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If You’re Going To Pull An April Fools’ Brand Prank, Make It Good

Five tips from some of the best branded April 1 stunts ever.

If You’re Going To Pull An April Fools’ Brand Prank, Make It Good

Well here we are, teetering on the precipice of another first day of April. It’s the calm before April Fools’ storm, when we’ll be inundated with completely pointless brand stunts. No one cares about Turkey Hill’s bovine dating site. Or T-Mobile’s ONEsie. Regardless, hundreds of brands unleash their, uh, wittiest little wonders onto the world–wonders that, after 24 hours, become the pop cultural equivalent of that plastic island floating in the middle of the ocean. And yet here we are.

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So if you are going to pull a branded April Fools’ Day prank (and let’s face it, you are, and you started working on it before Christmas), please, oh please make it good. What’s good? Let’s take a look at some past examples for a few general tips.

Taco Bell “Taco Liberty Bell”

In 1996, before the internet age had fully taken hold–and before Lil Yachty was even born–Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in the New York Times announcing it had purchased the rights to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and would be renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.

Tip: Be unexpected and be bold.

Google Maps “Pokemon Challenge”

In a move that reportedly inspired the actual Pokémon Go a few years later, back in 2014, Google invited users to catch pokémon inside of the Google Maps app.

Tip: Get weird, but the more people can actually participate, the better. Google’s been following its own advice since, with subsequent years seeing Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man become playable within the Maps app.

Amazon “Petlexa”

In what is definitely a precursor to the brand’s hit Super Bowl ad this year, last April Amazon imagined if it had an Alexa for pets.

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Tip: Make it ridiculous, but juuuust this side of believably ridiculous. You know someone is deep in a lead-lined bunker under Amazon HQ tinkering on this idea. Also, people LOVE their pets.

Netflix “Stamos: A Human, Being”

I mean . . . right?

Tip: John Stamos documentary.

Hamburger Helper “Watch The Stove”

This might just be the best branded April Fools’ in recent memory. A five-song mixtape featuring largely unknown producers that Complex called “one of the hottest mixtapes of the year.

Tip:  As my colleague Dan Solomon wrote last year, “If you’re going to create an April Fools’ prank, you should probably take a lesson from Hamburger Helper: Dump the lies and just make something really good that people actually want instead.” Amen.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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