On April Fools’ Day, brands have tried yet again to execute pranks. Branded jokes that started off with a plan are now just feeble and weak jokes! – An Army Knives manufacturer now makes eyeglasses?!
Before the advent of social media, April Fool’s Day brand pranks weren’t that elaborate since they were limited to playing a prank only on print media. The day was more for the local newspapers and radio stations. They were not seen as big business opportunities to capitalize on.
The 1980s saw BMW making its first fake magazine ad as an April Fool’s Day prank. The rain deflecting open top car started it, followed by new fake features and cars every year. This set the brand apart and made April Fool’s Day it’s signature.
Cut to the age of the Internet, when Youtube and Facebook gave brands the opportunity to go viral without spending any money. The initial pranks were most logically by the Internet companies. Though they were weird they qualified as real pranks!
Then came the bizarreness, YouTube’s 2008 prank was to rickroll everyone who came to the homepage, by making every video link redirect to Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” In 2009, its prank was flipping all of its videos to display upside-down, and advised users who wanted to see them right-side-up to “move to Australia.”
By 2013, a plethora of brands decided to jump on board the April Fool’s Day ‘Brand’wagon. From toy companies to airlines to furniture stores; they were all playing it. It became a reason for advertising agencies to tell a joke rather than sell just a product. The day also worked as a platform for brands to prove they have human qualities and a sense of humour was one!
But consumerism has given birth to smarter consumers. They are well aware that these jokes/pranks/attempt to have human connects were in order to capture their money.
The day acts as a platform for some brands to test their products. While they make you believe it fake news, they actually end up selling the product. A few brands that did so include, Gmail’s Autopilot, BMW’s instant messaging feature, Burger Kings Impossible Burger. The prank is a marketing boost, as is the confusion about whether it was a prank.
The risk of a prank is that it can easily backfire and Google placing its ‘Mic Drop’ button in the same spot as the ‘Send and Archive’ botton is still paying a price for it!
Microsoft on the other hand, who was equally at loggerhead with the other tech giants, decided to take a different route this year. They asked all their employees to not participate in any public pranks. “Sometimes the outcomes of April Fools’ Day stunts are amusing and sometimes they’re not,” marketing chief Chris Capossela wrote. “Either way data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.”
Are the consumers now pranking their brands back?