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7 Awesome Branded April Fools’ Day Pranks

While marketers are expected to focus on genuineness and honesty in their campaigns all year round, April Fools’ Day allows them to dedicate an entire day to prank their target audience. The challenge is to come up with a campaign that is funny and believable without upsetting or offending customers. While some campaigns fail to hit the mark, others excel on every count.

Here are some of the most amusing April Fools’ Day pranks played by major brands:

1. Mark for H&M 

In 2016, clothing brand H&M announced a new line in collaboration with Mark Zuckerberg called #MarkForHM. The collection, featuring seven plain grey T-shirts and a pair of basic jeans, was inspired by Mark’s comment on how he didn’t want to have to think about what to wear in the morning.

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The collaboration, a prank, was heavily covered by business magazines and regarded as one of the best April Fools’ jokes of the year.

Here’s why it worked: Mark Zuckerberg’s remark about how small decisions, like what to wear, take up mental time triggered a prank campaign that Forbes dubbed the “hottest collection for Silicon Valley bros.”

The website featured H&M’s typical design style and even a Lookbook page, showing Mark Zuckerberg accomplishing different things while wearing the same grey T-shirt and jeans.

2. Ixigo Glass

This was perhaps one of the most successful April Fools’ pranks played by an Indian company. Travel brand Ixigo announced the launch of its Ixigo Glass in 2017, a move into the burgeoning wearables space.

The ad featured glasses that would instantly tell the wearer which of the cabs they were seeing was the cheapest and what the prices were of air tickets in the airplanes flying overhead.

Here’s why it worked: The campaign successfully played into the Indian mindset of always wanting to get the best bargain for the money. It also mocked at the Google Glass launch a few years ago, which had not performed as well as expected.

3. Shuber X

This campaign was a 2014 collaboration between Uber and shoe brand Toms. The campaign advertised a new car, Shuber X, a foot-based transportation option for customers. In reality, it was a fake cardboard car powered by walking. Check out the video below:

Here’s why it worked: The campaign showcased to consumers that both Toms and Uber had a good sense of humor and could crack a joke about themselves. It also added a mention about the charitable work that Toms does, thus making it an ad that promoted a humanitarian message as well.

4. Honda’s HR-V Selfie Edition cars

Honda decided to cash on to the selfie mania among teenagers and young working professionals with its 2016 prank announcing the launch of Selfie Edition cars.

The ad featured a car that supposedly had ten selfie cameras to take selfies at best possible angles. The vehicle also included a website with glimpses at the joke car’s features. Watch this hilarious video from Hondo:

Here’s why it worked: The ad was not only funny but also they managed to sneak in some marketing by adding links to their actual HR-V cars on the joke website.

It also mentioned that the selfie cameras would only work when the car was parked, which smartly hinted that drivers ought not to take selfies while driving.

5. Morning Brew: Fynance Fest

The Morning Brew newsletter decided to poke fun at the failed Fyre Festival campaign with its 2019 prank that announced a fake Fynance Fest, a conference targeting elite millennial business leaders.

The newsletter promised a “VIP experience” to be held in August that year, with the top speakers and performers to be announced in May.

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Here’s why it worked: The prank was a perfect spoof of the Fyre Festival campaign, which promised to be an elite musical experience in the Bahamas but failed miserably due to poor planning.

Morning Brew made it realistic by designing a convincing landing page. But they made it clear that it was a prank by promising customers on the sign-up page that their email addresses would not be shared with “Ja Rule” – a not-so-subtle reference to American rapper Ja Rule who was famously roped in to perform at Fyre Festival but declined.

6. The Daily Carnage: Monthly Invoice

Marketing agency Carney decided to prank its customer base in 2019 by sending them a fake email invoice for $49.99 for a subscription to their newsletter, The Daily Carnage, which has always been free.

Subtext at the bottom of the email revealed that it was a prank. But those who clicked on the link in the invoice were taken to a landing page that explained the joke and featured the iconic Rick-Roll.

Here’s why it worked: The prank was convincing because the invoice was designed to look highly realistic. However, the subtext in which the prank is disclosed was easy to miss because of the light font, which risked recipients believing the prank and unsubscribing to the newsletter. But then it was worth it.

7. Starbucks – New drink sizes

Starbucks is known for its self-aware approach to marketing, and its content has consistently managed to generate widespread interest and frenzied social media conversations. Misspelled name on a Starbucks cup, anyone?

The idea behind their 2010 April Fools’ prank was to poke fun at their cup names and oversized cups (Trenta), both of which have often come in for ridicule. Accordingly, their website announced the launch of two new sizes – the 2-ounce Micra and the 128-ounce Plenta, which means 

Starbucks even suggested many usage options for the Plenta, such as popcorn receptacle, perennial planter, rain hat, or lampshade. The Micra, on the other hand, could be used as a convenient milk dish for kittens, a paper clip holder, or a soft boiled egg cup.

Here’s why it worked: The idea claimed to be based on extensive consumer research from MyStarbucksIdea.com. It also included amusing alternative uses for the cup sizes, including an egg-holder for the Micra and a lampshade for the Plenta.

Bloggers compared the Plenta to a KFC family bucket, and the April Fool’s Day prank generated enormous popularity online.

Hang on

Before you bounce off my website, please do tell me about your favorite April Fool’s Day prank. It could be something you orchestrated yourself or a story you heard from or read somewhere else. Oh, and if you are looking for help in marketing your business on social media, get in touch with me.