April Fools’ Stunts – The Good, The Bad, And The Cringe
For obvious reasons, there are mixed feelings about April Fools’ advertising. When executed tastefully, these stunts can win major brownie points for brands. After all, humor is one of the top tactics for gaining trust and increasing engagement. However, when brands get the punchline wrong, it leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths, sometimes even resulting in brands having to follow up with an apology (yikes).
To mark the occasion, we’re sharing some past pranks that made our team scratch our heads in disbelief, 😂 or 😱. Take a walk through memory lane with us.
The Good: Brands that got it Right.
Travel Alberta/Banff Lake Louise Tourism: How Does Lake Louise Get Its Iconic Shade Of Turquoise?
This 2015 April Fools’ prank was in response to a common question from tourists wondering when Lake Louise gets drained to paint the lakebed its iconic shade of turquoise. On April Fools’ Day, in collaboration with Travel Alberta, Banff Lake Louise Tourism shared in a news release, that the community has come together to paint the lakebed with “non-toxic, environmentally friendly paint.” Bravo, Banff Lake Louise Tourism, for creating a stunt with the perfect combination of humor and good taste.
Photo credit: Tourism Alberta
MullenLowe Profero’s Creativity Helmet
As fellow creatives, we’re a sucker for this one. In 2015, digital marketing agency, MullenLowe Profero, posted about their newly developed Creativity Helmet on April Fools’ Day. Their “Creativity Helmet” is a device that captures exactly when the “Ah Ha” moment hits, so it doesn’t leave your head as quickly as it arrived. The stunt is fantastic because it is directly connected to their brand and work.
Photo credit: MullenLowe Profero
ContikiX: Affordable Space Travel Exclusively For 18-35 Year Olds
Contiki’s space tours announcement definitely turned some heads (including ours) in 2021 when we were all reminiscing about travel. Here’s what Contiki Canada’s President had to say about it in Travelweek Groups’ article:
“Due to the pandemic and questionable state of the planet, I think a lot of people are over Earth at the moment and are looking for an escape, which is why we can’t wait to offer this once-in-a-lifetime experience to our guests in the future and to be among the first humans to orbit Earth.”
What made this stunt excel? It seamlessly tied to the brand offering, made us look twice, yet wasn’t too convincing and no one was harmed (except maybe our dreams of affordable space travel). The only part that hurts our little communications hearts is taking the joke to the media – perhaps not the best move. Otherwise, well played, Contiki… well played.
The Cringe: Brands That Didn’t.
Open Table #lickablephotos
In 2016, OpenTable’s ad might have landed, but in all honesty, it’s pretty unbelievable. A good April Fools’ day ad should get you thinking, if even for a second. If you’re really lucky, your April Fools’ ad would also stand the test of time – fast forward to 2023, and the thought of licking your phone would make most of us ill.
Outback Is Now Selling Meat-flavoured Lipstick
Outback took it a bit too far in 2021 with their cosmetic line spoof. The restaurant chain promoted that they were selling a range of meat-flavoured lipsticks, with product names like ‘The Rarest of Them All,’ and ‘Kiss and Medium Well.’ While it did catch our attention, it also spoiled our dinner. 🤢
Poo Pourri – The Doo Desk
No. Just, no.
The Bad: Brands That REALLY Didn’t.
Furniture@Work’s Soundproof Cabinet
The Furniture@Work April Fools’ Crying Cabinet prank missed the mark. Although the company highlights the importance of supporting mental health in the workplace, this ad could be seen as trivializing employees’ situations. Furniture@Work making light of mental health isn’t classy in our books.
Good pranks are well-timed and delivered with a wink and a nudge. The same can’t be said for Volkswagen’s rebrand to Voltswagen. Disguised as a mistake, Volkswagen “accidentally” posted a draft press release – three days before April Fools’ Day, announcing that they were changing the name of their U.S. operations to Voltswagen as a way of highlighting their commitment to electric vehicles. They went as far as changing their username on Twitter and lying to journalists about the “name change”. The prank, meant to promote their latest electric car, was not only criticized for breaking a fundamental rule of PR (lying to the press, of course) and being too early, but also ran the risk of breaking U.S. securities law by misleading investors and had the SEC reportedly investigating the company’s stock price. Folks, if there’s one prank we can learn what not to do from, this is it.
That’s a Wrap.
What do you think about April Fools’ campaigns? Do you prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch the show, or are you diving into the madness? Maybe you’re more of a dip your toe in and test the water first kind of person. Whatever your style is, no judgment (well, unless you’re Voltswagen 😉).
As for our team, we play a behind-the-scenes role during April Fools’. If you want to bounce your stunt idea off of us, need help picking up the pieces of a stunt that went a bit sideways, or need an apology statement stat: Contact The Agency.