On April 1, retailers were ready to celebrate the only holiday that preys on the gullible. Websites and Twitter feeds lit up with April Fools' Day promotions, each more elaborate than the last. No supermarket section was safe from the faux stories, but many of the best spoofs took place in the produce department.
With headlines for banana slug smoothie and recipes for kale pants, Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets entirely transformed its home page to tickle its customers' funny bones. PCC not only uses the April Fools' page as a fun activity for staff and shoppers, but the joke page brought more visitors to PCC's recently redesigned site.
“Driving traffic to our site is first and foremost, because of the jokes, our home page goes viral,” said Tom Monahan, marketing manager at PCC. “The next thing you know, our web visitation is four times that of a typical day. New people are exposed to PCC, which is great.”
As amusing as the idea of cooking with compost or taking a class with a Muppet chef is, the retailer also used the attention as an opportunity to highlight website content. “The joke headlines also allow us to point to products, stories and issues that perhaps people haven't read about or even thought of before,” said Monahan, who pointed out that the “OMG products now at PCC” headline linked to the retailer's participation in the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization based in Bellingham, Wash.
Overall, the most popular item on PCC's April Fools' page was an ad for a smartphone dating app for kale lovers. The app was so convincing that many fans of the leafy green were disappointed the app didn't actually exist.
“When the site launched on April Fools', a lot of people didn't think that was a joke. They wanted the app!” said Monahan.
A week after April Fools' Day, Monahan said he was still hearing from staff asking about the dating app. “It's amazing to think that a once-thought-of-outlandish joke could actually become a tool our customers would want!”
Whole Foods Markets, Austin, Texas, also featured a match-making spoof, with a video titled “Find Love at Whole Foods Market” that advertised the retailer's little-known free dating service. At one point in the video, an actor/staff member in the produce section gives an example of a tip he'd offer shoppers looking for love. He'd suggest to a woman inspecting produce that she nudge a nearby man in the stomach. “If it's soft and squishy, that means he's ripe,” the actor said.
Among its many spoof stories, Whole Foods also boasted of a live chamber orchestra, composed solely — of course — of instruments made of fruits and veggies. In the accompanying photo, two women stand poised with leaf fiddles and rhubarb bows. Ever the educator, the retailer offered an instrument-making workshop following each performance.
While Whole Foods and PCC poked fun at themselves, some bloggers took the retailer spoofs into their own hands. Fooducate, a blog that promotes healthful food choices, announced McDonald's was hosting farmers' markets at 1,000 locations. The blogger jokingly wrote that the McFarmers Markets “could ultimately reshape the fast-food industry. Imagine if all the fast-food joints on the nation's highways would source and produce foods from local farmers.”