Ahead of this year’s April Fools’ Day, Volkswagen announced its intentions to rebrand as ‘Voltswagen’ in the United States as a nod to the automaker’s new electric vehicles — an announcement that was later determined to be an early April Fools’ Day joke.
According to a survey conducted on behalf of Ad Age by The Harris Poll, the stunt’s impact on American consumers was decidedly mixed.
Twenty-one percent of consumers had heard about Volkswagen’s announcement by the time they took the survey, and of those who had heard of the news, 73% were aware it was an April Fool’s joke.
In terms of the impact on consumer’s perception of the brand, it appears the campaign was a wash: 59% said it didn’t change their opinion of the brand, and while 20% said it made their opinion change for the better, 21% said they now hold a worse opinion of the brand.
Similarly, only 19% are more likely to buy its product after learning of the April Fool’s joke, while 69% said it had no impact on their likelihood to buy, and 12% said it would make them less likely to buy.
Overall, consumers are divided on whether or not brands should participate in April Fools’ Day stunts — 54% say they should not. For the 54% of consumers who believe brands shouldn’t participate, the reason most commonly cited was that it creates confusion for customers (62% said this). And for the 46% of consumers who believe brands should participate, the reason most commonly cited was that it’s a creative way for brands to advertise (66% said this).
However, there was a clear generational divide here — which is also reflected in consumer perceptions of the stunt: 64% of millennials and 61% of Gen Zers think brands should participate in April Fools’ Day stunts — but only 38% of Gen Xers and 35% of baby boomers feel the same.
Millennials were the most likely to have had a positive change in opinion after hearing of the ‘Voltswagen’ stunt (30% of millennials) and to report being more likely to buy a Volkswagen product because of it (37% of millennials).
But millennials were also the most likely to hold a worse opinion of the brand because of it (34% of millennials) — indicating that even among younger consumers, these tactics can be polarizing.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ad Age during April 2-5, 2021, among 1,125 U.S. adults ages 18 and older with additional branding insights provided by Harris Brand Platform. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.