Companies' All-Time Best April Fools' Day Pranks
If you want your keep up with your competitors' customer-engagement efforts, you're going to want an April Fools' Day prank ready today.
From giant companies like Google, whose April Fools' jokes generate huge anticipation every year, to smaller businesses like advertising agency Publicis Seattle--which released a video this week offering to advertise your product through scented raindrops--it seems like everyone is hopping on the prank-your-customers bandwagon.
But tricking people on April 1 is not a new trend. It's an age-old tradition that can be traced back to Flemish writer Eduard de Dene's 1561 poem, according to Museum of Hoaxes website. The site ranks the all-time top 100 pranks, with the number one slot going to the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax of 1957, which was the first time a TV broadcast was used to stage an April Fools' Day joke--and which successfully convinced people spaghetti grows on trees.
Your prank can be as easy as a Facebook post, like S'Well Bottle's fake hand-dipped 24-carat gold water bottle, or a more involved endeavor like dog activity tracker device company Tagg, which is rolling out a fake dog dating website (customers who sign up get a real 20 percent discount).
If you aren't utilizing April Fools' as a fun way to engage your customers, then you're losing out. Check out these gems from years past below.
Warby Parker's Canine Glasses
In 2012, eyewear startup Warby Parker claimed it was releasing a dog eyeglasses vertical aptly named Warby Barker. For users who fell for the stunt, an "April Fools!" message popped up when they added the $95 doggy glasses to their online shopping cart.
The Honda Hair
Car company Honda released a video and press release last April Fools' Day featuring the first-ever hair-grooming tool for cars that aimed to reimagine the experience of getting a haircut. The video introduced a haircutting device called the "Honda Hair," which ostensibly worked like the vacuum-based Suck Cut from the movie Wayne's World. ("Well, as you can see, it sucks as it cuts.") The spot featured a fake engineer who claimed the Honda Hair is "bringing mobility to the world of hair maintenance."
Domino's Canned Pizza
For its prank, Domino's Pizza advertised a fake product, the Domino's Deluxe canned pizza, supposedly available for sale in Japan. The canned pizza had its own Japanese-language website and was priced at 401 yen. The site offered a 20 percent coupon for a real Domino's pizza.
YouTube, the Contest
Video-sharing site YouTube released a video last year stating that it isn't a company, but rather a competition: "We started YouTube in 2005 as a contest with a simple goal to find the best video in the world," said Salar Kamangar, YouTube's then-CEO. "We had no idea we'd get such a great response. You've uploaded 70 hours of footage every minute and we've been blown away by the variety, imagination, and anything-goes spirit that has driven the competition." The video went on to explain that at midnight on April 1, the submission process would be closed and the site shut off. For the next 10 years, 30,000 technicians would watch every video and announce a winner in 2023. After that, according to the spot, YouTube would go back online featuring the winning video, "and nothing else."
Twitter vs. Twttr
Social media platform Twitter announced it would be changing into a two-tiered service starting on April 1, 2013. The free version "Twttr" would not support vowels and only allow tweets with consonants, while "Twitter" would become a $5 per month service that supports any letters your heart desires. "Because our users come first, we believe that 'Y' should always be free to everyone--today and forever," its statement read. "We're doing this because we believe that by eliminating vowels, we'll encourage a more efficient and 'dense' form of communication. We also see an opportunity to diversify our revenue stream."
Google's Levity Algorithm
One of Google's April Fools' Day videos from last year announced the arrival of the Google Levity Algorithm in Google Apps. The tool was made to turn calendar invites, slideshows, or jargon-filled company emails into exciting, can't-miss events. Instead of a meeting in your Google calendar being listed as "Afternoon synch-up," the algorithm would change it to "kickball semifinals with celebs." An email subject line reading "HR Memo" would transform to "the new hotness." Raves one endorser in the video, "Now people reschedule their birthday parties to make my meetings."
Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell
Looking back to April 1, 1996, fast food chain Taco Bell bought ads in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and The Chicago Tribune announcing the company's purchase of the Liberty Bell. The announcement read: "In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country's most historic treasures. It will now be called the 'Taco Liberty Bell' and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country's debt." The Museum of Hoaxes ranked the Liberty Bell stunt the fourth-best April Fools' joke of all time.
WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com
Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.