Julie Jimenez|Apr 1, 2016

Have you been pranked today? Every year on April 1, companies across every sector do their best to fool the public.

Today, Florida State University Seminoles and University of Florida Gator wondered how these two rival schools could possibly merge, Alaskans asked “what happened to Juneau” as the capital city was renamed UNO in a naming-rights deal with Mattel, and Mark Zuckerberg fans rejoiced at finally being able to dress like him thanks to H&M.

Our client Florida International University even got in on the fun, announcing a new major: 305 ‘til I die, Miami Studies.

Using April Fools’ Day jokes to generate buzz is nothing new, but only a select few break through the news cycle and secure national interest.

If you’re planning to attempt a prank as a marketing ploy, a few considerations to keep in mind include:

  • Be realistic-ish: Sir Richard Branson has a reputation for being on the cutting edge, so when he announced that Virgin America was partnering with Nest to offer climate-controlled flights in 2014, there was a shred of believability to it – until you read the entire press release and realized it was a prank.
  • Play into current events: In 1996, Taco Bell launched what is undoubtedly one of the best April Fools’ Day pranks of all time, when the company announced it was buying the Liberty Bell to help the national debt. The backstory is that the prior year, several national monuments including the Liberty Bell had been closed to the public due to a federal budget issue. The hoax garnered more than 70 million impressions, and Taco Bell saw a $600,000 increase in sales for that week.
  • Don’t get too personal: Google’s Mic Drop prank this year, while clever in theory, proved to be a headache as it interfered with how Gmail users sent emails. Users accidentally clicked the Mic Drop button instead of the regular send button, and ended up sending a GIF to everyone on the thread. Not to mention the sender never received the replies. Needless to say, Google quickly dropped their own mic and walked away from this hoax gone wrong.

Pulling off a marketing slam dunk with an April Fools’ Day prank takes a lot of planning and a bit of luck, but the good news is, you have an entire year to come up with what may be the next great hoax.


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