativity with April Fools’ Day stunts. 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.
Considering the headwinds the tech industry is facing today, I’m asking all teams at Microsoft to not do any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts. I appreciate that people may have devoted time and resources to these activities, but I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day.
Please forward to your teams and internal partners to ensure people are aware of the ask to stand down on external April Fools’ Day activities.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft to confirm the memo, but we have not yet received a response. However, we were able to confirm that the company banned April Fool’s Day pranks this year.
Truly, Mr. Capossela, for your level-headed prudence, tech bloggers and everyone else online raises a toast in your honour. Sure, some of the gags might earn a half-hearted chuckle or a startled “Ha!” but the gaffes can also be way more grimace-inducing.
Take that time when, in 2016, Google thought it’d be cute to add mic drop gifs featuring Minions in Gmail. Instead of laughs, the feature triggered mass anxiety, and Google quickly backpedaled.
Others, like T-Mobile’s faux Sidekick Smartshoe Phone ad last year, are so unfunny but feature such obviously high-production values your eyeballs might roll out of their sockets trying to calculate how much time and money was wasted on them.
Maybe, just maybe, this is a good time to question why corporations perpetuate April Fools’ Day pranks culture at all. Sure, modern hijinks are fairly tame compared to the potentially fatal and mean-spirited ‘jokes’ of yesteryear — but this is one tradition that could do without branding.
Just imagine if tech companies used the time and budgets to create these mediocre jokes actually used them to solve pressing issues.
And for leading the way, Microsoft, we salute you.