Once upon a time, the following was the email-related mic-drop moment: "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Then on April Fools’ Day, Gmail played a prank on users and lost, finding out in the process just how many users employ Gmail for business correspondence.
As for that quote from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the American people already knew all too well that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had used her personal email account for official business while she was secretary of state. What became clearer after the remark from Sanders is that many of them didn’t care.
However, quite a few of the American people did care about using Gmail for business, though, Google discovered late Thursday night and into the early morning hours of April Fools’ Day. Those users took to the Gmail Help Forum to say just how much they disliked the Minions character that appeared on some sent email messages. What they detested even more was that if they’d mistakenly ordered the Minion to drop the mic on that sent message, the recipients could no longer reply to message senders.
The prank co-branded with the “Despicable Me” character had misfired. (Although on a day like Friday, it may have been hard to tell which complaints were real. Telling a child via email about adoption? A lost job? Ghosted by significant others?)
- “So this is a marketing ploy? Use our paid-for services or else we will randomly mess up your life?” asks MickGJ on Thursday.
- “ ‘Send and Drop Mic’ is cute and childish,” writes Craig McKibben. “For people trying to get work done, it's one more distraction. Please remove or provide a way to disable it.”
- “The [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] CRTC has accepted over 10,000 complaints for this, to alter any aspect of the email client for a joke is against the law,” claims Mouse Man.
Replying to commenters who belittled complainers, RR 1999 says: “Not everyone had a separate button for mic drop, which is what Google is not telling you. I only had ‘Send and Drop Mic’ available. Remember, not every computer is the same.”
Friday morning, Gmail listened.
On the post dated for Thursday, the Official Gmail Blog reads: “UPDATE: Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. [emoticon] Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.”
(Googler Crystal Cee puts this update atop the forum thread and then marks her answer as the best one.)
By 2:30 p.m. on Friday, the forum and Cee’s update had about 8,000 views. So it’s only natural that some conspiracy theories would enter the mix. Maybe Google, the National Security Agency and marketers are working together, theorizes Wordsdontmatter. (If that’s the real name.)
“It could be a psychological ops test,” says Wordsdontmatter. “Like ‘good cop, bad cop,’ Google is beating us and then going to stop. But now we know they could go openly evil, not just kissing the NSA in [the] backyard. I see lots of emotions here. Imagine the confusion, and lots of people (like me) are now on their forums. Haha, they are doing some marketing scam and psych-op business test, which would been funnier if they did [it] on the NSA or gov’t by dropping the encrypted mic!”
Gmail didn’t respond in the forum to this or Wordsdontmatter’s many additional hypotheses.
What do you think of this, marketers? Did Gmail harm its brand? Was this a harmless prank? Or was it bad for email communication, marketers, Gmail and the NSA?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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