From the basic stunts of early adopters to the elaborate hoaxes we see presently, April Fools’ marketing campaigns have rapidly become big business. As a result, these one-off jokes now account for a substantial chunk of many brands’ resources each year. What’s more, thanks to the advent of social media marketing, it is now easier than ever for everyone to get involved.
With that said, given its popularity, it’s also becoming increasingly difficult for brands to catch people out. So that’s why, whether your rouse is big or small, it has to be good.
This year, in honour of the day, our team decided to get together and spend some time picking out favourite campaigns of the past few decades.
We hope you enjoy.
BMW Get the Wheels Turning (1983)
BMW was one of the first brands to see the creative opportunities presented by an April Fools marketing campaign. In fact, if there is one sector that has become synonymous with April 1st over the years, it would be difficult to argue against global car manufacturers.
Running old-school, full-page newspaper ads, the brand’s early efforts chose to focus on far-fetched (yet plausible) technological innovations. Written in a style that became synonymous with famous copywriters of the period, it would appear the 80s was a fun time for the creatives at BMW. Playing pranks on the public, they touched on everything from driver weight sensors to counterfeit cars.
However, our favourite has got to be the first, which ran in 1983. Acknowledging Europe’s poor weather and the limits it places on motoring with the wind in your hair, BMW settled on a new open-top car that would keep occupants dry even when a deluge threatened. The creation of fictional aero dynamist Herr Blöhn, the advert (see below) went to immense lengths to explain his theories in the field of ‘artificial airflow’. With technical drawings and common FAQs, all working to support his thinking.
Sadly, the idea would never become a reality. However, it is thought that Miss April Wurst in the BMW marketing department received several coupons from interested parties.
Burger King Comes Out of Left Field (1998)
Fast forward 15 years, and across the pond, Burger King decided to tackle difficulties facing left-hand burger lovers everywhere. Using a full page of USA Today, the Left-Handed Whopper would solve all the problems lefties didn’t know they had.
In a similar style to BMW, the ad depicted the Whopper, visualising the changes which would enhance your food experience. These included a whopper rotated 180°, optimised sesame seed placement and rearranged condiments.
Unbelievably, the joke worked, and thousands of Americans rushed to get their hands on the burger. Reports even say that many right-handers felt the need to specify so as not to get the wrong Whopper.
I don’t know about you, but our team have always eaten burgers with both hands. Shame the promotion only lasted one day.
Don’t Let Google Get in Your Head (2000)
With billions of users to have fun with, it only took Google two years to get involved with April Fools marketing. What’s more, after twenty years, they don’t just settle for one prank anymore, opting to run multiple different campaigns all over the world simultaneously.
For them, it all started back in 2000 with Google MentalPlex, offering users a new way to search that was smarter and faster. Beautiful in its simplicity, it asks users to do the following before hitting the search button:
- Remove hat and glasses.
- Peer into the MentalPlex circle. DO NOT MOVE YOUR HEAD.
- Project a mental image of what you want to find.
- Click or visualize clicking within the MentalPlex circle.
Of course, it didn’t work, no matter how many times a user completes the steps (trust us, we’ve tried).
A search engine for the future, who knows, maybe MentalPlex will be a reality one day. But, until then, you can click here to try it for yourself.
Cash Out with ME Bank (2016)
We have all found ourselves hunting high and low for a lost credit card at one time or another. It’s why, for every fantastic April Fools marketing campaign on this list, we really do wish this one was real.
In 2016, an Australian company called ME Bank grabbed the headlines with their new credit card, Chuck. Music to the ears of clumsy people everywhere, Chuck was a fully sustainable bank card made from cardboard. Available in packs of 6, the card meant that if anything bad did happen, you could simply pop another one out and get on with your day. From a stolen card to one dropped in the toilet, Chuck was the perfect solution.
Not settling for a simple social media post, the brand decided to create a landing page to complete the ultimate April Fools prank. This not only took users to the brand’s site but allowed MeBank to showcase its young and vibrant personality as part of a very natural interaction. All while drip-feeding small clues that would eventually see the penny drop.
It was a fantastic idea and well-executed campaign that will have undoubtedly raised awareness and attracted countless new followers to the brand. Click here to check out Chuck for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Open Table Gets Taste Buds Tingling (2016)
There is always a little bit of risk associated with trying out a cuisine. After all, nobody wants to risk a lovely evening out with friends or family on a restaurant they have never been to before.
Knowing this, on April 1st, 2016, restaurant app OpenTable decided to launch a new service called Taste. The idea would allow app users to try out dishes on the menu of restaurants using ‘lickable technology’ before proceeding with a booking. A great idea, if only it were even remotely possible. Nevertheless, social media users were encouraged to share images of themselves using the hashtag #lickablephotos. And yes, many obliged.
Evolving from the early days when campaigns were confined to the boundaries of print marketing. Open shows show how social media marketing (organic or paid) can combine with user-generated content to increase brand awareness and recognition globally. Sadly, we can only feel sorry for the poor people who fell for this one.
The Wrap Up
There you have it, 5 of our favourite April Fools marketing campaigns of the past three decades. Proving what can happen when the world’s biggest brands decide to show their fun side.
A fantastic representation of what it means to think Elastically, each advert in our list underlines the power that humour can play in your brand’s identity. Tapping into it through the cultural zeitgeist in the way April Fools campaigns often do can be one of the most influential and memorable catalysts amongst your target audience.
Love them or loath them; we can’t wait to see what happens next.
Thanks for stopping by,
The Elastic Team