Three things I learned about marketing from my April Fools’ joke.

If you fell for my April Fools’ joke last week, you weren’t the only one.

I got tons of emails, tweets and slaps on the back for announcing I was building a Broadway theater from some of the smartest people I know.  So why did this one work so much better than some of my others?

Lots of business owners believe in having a meeting after something fails to figure out what went wrong.  And I do them, for sure.  But I also do them when things go well, to try and understand what about the initiative worked, so I can try and bottle that up for the next time.

I  never imagined that my joke would generate almost 500 likes on Facebook and get as many shares as it did.  So I sat down with myself and came up with three things that I learned from my April Fools’ joke.  Ready, set . . .


When we write advertising copy, marketing blurbs, even scripts, we think our consumers are going to digest every single word with incredible detail and care.  And the fact is, they don’t.  Especially in today’s world of information overload, people sometimes only read headlines, first paragraphs, and barely get to the bottom of an article.  And clicking?  Forget it.  So many of the folks who fell for my April Fools’ simply didn’t get to the bottom of the blog, and definitely didn’t click the link.  Maybe they will next time, but I doubt it.  So when you’re writing marketing email blasts, letters to investors, etc., make sure you remember to keep it on point and easy to digest.  It may take you 8 hours to write, but some won’t even take 8 seconds to read.


I asked people who fell for it what about the post made them think it was real.  Some of them said it sounded just like the insane sort of thing that I do, so they bought it.  But most people said it was because I was so specific in the description of the plan.  It was going to cost $113 million.  Not $100 million, or even $110 million.  $113.  And I was buying a warehouse.  On 48th.  Between 10th and 11th.  “Steps away from where the Shuberts bought theirs last summer.”  All those details sounded like a lot of research.  Specifics just help sell anything, whether that’s tickets, an investment, or a joke.


The truth is?  There aren’t enough Broadway theaters.   And everyone I know would LOVE there to be more.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  So people wanted to believe what I wrote, before I even wrote it.  I listened to the rumblings of the market, and delivered something I knew they wanted.  It’s the reverse of what we do a lot on Broadway . . . but maybe we should do it this way more often.


If you fell for the Fools’, don’t be mad at me.  I promise to use what I learned from it for good instead of . . . well, instead of an even better joke next year.  Ba-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Did you fall for any good pranks this year?  If so, what were they and more importantly, why did you fall for ’em?


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • I fell for it because I believe in you, Ken. As simple as that.

  • Eleanor T. says:

    For an instant, you gave people who read it hope.

  • Jed says:

    But you actually gave a link that said ‘April Fools’ and no one clicked on the link. Those who didn’t click are probably people who shouldn’t sign contracts, or at least ‘read the fine print.’

  • Tom Hartman says:

    I read itm but didn’t click through, But aren’t you building a theatre somewhere?Somehow i REMENBER SOMETHING MONTHS AGO ABOUT THAT AND IT WAS GOING TO BE NAMED AFTER YOUR GRANDFATHER, RIGHT?

  • Charles Knouse says:

    Ken, you need to know something.

    You may think the joke was a good idea, and that we should all applaud.

    However, in fact, you broke trust. It is an old principle in training (corporate training) that you break trust at grave risk to participation – people pretend it’s OK, they laugh, the cover – but in fact, underneath, they get pissed, they feel betrayed, and you become averse to them.

    Becoming aversive to your audience as a trainer is a fatal mistake. If you care – you may not care, that’s your business – you will learn about the principle of avoiding becoming aversive, because it is the single most important thing to avoid to establish long-term effectiveness in training.

    I will never subconsciously forget that you tricked me. I fell for the joke hook, line and sinker – and you can bet I will look at every one of your posts from now on with suspicion…even though it’s not April 1st anymore; my subconscious is not under my control – no one else’s is either, and if they think it is they are full of crap – and the subconscious doesn’t keep track of calendar dates – it keeps track of trustworthiness.

    I strongly suggest that next year you do an anti-April Fool’s joke – something that looks like it IS an April Fool’s joke, but actually turns out to be true and beneficial to your member – to restore trust. It will take a year, but it’s worth it to restore trust.

    I don’t give a damn whether you like me or whether you like my post – I’m telling you the truth, and you ignore or discount the truth at your own peril; your business, your problem.

    I only bother to write this because I like you, I think you know what you’re talking about, and up to this point I trusted you. I didn’t think the joke was funny, and I don’t pretend.

    Very Best Regards, Charles Knouse, D.O.
    former corporate trainer in New England, mentored by Andy LeCompte, a nationally recognized expert in training and interpersonal communications, author on Amazon, who would certainly second me.

  • Debbie Saville says:

    I am going to take a moment to bring some levity into this and honestly say, I fell for it for the exact reasons you described Ken. I was short on time that day, I always read your blogs and it stood out to me that you were building a new theatre. I didn’t read to the bottom, I picked out “the message” you created and I went away believing. Cudos on a great prank and along with it a lesson learned. Following up today with marketing points from that experience will help me continue to create something from nothing as I know the importance of the spoken and written word.

    I never comment back on the post of others who write but today is an exception. I have worked in Corporate America at all levels for over 30 years and now interact with executive management and board members. I have also been in the creative arts for over 30 years and I have balance between both worlds. In fact my next book or maybe my next musical will be a light-hearted comedy titled “If This Is The American Dream…WAKE UP”.

    You make a very strong point about “trust”. Let’s flip this thought over to Corporate America. Do you really believe employees at all levels are given the same information as the circles of upper management? That’s funny because I find employees of corporations are often fearful, they don’t speak their minds because they don’t “trust” management. I also know the planning that goes on for years that will impact employees as they are greeted with the unexpected layoff, that they didn’t see coming. So really, a blog brings so much discomfort to you?

    I am not criticizing the fact that you didn’t take the prank as it was intended, and everyone certainly has a right to their own opinion. But I decided I needed to bring some honest reality into all of this.

    My conscious and subconscious mind is just fine and I will continue to gain valuable information from these blogs and I appreciate that Ken finds the time daily to help those of us who are trying to take our dreams into reality.

  • Tom M says:

    The Hudson Hotel had an excellent e-mail prank. It was an e-mail to advertise their new Brooklyn Hotel with ridiculous hipster amenities. “Goodbye Midtown, Hello Brooklyn.” Advertising the World’s First Farm-To-Factory Hotel. “We’ve Got A New Home in Bushwick & A New View on Gluten” with amenities that include “Reclaimed Hay Bedding” among other increasingly funny things. I liked it because as I read it, I was not thinking that it was a prank, but i was wondering, could this be true, it can’t be true, can it? It had an edge, it was funny but it wasn’t quite believable. The next day, they sent a follow up message saying that the new hotel was a joke, but the discount mentioned wasn’t. It made me smile. In the end, and, admittedly, not having read to the end of your post, your joke was something I wanted enough and would have been such a great thing that I felt disappointed. In the end, I didn’t really care about a new hotel, but a new Broadway theatre from you was going to be a great thing. I did not think wow, how funny, I was sad it was not true.

  • KFC says:

    I fell for it but partly because I read the e-mail on 4/5 or so and I didn’t realize that it was sent on 4/1. I was on vacation last week and didn’t catch up with the e-mails. So had I read it on 4/1, I knew you were pulling our legs and had a good laugh.

    As for someone above mentioning breaking our trust, good grief. It was a great prank for April Fools day. If it was any other days, yes, you could say why playing such a cruel joke on us. Lighten up, there are so many other things that you should get mad at these days, but Ken’s April Fools prank isn’t one of them.

  • Dara Ely says:

    I still trust you, Ken.

    When I started reading the post, I knew it was April 1 and knew it had to be a prank. But I always read your posts in their entirety and this one was fun, so I kept reading. And, as you noted, the details you included kept me going and there was some little voice inside that said “maybe it’s real?” so I clicked the link. What can I say, hope springs eternal in the hearts of man. Hopefully it’s a reality someday.

    As for the marketing lessons, I agree 100%. I write copy for someone who is wordy and I constantly have to remind him that we need to make the point early.

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