Tax season aside, this is a great time of year. March goes out like a lamb, winter thaws, flowers start to bloom and we get to put away our heavy coats, sweaters, gloves and scarfs for… a while. Best of all, April ushers in April Fools’ Day, the unique, 24-hour period where we purposely try to hoodwink each other.
It’s the one day of the year in which an octogenarian mother can phone her kids at 7 a.m. and tell them she fell and broke her hip – and it’s funny.
Businesses play along, too – often to great fanfare. Here’s a list of some of the all-time best examples of April Fools’ Day hoaxes that may have fooled many of us and definitely garnered publicity for the organizations involved:
- Virgin Air gave us its glass-bottom plane in 2013 and purchase of Pluto (with the intent of reinstating it as a planet) the year prior
- Hotels.com offered to book hotel rooms on the moon in 2009 (travel not included, of course)
- Last year, Scope promoted a new product – bacon-flavored mouthwash
- Burger King, in 1998, announced its re-engineered “left-handed” Whopper
- Taco Bell unveiled “Taco Liberty Bell,” claiming it had purchased the Liberty Bell to help reduce the national debt (1996), which in turn prompted thousands of calls to Taco Bell headquarters and the national park service
- Starbuck’s debuted new drink sizes, Plenta (128 fluid ounces) and the Micra (2 fluid ounces) on the first of April in 2010
- Sports Illustrated fooled 99% of its readers with its “Sid Finch” (the phenom with the 168-mph fastball) expose in 1985
- Twitter said it would begin charging for vowels in 2013, prompting a lot of "f00lysh" and "fnny" tweets
- In 2004, Yorkshire Water received 10,000 calls in response to its fictitious new product, “diet tap water”
- Netflix created new movie categories, such as “Movies That are in English but Still Require Subtitles” and “Movies Featuring an Epic Nicholas Cage Meltdown”
- Video upload site Vimeo created a new network, “Vimeow,” for cat-video uploads only
- The BBC pulled the wool over folks’ eyes with its announcement in 1980 that Big Ben would be given a digital readout, and again in 2008 with its “discovery” of flying penguins
- Youtube (in a homage to Rickrolling) redirected every video request on its home page to pop singer Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” (2008)
- And keep your eye on Google – one year it presented the “comic sans font for everyone” promo, another it claimed to be hiring autocompleters (to complete your search as you are typing it), another it introduced “Google Nose,” and in another it renamed itself Topeka (returning the favor to Topeka, KS, which said it would rename the city “Google” to get a high-speed, city-wide network Google offered)
Be on your toes Tuesday. In the age of viral media, a good April Fools’ Day hoax is marketing gold. A lot of organizations see the day as a once-a-year opportunity to be wildly creative, and perhaps wildly successful, at least in a PR sense.
If you have some April Fools’ Day tricks you would like to share, please use the Comments section below. If you have some ideas for an awesome ABC Signup hoax, don’t use the Comments section – e-mail it to us so we can possibly thrust it upon an unsuspecting populace.