April Fools’ Day is an odd thing for marketers.
They’re expected to create authentic and clear messaging the rest of the year, but on this one day, they’re given license to indulge in trickery and lie about ideas, products and services.
How can marketers indulge in some April Fools’ fun without creating confusion or provoking a backlash? What does it look like when firms get things right and manage to entertain and humor audiences all while staying on brand and ensuring that everyone is in on the joke?
To help find that sweet spot, here are 10 successful April Fools’ campaigns that every marketer can savor and draw upon:
1. Amazon: “Petlexa”
The idea: This fun little video shows what would happen if different types of pets (a gerbil, a cat or a dog) could control an Amazon Echo using “Petlexa.”
Why it works: The piece is a win on many levels. It’s a great idea, but also clearly a joke. It’s very cute, and it slyly showcases the capabilities of the Echo without feeling like an ad.
2. T-Mobile: “ONEsie”
The idea: This piece combines two trends—wearable devices and constant digital access—into something cleverly absurd: a full-body, Internet-enabled onesie outfit.
Why it works: T-Mobile finds the best of both worlds with this idea. The company pokes some fun at the breathlessness and buzzwords common in the telecom industry while also getting across the benefits of its unlimited ONE plan.
3. Sodastream: “Heavy Bubbles”
The idea: In this video, Thor Bjornsson, who gained fame as The Mountain on “Game of Thrones,” reveals that the secret to his immense strength lies in in lifting HeavyBubbles (a brand of packaged sparkling water).
Why it works: The piece is great for two reasons. It’s very funny and it also manages to positively portray Sodastream by taking a snarky swipe at the (bottled) competition.
4. BritBox: “Interp-Brit”
The idea: This concept from BritBox, a service that streams British TV shows to international audiences, is brilliantly simple. To make accents easier to understand, Interp-Brit dubs American voices on top of famous British programs.
Why it works: The big win isn’t just the idea—which is very funny in action—but also the fact that the April Fools’ joke is able to cleverly convey what BritBox does.
5. Zappos: “The In Secure Box”
The idea: What’s the best way to prevent package theft? Zappos cheekily promises to create boxes that can become invisible at the push of a button.
Why it works: The video succeeds not only because it’s clever and funny—which it is—but also because it showcases the brand by smartly featuring Zappos’s app and delivery policy.
6. Heinz: “Chocolate Mayonnaise”
The idea: People love chocolate and people love mayonnaise, so why not combine the two? That’s what Heinz pretends to have done in this disgustingly compelling piece.
Why it works: A lot of the success lies in the execution. The video has such high production values that it feels real. The creators also do a good job of working in Heinz’s tagline (“[Seriously] Good”).
7. Burger King: “Whopper Toothpaste”
The idea: This piece from the French division of Burger King presents an odd new product: a Whopper-flavored toothpaste for those who love the taste of Whoppers.
Why it works: As with the Heinz video, this one is engaging in part because the idea is disgustingly compelling. Where the two pieces differ is that Burger King makes theirs more over-the-top, clearly showing audiences that this is a joke.
8. Jameson: “Space-aged Whiskey”
The idea: Aging whiskey on Earth is all well and good, but what about taking things even further and aging whiskey in space? That’s the premise of this Jameson piece.
Why it works: This is another case of marketers smartly working messaging into a joke. Though the bulk of the video is devoted to its (absurd) premise, the makers also manage to highlight the time and effort that goes into aging Jameson’s real products.
9. Lexus & 23andMe: “Genetic Select”
The idea: This is a case of an April Fools’ product idea that could actually be useful. The premise is that 23andMe’s DNA testing kit could be used by Lexus to create customized cars (bigger cup holders for those who are genetically predisposed to higher caffeine consumption, etc.). It’s also an example of a successful collaboration.
Why it works: The piece manages to pique the viewer’s curiosity and also showcase the offerings of two different brands. Viewers see how easy the 23andMe process is, while also gaining an understanding of the thought that goes into the many elements of a Lexus vehicle.
10. Toms & Uber: “shuberX”
The idea: This is another tag-team April Fools’ idea. Toms and Uber present shuberX, a foot-based transportation option for consumers—in reality, a fake cardboard car powered by walking).
Why it works: The piece is great because it shows that both Uber and Toms have a sense of humor about themselves. On top of that, it works in a quick description of the charitable mission of Toms, thereby showing that an April Fools’ joke can also be a bit of a force for good.
Do you have a favorite April Fools’ Day campaign? Tell us why you love it in the comments.
Michael Del Gigante is the founder of MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with a leading reputation for developing effective branding strategies. A version of this article originally appeared on the MDG blog.
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