It goes together like peanut butter and jelly. We’re talking about pranks and April Fools’ Day.
Most of us like to play a good ‘ole prank on our friend, neighbor or loved one. Similarly, public relations professionals for some of the world’s biggest brands have turned to April Fools’ Day as the one day they can let loose. It has quickly turned into the one day colleagues can “get out of jail free” with a made up announcement.
With April Fools’ Day last week, that got me thinking: what are some of the best stunts companies have pulled off over the last few decades on April 1? I dusted off my Google machine and came up with this list in no particular order. Enjoy!
Blame it on the rain
April 1, 1983: BMW announced that one of its engineers had designed an open top car that could not be penetrated by rain. They said jets of air would blast the water away from the top of the car and keep the top of the car bone dry.
Virgin UFO Airlines
March 31, 1989: Thousands of people driving outside London looked up to see a glowing flying saucer descending on their city. It landed in a field on the outskirts of London, where local residents immediately called the police to warn of an alien invasion. The saucer turned out to be a hot-air balloon that had been specially built by Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, to look like a UFO. The craft was supposed to land in London’s Hyde Park on April 1 but the wind blew it off course, and it was forced to land a day early in the wrong location.
THE Taco Bell
April 1, 1996: Mexican fast food chain Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in six major newspapers announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the park in Philadelphia, where the bell is housed, to express their anger.
The Left-Handed Whopper
April 1, 1998: Burger King cooked up a full-page ad in USA Today announcing the introduction of the “Left-Handed Whopper.” According to the ad, the new Whopper included the same ingredients as the original one, but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of left handers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up press release about the Left-Handed Whopper being a hoax. It claimed thousands of customers had gone into Burger Kings to request the new sandwich and that many others asked for a right-handed version.
I Topeka’d It
April 1, 2010: Topeka-ing it doesn’t have the same ring as Google-ing it, does it? On April Fools’ Day 2010, Google announced it would change its name to Topeka. While other April 1 pranks seem to be pulled out of thin air, this one had history behind it. In March 2010, the mayor of Topeka, Kansas announced plans to unofficially rename the city “Google” to entice the search giant to select the community for its “Fiber for Communities” program.
Image via Mark Strozier (Flickr).