The most memorable April Fools pranks – and best practices for your brand

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Team of employees representing memorable April Fools pranks

April Fool’s Day is the perfect opportunity for brands to let loose with pranks that build their presence while bringing humor to this annual custom. While an April Fool’s Day prank isn’t aligned with every brand’s identity, the right marketing effort can attract attention and increase brand awareness, especially if your prank goes viral.

Here are a few of the most memorable April Fool’s pranks from brands in recent years and the best practices we can learn from each:

Duolingo and Peacock’s “Love Languages”

Several days before April Fool’s Day last year, Peacock announced “Love Language,” a (fake) reality show in collaboration with the language-learning app Duolingo. The show’s concept brought together contestants from around the world to find love—except none of them spoke the same language. The trailer, which has received almost 1 million views on YouTube, also featured Francesca Fargo, a contestant from Netflix’s reality show “Too Hot to Handle.”

Duolingo and Peacock did a few key things right. First, their prank amplified an actual partnership between Peacock and Duolingo that gave users a discounted subscription to Peacock along with one free month of access to Super Duolingo, Duolingo’s paid tier.

Second, they perfected the timing by releasing the trailer the day before April Fool’s Day to stand out in a crowded media environment. If you include a disclaimer, you can feel safe releasing an April Fool’s Day stunt before the actual day. After all, consumers could see your stunt on their social media feeds well after the day has passed—another reason why including a disclaimer is so crucial, regardless of timing.

Tinder’s “Height Verification Badge”

The day before April Fool’s Day in 2019, Tinder’s tongue-in-cheek announcement of a “height verification” badge (HVB) feature sparked outrage and “crying laughter” emojis across the Internet. Several media outlets suggested the announcement was an April Fool’s Day joke. However, it wasn’t until the next day when Tinder updated their blog and clarified with a Tweet emphasizing that HVB was a joke, and encouraging users to “stand tall…or short” and “embrace who you are.”

While Tinder’s April Fool’s stunt certainly earned social media attention and media coverage, their prank is also a lesson about the need to disclaim an April Fool’s prank. While the prank might seem like an obvious joke, Tinder’s HVB prank proves otherwise, with hundreds of Tweets criticizing the feature.

Tinder’s 2019 prank also highlights the risks of poking fun at physical traits, such as height, which could be a sensitive subject for some. Though being cheeky can boost your brand, keep in mind that you don’t want to offend your audience.

Jet’s Blue’s “April’s No Fool”

Though Jet Blue’s “April’s No Fool” prank was in 2013, their feel-good, charming approach still stands out more than a decade later. For their “April’s No Fool” campaign, Jet Blue announced they would refund the entire fare for any passengers named April who flew the airline on April 1. Their press release featured a quote from their director of media relations, who was named (you guessed it) April.

Some brands may take an edgy approach to April Fool’s that can leave consumers feeling, well, foolish. On the other hand, JetBlue sidestepped any backlash by generously gifting free flights to people named April, while still showing off their comedic chops.

McDonald’s and Sprite’s “Spicy Sprite”

In 2022, McDonald’s and Sprite collaborated on an April Fool’s Prank about the launch of “Spicy Sprite.” The Tweet went viral, resulting in 4 billion impressions. The premise of the prank was the longstanding urban legend that McDonald’s Sprite has a taste unique to McDonald’s, different from Sprite’s typical flavor.

While some consumers might have taken the Tweet at face value, the noncontroversial subject matter meant there was minimal risk of backlash and high risk of reward: the Tweet became the Coca-Cola Company’s highest-performing organic Tweet to date. The “Spicy Sprite” campaign achieved April Fool’s notoriety in a single image by tapping into an existing urban legend.

Stouffer’s “Stouffs”

Last year, Stouffer’s poked fun at brands’ attempts to appeal to Gen Z and millennials by rebranding as “Stouff’s.” Their Instagram post claimed they “shortened the product names of your favs,” with lasagna with meat sauce becoming “sagna with mauce” and “enchiladas” shortened to “ladas.” The post landed on several media lists of the best April Fool’s pranks in 2023.

The “Stouff’s” April Fool’s campaign used the strategy of poking gentle fun at brands, rather than laughing at consumers’ expense. Like Sprite and McDonald’s “Spicy Sprite” stunt, Stouffer’s campaign was not high budget, yet the results were impressive. With social media, brands now can build a more personal connection with consumers through their responses to comments, both from consumers and from other brands. Stouffer’s “Stouff’s” successful prank proves the value of brands laughing at themselves.

In Conclusion

These pranks are only a fraction of the campaigns launched on April Fool’s Day every year, yet each teaches a valuable lesson about how to leverage this day effectively. Just like you, KGBTexas can’t wait to see what brands have in store for 2024.