It is that time of year again for every brand to compete on social media for the Best April Fools’ Day Prank. Social media pranks are not only a great opportunity for businesses to increase brand awareness, engagement and grow their following across their channels, but it also adds personality and humanises their brand by resonating with their audience through humour.
However, pranks can be a potentially high risk and controversial if not done right. The results can vary from negative comments to loss of trust that could affect the brand’s entire reputation. Or worse, showing the world that their sense of humour just isn’t really that great.
To celebrate the season of prankvertising, we have ranked our top five best and worst pranks by brands on social media:
- KALKGRUND 2.0 – Wi-Fi Signal-Boosting Toilet Brush Holder, IKEA Australia, 2016
As a follow-up product to their range of wireless charging furniture, IKEA gifted us with the bathroom product that no one asked for. IKEA introduced its latest bathroom innovation back in 2016 which gained a positive response from their fans and a high volume of community engagement. No one fell for the gag, of course.
Source: IKEA Australia from Quiip
Google Play for Pets by Google, 2017
In 2017, Google Play decided that games are not just for humans. On April Fool’s Day, Google Play introduced a variety of interactive games on their app store as a handy solution for all lonely and bored pets at home.
Source: Google by Brand24
Snapchat Instagram Filter, 2017
Everyone remembers the historical moment when Instagram copied Snapchat’s Stories feature. So, in response to the whole ordeal, Snapchat gave Instagram a taste of their own medicine by replicating Instagram’s interface as a Snapchat Filter for a day.
Source: Snapchat Daily
Doggie Coffee Scrub by Frank Body, 2018
Another pet-related prank was planted last year by Frank Body when they fake launched an exfoliating body scrub for dogs. Whilst Frank and his social media team had the last laugh and gained a high number of social traction, many loyal customers ended up wishing the product existed.
Source: Frank Bod
Notebook Docking Station by Moleskine, 2017
Moleskine is known for their range of luxury notebooks, planners and journals. But what if your premium stationery doubled as a charging station for your phone? No one fell for this gag but it did receive a good response from their audience.
- “The Bucket” by KFC Canada, 2017
In 2017, KFC released a promotional video about their fake smart home product: a voice-activated chicken bucket. KFC is known for pulling many pranks on social media, so the results left audiences angry, confused and criticising the fast-food chicken brand for being predictable and lacking a punchline.
Source: Trend Hunter
Save The Children UK, 2015
This one is a big YIKES for us. In 2015, Save The Children UK – an organisation that promotes children’s rights and supports children in developing countries, decided that a fake announcement to extend their help towards animal rights would be a good idea. Not only did the prank not receive a high volume of engagement, but it was also poorly received. The joke was in bad taste with one user leaving a negative comment stating their disappointment for the organisation and that they almost considered donating.
Source: Save The Children UK
Brewolingo by Duolingo, 2018
If you use Duolingo to redeem yourself from how badly you did in French class, then you might enjoy Brewolingo, a fake brewery designed to help you learn a language through drinking craft beers. Should we be giving props for promoting alcoholism? The idea wasn’t too bad but we would file this under “Mediocre Pranks That Are Off-brand”. However, we do give points for this beautiful landing page and packaging design.
Toblerone Light by Toblerone, 2015
There’s nothing wrong with this prank. We’re just disappointed it’s not true.
Source: The Drum
Gmail Mic Drop by Google, 2016
And last but not least, one of Google’s biggest downfalls was the Mic Drop Feature of 2016. Technically not a social media prank but a prank gone wrong nonetheless. Gmail launched its feature option on Gmail for April Fool’s Day which replaces the Send+Archive button with a GIF attachment of a minion dropping a microphone. As if minions weren’t bad enough. The prank left Gmail users angry as it resulted in many emails being left with a tasteless out-of-context joke.
Google apologised and retracted the feature after its awkward backlash, claiming they ironically pranked themselves that year. We’re filing this one under “a small victory for Outlook users”.
Source: Gmail Mic Drop
- See a need, fill a need: think of a product or service that your business can market that has the delicate balance of believability, creativity and an idea that is silly enough to get a laugh.
- Is it on brand? Ensure your prank ties back into what your business is all about. If it’s out of scope, the taste level of your prank can potentially confuse your audience and leave it in the unfunny zone.
- Give your prank an action: brainstorm your goals and what you’re trying to achieve from this prank.
Is it to gain followers or Likes? Could it turn into a competition?
- Test the idea: make sure everything works to avoid technical errors on the day and learn what areas could be improved.
- Last but definitely not least: make sure it’s actually funny!