April Fools’ Day is an annual celebration of all things comedic.
And like any annual occasion that comes but once a year, it’s a great opportunity for brands to have fun with their audiences.
Not to mention, it’s a prime time for viral marketing stunts, and brands that hit the mark with their April Fools’ marketing can generate a wealth of social media conversations and brand awareness. Sadly, April Fools’ have been a bit thin on the ground over the past two years as many brands have shied away from jokes due to the grave circumstances of the global pandemic, but nevertheless the rise of social media has seen some classic household names take advantage.
With that in mind, these are just five famous April Fools’ Day pranks straight from the minds of marketers who knew exactly what they were doing.
1. Google Nose
The search engine giant has a long history of April Fools pranks, including one rather controversial misstep in 2016 with the mic drop function which landed them in hot water.
But some of its more successful hoaxes include the 2013 Google Nose – a search function that allows a user to search by smell.
Claiming that their new technology offers ‘sharpest olfactory experience available’, the fictitious program allowed users to experience scents through an aroma-based search function. An accompanying video announcing the fake release of ‘Google Nose Beta’ showed users leaning in absurdly to their laptops and mobile devices to take in the aromas of daisies, campfires, Egyptian tombs and the smell of success.
This one may have been a prank, but something tells us we’ll have this technology for real one day. Until then, maybe don’t hold your breath.
2. Facebook x H&M
Everyone loves a #collab, right?
Well thanks to an April Fools’ prank featuring clothing chain H&M, Mark Zuckerberg became an unlikely fashion icon for the day back in 2016.
The site markforhm.com showcased a ‘new’ range of items imitating the Facebook founder’s signature look, including a series of grey t shirts that look, well, identical, and a single pair of fairly standard-issue blue jeans.
The collection, according to the site, is founded on Zuckerberg’s principal that ‘making even the easiest decisions (like what to wear or what to eat for breakfast) consumes mental energy and gets in the way of doing more important things.’
The fake range came with the tagline ‘One less thing to think about in a morning’, and while the prank was just that – an April Fools’ hoax – even the fashionistas at Vogue magazine were on board with the idea.
3. Bristol Rovers
This retro throwback to a prank by a small English football team turned into a charity fundraising stunt thanks to the enthusiasm of the Bristol Rovers fans.
On April 1st 2005, Bristol Rovers released a design online for a brand new pink kit for the team.
The catch? The new shirt design became hugely popular with supporters and generated a genuine demand for the real thing. And it was on the suggestion of some savvy fans that the football club decided to produce and sell the design, with a portion of the profits being donated to Cancer Research UK.
As well as founding a fantastic publicity stunt for the team, what began as a joke became a fantastic effort for a good cause – and many fans came away with a snazzy new kit to boot. Result!
4. Churchill’s Smell Insurance
Another of 2016’s greatest hits came from car insurance company Churchill, whose Eau Yes campaign took a slightly different tact in promoting their April Fools’ Day prank.
The publicity stunt featured a single billboard at Westfield in London, which proudly displayed the company’s famous bulldog mascot alongside a bottle of perfume, cleverly named ‘Eau Yes’.
The moniker alluded to the bulldog’s ‘Oh, yes!’ catchphrase, made famous in the insurer’s TV adverts, and was accompanied by the tagline ‘Insure you smell good.’ The small print encouraged viewers of the billboard to tweet the hashtag #EauYes ‘to claim your compliments.’
In a statement, the company said they would rather share the obvious joke with their customers than attempt an April Fools’ Day trick. And though their tactics were a little different to most brands on the day, the campaign appeared to be no less successful for the company than similar marketing stunts.
So strictly speaking, we weren’t fooled by this campaign. But it did give us a good laugh in the office, so we decided to include it in our round up.
5. Lego SmartBricks
It is a truth universally acknowledged that little hurts more than standing on a LEGO brick – these little monsters are the bane of parents everywhere.
Joining the legion of April Fools pranks that we sort of wish were a thing, LEGO SmartBricks were supposedly designed to sense, and move away from, the human foot to prevent any kind of accidents.
But as cool as this concept was, it too disappointed users when it turned out to be a stunt for April Fool’s Day. Still, we can dream!
April Fool’s Day is a chance for ambitious marketers to show what they can do and create captivating and memorable campaigns that stick with users.