April Fools’ Day 2016: The Best and Worst Brand Pranks

Well, today is April Fools’ Day. People’s reaction to that news is mixed, depending on whether they are usually the fooler or fooled.

One thing remains constant, however: This is the day consumer brands spend a lot of time, money and creativity to generate fake news, products and headline-grabbing PR stunts. And over the past decade, each April Fools’ Day gets bigger and bigger, sometimes to the holiday’s detriment.

Don’t get me wrong, when these pranks are well-executed they attract a lot of social engagement and media attention for brands. Do you remember Wiffi’s Wi-Fi You Can Smell prank this past year? I would love to be able to sniff out the greatest Wi-Fi connection. Genius!

It’s certainly not easy for brands to be human and successfully pull off a prank. There’s a fine line for brands to play, especially when a poorly executed prank could potentially lead their consumers to distrust them.

If you’re planning to make an April Fools’ Day recommendation for your client, or you would rather prank a few of your PR colleagues, there are few things you’ll want to keep in mind to be successful: Be playful and mischievous but avoid alienating your core consumer. And if there’s a chance a prank you’re planning could backfire, don’t do it.

In honor of the holiday, I’ve rounded up this year’s top three best and worst brand pranks:

Best Pranks

1. Esurance: The insurance company April Fools’ prank is a new offering for Election Insurance that will protect your home in the event you head north to Canada after the presidential election. What’s great is that the commercial looks and sounds like Esurance’s regular ads – thanks to brand spokesman John Krasinski. What’s more, the ad appeals to many Americans threats to get out of the country.

2. Google Netherlands: I’m a bicyclist, so this one definitely made me laugh. I’m wary of self-service cars, but a self-driving bike? YAASS! It’s so smart because Amsterdam is one of the world’s best cycling cities, so it almost seems like they would really create the self-driving bicycle one day. Or no?

3. Trulia: Hipsters. You either love them or HATE them. If you’re house hunting this spring, Trulia created a “truly” useful map of 10 cities where hipsters run rampant. Full disclosure: I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn so there’s no helping me. Read Trulia’s blog post to see if you’re living in a hipster hotspot.

Worst Pranks

1. Virgin America: I was disappointed in this prank. It comes off tasteless and not cool. Let’s just say its new logo is…suggestive.

2. Google: Poor Google. It meant well, but one of its several pranks was bound to backfire. After launching a new feature for Gmail users called Mic Drop, which allowed users to have the last word. and thus do a mic drop with a GIF of a Minion dressed in full regalia. The only thing is that the feature was easy to accidentally click, leaving many users upset and for some loosing their jobs. Google released a statement today on its blog saying the mishap was due to a “bug.”

3. Yahoo News: Yesterday, as in March 31, was the day the Internet thought was the end of Speculoos Cookie Butter. All thanks to a Yahoo News story that reported Trader Joe’s was closing all of its stores in 2017. Yahoo claims the story was published from a partner and was removed once they found it was a prank. Honestly, if this really happened I don’t know what I’d do!

To catch up with all the jokesm check out Twitter’s April Fools’ Day coverage here. Share your favorite April Fools’ Day brand pranks in the comments below!


Related Posts: Call them April Babies, Cause they Fools Prepare Now for Fake News Firestorms A Guide to Holiday Social Campaigns Food Values in South America Long Distanced Relationships During COVID-19 Focus Your Post-Pandemic Evolution with Familiar Strategy Tools