April Fools Marketing Tactics that Worked

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April Fools Marketing Tactics Worked

April 1st is a day for fools, but there have been some pretty smart marketing ideas over the years.   

Many businesses have used April Fools’ Day jokes to increase their recognition, likeability and ultimately boost sales. Here’s a round-up of some of the more successful pranks.

Taco Liberty Bell

It’s certainly among the most famous April 1st marketing campaigns ever. Taco Bell took out full-page ads in seven major newspapers across the country in 1996 saying they had purchased the Liberty Bell to reduce the debt and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. Both the company’s headquarters and the National Park Service were bombarded with phone calls. At noon, the company announced it was a hoax.

While the campaign cost $300,000, it generated an estimated $25 million worth of free publicity, with sales increasing by $1 million for the first two days in April.

Scope: Bacon-Flavored Mouthwash

Four years ago, Scope came out with an announcement shortly before April 1st about a new product: bacon-flavored mouthwash. Proctor and Gamble launched a dedicated website, a public relations campaign and extensive social media promotions for its new product, including the Twitter hashtag #scopebacon. One post received over 30,000 likes and over 11,000 comments, which was significantly more than Scope’s usual social media responses. This prank was very successful in getting free advertising across the country, although more than just a few consumers were disappointed to find out it was just a joke.

Redbox Kiosk Ambassadors

In 2016, DVD rental service Redbox posted online that it was looking for people who like movies and games and love sitting in one place for 8+ plus hours to be “Kiosk Ambassadors” who will hand deliver movies and video games from inside the company’s red booths. The company also included a promotional code in the ad for rentals on April 1st.  Those who went to apply on the company website were able to see an announcement saying it was a joke.

The prank was widely publicized in the media, and the company received massive attention online, bringing positive responses.

Virgin Cola Cans Turned Blue

Virgin Cola, owned by Richard Branson’s conglomerate, announced in 1996 that it developed a technology to make its red cans turn blue once the drink expired and that drinking cola in a blue can was dangerous. Meanwhile, Pepsi had just released a new bright blue can.

While Virgin Cola wasn’t a brimming success, the marketing of the cola helped get the company’s name known and it built the groundwork for the very successful Virgin Airlines.

The Left-Handed Whopper

Burger King took out a full-page ad in USA Today on April 1, 1998 announcing the introduction of the Left-Handed Whopper. While it had all the same features of an original Whopper, its condiments were rotated 180 degrees to redistribute the weight of the sandwich to the left so that lettuce and other toppings wouldn’t spill out to the right.

The next day Burger King issued a press release saying that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. It also said a large number also requested the right-handed burger.

Furniture That Tells You What It’s Really Thinking

Last year, Houzz, a website and online community about interior design and other related topics, announced a new line of home furnishings with dirt-detecting sensors that also let you know when smudges and wrinkles happen. This new line also provides honest feedback regarding decorating in up to seven languages, such as the pillow that says “fluff me”. The prank provided a lot of free publicity in publications such as Time Magazine.  It also drew a number of people to the website in the days following April 1st seeking more information about the new line.

Have you ever played an April Fool’s Day prank on your customers? If so, tell us about it at marketing@bfscapital.com!


Erica Stone

Erica is a veteran journalist and editor whose experience includes Dow Jones Newswires and the Associated Press. She has written on a variety of topics ranging from sports to complex financial issues. 

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