Whether it’s Google Romance (because “love is just another search problem”) or a joint venture with Richard Branson to create a human settlement on Mars called Virgle – Google loves an April Fools’ Day joke.

With this in mind, on 1st April 2016 Gmail launched a new feature through Google’s blog.

“Email’s great, but sometimes you just wanna hit the eject button[…] maybe you just nailed it, and there’s nothing more to say[…] Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it.”

The button allowed users to ‘send and mic drop’ their emails, automatically attaching a GIF animation of a minion dropping a microphone to show that the sender is leaving the conversation. Any further replies were sent straight to the user’s archive folder.

Reports of angry users soon started to emerge however, with one claiming it caused them to lose their job and many others saying they sent the GIF unintentionally and were missing out on replies because they had been auto-archived.

The button replaced the usual ‘send and archive’ feature, so those typing in a rush could be excused for not noticing it had changed or for clicking it through force of habit. There was also a bug – it was possible to press the regular ‘Send’ button and still ‘mic drop’. Not great for a software company to have to admit to (admittedly rare) bugs in their code.

Google quickly turned off the feature, and apologised saying “Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry.”

What does good look like?

The main learning point for us is that the button shouldn’t have replaced (or been too close) to a button for a key feature. It led to people accidentally clicking it, with some worrying consequences. Having fun is great but everyone needs to be in on the joke, and not all Gmail users were.

Google reacted quickly once they realised things hadn’t gone to plan. In a matter of hours after launching they removed it and apologised, and promised to rectify the problems they’d caused with the auto-archived emails. They also “shared their learnings”, actively demonstrating their culture of learning from mistakes and being open and honest.

Moving forward

What’s the moral of this bad marketing story for you? Did Google respond adequately? What will you do differently in future? in your own work?

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