Fool For Your Love

April 9, 2019 | blog | By Kim Smith

I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s Day. Probably has to do with my extreme gullibility and subsequent embarrassment. Just ask my team who MULTIPLE times last Monday had to remind me of the date.

But regardless of how I feel about it, April Fool’s pranks have definitely become a thing for brands. And although the trend has shifted a bit, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

I blame BMW.

According to the MUSEUM OF HOAXES, this tom-foolery began back in 1980s when BMW UK started running spoof newspaper ads every year on April 1st that, according to their marketing department, “teetered on the verge of credibility.” Each one purported some new technological advancement that seemed ridiculous, yet also slightly possible.

From rain-deflecting, open top cars to a dashboard tire pressure control, badge wash systems, and weight sensors, BMW served up tech that made you go hmmm. From a branding perspective, it was yet another way for BMW to make their drivers feel in on the joke — part of an exclusive club.

But Google is just as responsible.

Google has been gagging us since 2000, but in 2008, when social media had just begun to crawl out of the primordial slime, their newly acquired platform YouTube most famously got into the game — making each of the featured videos on their homepage a RickRoll boobytrap. Thanks for that one, Google.

Okay, we did it, too.

The thing is, April Fool’s prank ads are a great excuse for brands to lean in to displaying a lighter side of their personality, with less chance for repercussions. But let’s be real, it’s all about the views. And yes, LOOMIS has played a part in the April Fool’s shenanigans in the past on behalf of Rug Doctor and Papa John’s Pizza.

Pug Doctor 3
Pug Doctor 7

But what if it’s not totally a joke?

Lately, some brands are using the occasion as a way to test market ideas. If something gets traction, it’s seen as an indicator that maybe it would fly IRL. Seems logical, right? After all, past pranks have ultimately become real. Google’s Gmail Autopilot prank pretty much exists in its Smart Reply AI today. In 2007, BMW pranked us with a fake instant messaging feature that isn’t too far from their heads up display.

But ThinkGeek has turned some of their more popular April Fool’s Day prank products into real products from a Stranger Thing’s inspired “Where’s Waldo” spoof (“Where’s Barb”) to canned Unicorn meat (ew), to the Star Wars’ Tauntaun sleeping bag. This year, Burger King was about to put Impossible Burgers on the menu, so they “pranked” diners by replacing the meat in their Whoppers – effectively confusing everyone as to whether it was real or not. Good timing or bad?

Google’s Gmail announcement on April Fool’s Day fifteen years ago was definitely a bad choice – as the offering was perceived as a prank and not taken seriously. Too close to reality, perhaps. Safer to be more far-fetched, as in this year’s Google Tulip.

Our favorite pranks.

What were some other notable April 1st standout pranks for 2019? See below for some of our favorites … which I may or may not have fallen for.

SODASTREAM – Make Your Own Fizz
The key to a good April Fool’s ad prank: act like you’re serious about something completely childish. Like burping. Time Magazine dubbed this “most questionable use of an astronaut.” Agreed. Still made us smile.

SodaStream and Astronaut Scott Kelly Turn Burps Into Fizzy Water for April Fool’s Prank

MCDONALDSShake-flavored dipping sauces
So apparently some folks have been dreaming of this offering and were extremely annoyed to have it dangled as a prank. Don’t be surprised if we see this come to fruition in the near future. (See above.)

People Are Furious With McDonald’s ‘Milkshake Dip’ April Fool’s Prank

With all the cannabis products introduced in legal states, could even cottage cheese be getting in on it? Odd product mix, but the stoned cows are worth a chuckle.

You can probably guess why we like this one.

KIM SMITH is creative director at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Kim Smith

at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.