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How Deliveroo made an April Fool of itself

Posted on April 7, 2021

 

The past few days appear to have been pretty miserable for food delivery firm Deliveroo, with a reported stock market flop and a riders’ strike beginning today, and last week, the company had some explaining to do over a poorly thought out April Fools’ Day gag aimed at customers in France.

To mark April 1st, Deliveroo thought it would be a great wheeze to trick thousands of French customers into believing they had placed huge pizza orders costing hundreds of euros. The BBC reports that some customers tried to contact their bank upon receiving the hoax emails, with one saying they “almost had a stroke” and another accusing the firm of “chicken-brain communications”.

Most people enjoy the frivolity of a harmless April Fool, so why did this one fall flat? Here are a few reasons we can think of:

Too personal

While many companies might try to play a joke on followers with a humorous blog or social media post, Deliveroo chose the unusual medium of email marketing for its prank. When emails address people by their name, they become official communication, and customers do not expect jokey and inaccurate information, whatever the date.

Too believable

The best April Fool’s jokes are the ones that initially catch us out, but on closer reading, make us laugh. This joke doesn’t appear to have done that – there’s nothing that gives it away as a piece of silliness, even on careful inspection.

People are wary of scam emails

It’s been well documented that cybercrime has soared since COVID-19 hit us, and people have become more reliant on services like Deliveroo that bring goods to their doors. Upon receiving an email like this, many customers’ reactions may not have been that Deliveroo had made a mistake, but that a scammer had placed an enormous order using their card details, hence them contacting their banks. Particularly in the current climate, Deliveroo should have known better.

Nobody is in the mood

That brings us on to the next point – with France now entering its third lockdown, are people in the right frame of mind to be laughed at? They say laughter is the best medicine, and a light-hearted joke can raise spirits even in dark times, but this seems like a company laughing at customers, rather than with them. People have lost jobs and loved ones in this pandemic, so it’s not surprising that many didn’t see the funny side.

Too slow to own up to it?

Lastly, I always thought you were meant to admit an April Fool at midday, hence the rhyme:

“April Fools’ has been and gone, you’re a fool to carry it on!”

The BBC says it wasn’t until “late on Thursday” that the company followed the stunt up with emails and a tweet revealing it to be an April Fool, so was the joke carried on too long?

In any case, Deliveroo seemed to admit it had been foolish, with an apology for the April Fool – or “April Fish” (poisson d’avril) as the French call it – tweeted the following day:

At Engage Web, we like a good April Fool as much as anyone, but it has to be carefully judged. If you’re looking for engaging content – with gentle humour if that’s what you’d like to make part of your tone of voice – get in touch with the team here.

John Murray
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