Marketers have long embraced April Fool’s Day (a few years ago, a colleague of mine sent a Canadian coworker a realistic deportation letter from the INS).

But lately, more and more marketers have been taking April Fool’s to consumers. Brand hoaxes can be great ways to connect to audiences with humor. They are also risky because they can so easily backfire.

Google is the master of April Fool’s. My all-time favorite brand hoax is last year’s Google Maps prank, where they introduced a working 8-bit version of Google Maps developed for the old-school Nintendo Entertainment System.

So far this year, there have been a couple early releases. American Eagle introduced a very funny new product, the AEO Skinny Skinny jeans, “our skinniest skinny jeans ever”. The product is a can of spray paint to “spray on” the jeans.

P&G launched new Bacon-flavored Scope mouthwash, “for breath that sizzles”.

I’m posting this on March 31 and would love to hear your thoughts on the best (and worst) brand hoaxes for this year’s April Fool’s.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)

12 Comments

  1. Jose says:

    April Fools campaigns not only allow ad agencies to come up with some hilariously memorable products for brands, it could very well lead to a product that should actually exist. And by that I mean the spray on skinny skinny jeans.

  2. DC3 says:

    I loved this one by ThinkGeek a couple years ago. I totally wanted to buy one…

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/stuff/41/pteq.html

  3. Hugh Griffiths says:

    Great cartoon again Tom! Will be interested to see what April Fool’s hoaxes are gathered here in the comment …

    One of the greatest features of the brand hoax is that by definition it’s not trying to market any particular product or service to you. The only thing that is showcased (or not!) is the creativity and innovative capacity of the business. As you say, it can go badly wrong, but when executed well with relevance and wit it adds significant ‘cultural capital’ to the business.

    Too early to pick one from this year, although Google has again created something fresh. However, my all-time favourite was from the UK broadsheet newspaper, The Guardian. Published in 1977 it was a travel supplement for the islands of Sans Serriffe – I wish I kept a copy! http://www.guardian.co.uk/gnmeducationcentre/archive-educational-resource-april-2012

  4. Niall says:

    Your cartoons really are the best in the world. But do check today’s date.

  5. Michael says:

    My favourite so far this year was from General Assembly (a kind of school for people who do startups). A class on how to optimize your VCR!:

    https://generalassemb.ly/education/optimizing-your-vcr/optimizing-your-vcr/1444

  6. Mu says:

    You may instruct me to get a life, but I need somebody to guide me on how do I associate serious business and jokes. It just does not seat well with me. I work for radio and people take whatbwe saunas gospel truth. In the same industry’s have a Radio that hired a comedian as a breakfast show presenter and I just for the life of me can’t take the guy serious at all. All these kind of things are social and not commercial.

  7. Laura says:

    YouTube will shut down tonight at midnight to vote for the best video–for the next ten years!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/31/youtube-april-fools-2013-_n_2988662.html

  8. MariQuiroga says:

    The YouTube shut-down video was awesome (love the cameos!), but Google Nose is the product i want to invest on today =)
    http://www.google.com/landing/nose/

  9. Don The Idea Guy says:

    Some ideas start out as April Fool jokes and then become reality. This happened to ThinkGeek when they spoofed an iPad arcade cabinet. It garnered so much online buzz they they had the product created.
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/e762/

  10. Morten says:

    Google Maps – Now in old school pirate/treasure map edition! :)

  11. tomfishburne says:

    Hi all,

    I LOVED all of theses examples. Many thanks. This week’s print goes to Hugh Griffiths. The 1977 Guardian spoof is an awesome pre-Internet example!

    Thanks,

    -Tom

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