The Best April Fools’ Day Pranks by Brands

April 1, 2013

The greatest April Fools’ day of my life was in 1997 when a freak snowstorm blew through New England and Rhode Island public schools were closed. Other than that, I don’t really remember April Fools’ Day being “a thing” until about 2007, when the Internet breathed new life into the day.

Now an annual touchstone for brands, we’ve all come to expect great pranks from massive online brands like Google, Netflix and Twitter. I visited ThinkGeek.com today and legitimately could not discern if the products on the homepage were “fake” or real – this online retailer made news a few years ago by actually bringing to market one of their April Fools’ Day fake listings, when consumers clamored to be able to purchase the Tauntaun sleeping bag.

With tons and tons of brands getting into the pranking spirit these days, how can a brand stand out on April 1st? The attributes of a good prank haven’t changed in the era of social media – it’s still about being incredibly clever and/or incredibly unexpected.  The brand that “got me” this year was Chobani Greek Yogurt. On Saturday, they used their Facebook page to tease a new flavor of yogurt that would be revealed on Sunday, March 31st. As an eager fan who loves trying new flavors, I checked-in only to be greeted by this:

ChobaniGross! The timing caught consumers off-guard (including this one). I’ve also overheard at least one person in the office confessing they were taken in by the Birch Box prank, because it was so unexpected (and yet plausible) coming from a serious beauty brand. Brands are cautioned not to make any actual announcements today, as skeptical consumers may keep waiting for the punchline. Happily, the Ann Taylor 40% off everything sale was not a prank. Sadly, it’s also not a prank that Chris Brown and Rihanna are back together.

The Internet is crawling with LOLz today and we don’t want to spoil them for you, but I did ask some of my Ketchum Digital colleagues to pick their favorite hoaxes:

real jurerCaitlin Smith chose Hulu, who cooked up some television shows that seem familiar but not quite right. “I love to see Hulu paying homage to 30 Rock in their April Fools’ prank. A good reminder of why so many of us loved this quirky, irreverent show… and that we can still watch it on Hulu.” Hulu, which had one of my favorite pranks in 2011, also created spoof shows for their homepage based on Community, How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Recreation and other fan favorites.

google mapLots of different Google products and regions produce their own April Fools’ Day projects. Ally Mann is a fan of Google Maps new Treasure Mode. “After uncovering a chest of maps from the infamous pirate, William Captain Kidd, Google has launched Treasure Mode to help the world come together in search for clues and crack the indecipherable code left by Captain Kidd. Clues can be solved by various means including puzzles, heat responsive ink and real-time overlays. To access Treasure Mode, simply click Treasure on maps.google.com.”

kayakFerenc Koszorus chose Kayak.com, the online travel site. If you’re bored of looking up flights and hotels, today you can search for a date! Kayak.com’s new “dates” section “allows you to compare personal profiles from hundreds of dating sites and book a date along with your flight. You can customize search results with several filters, including options such as “bacon or bust” for diet preference or “petting zoo” for pets preference. I think it’s fairly believable if you don’t realize it’s April Fools’ Day and highlights what the site is good at – aggregating comprehensive search results.”

So tell us, do you have a favorite 2013 prank?  Any good ones that really surprised you?

Nancy leads the Social Media Group at Ketchum’s New York office, where she counsels a wide variety of companies on how to engage with consumers online and become a part of the conversation. Working with brands like Kodak, Frito-Lay, ConAgra Foods, H&R Block and IKEA, she has developed strategic influencer programs, local events, Twitter and Facebook content sourcing, and event sponsorships. She often works with companies to develop their internal social media guidelines.