Not only is April Fools’ Day a celebration of gluing quarters to the sidewalk and putting shaving cream in the hand of a sleeping loved one, it’s also a day for corporations to show their prankster side. Some companies are experts at the April Fools gag, truly trolling their fans in original and humorous ways. While others fall flat altogether.
In honor of this most mischievous of holidays, I’ve rounded up a list of some creative — and perhaps a bit strange — standout April Fools pranks from the corporate world. Along with a few that missed the mark. Prank on, corporate America!
1. Google Maps 8-Bit — 2012
Google’s had some pretty good April Fools gags over the years: comic Sans, autocompleter job profile, Gmail paper. Their Google Maps throwback to the days of NES from two years ago is one of the more memorable ones from the search engine. Searching for the best directions to the happy hour bar is just that much more fun when you feel like you’re playing Zelda.
2. Big Ben Goes Digital — 1980
BBC listeners were shocked, outraged and naturally a bit confused when the broadcast company announced in 1980 that the famous London landmark would be given a digital facelift to keep up with the times. As part of the announcement, the BBC was offering up the clock’s gigantic hands to the first listener to call in.
3. Romney Succeeds To Santorum — 2012
Generally, a good April Fools prank is a bit outlandish in its humor and not just a ploy to get website hits. In 2012, Forbes published an article declaring that Mitt Romney had dropped out to endorse his GOP competitor Rick Santorum. The story was pulled shortly after it shot to the top of Google News and everyone soon went back to laughing at Rick Santorum.
4. Burger King’s Left-Handed Whopper — 1998
In 1998, Burger King trolled the 32 million lefties in the United States by running a full page ad in USA Today announcing new menu item: the Left-handed Whopper. Everything was the same except all of the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. Somehow many people failed to realize that it was April 1st, and went into Burger Kings requesting the new sandwich while others demanded the original right-handed version.
5. Richard Branson Buys Pluto — 2011
Billionaire and wannabee astronaut, Richard Branson, showed his soft spot for Pluto in 2011 by announcing that he had bought the forgotten planet and was reinstating it in the solar system. From Virgin’s press release:
“Virgin has expanded into many territories over the years, but we have never had our own planet before. This could pave the way for a new age in space tourism.”
Sorry, Pluto, not even Branson money can get you back to planetary status.
6. Starbucks Announces Two New Sizes — 2010
Not satisfied with simply calling their cup sizes small, medium and large like the rest of the corporate coffee world, Starbucks announced on their blog two new pretentious sizes: Plenta and Micra. Plenta offered coffee junkies what was essentially a Big Gulp with 128 fluid ounces while Micra went the opposite direction with only 2 fluid ounces.
7. YouTube’s 100 Years Of Viral Videos — 2011
Why watch cat videos in color when you can watch them in black and white like an old timey silent movie?! YouTube rolled out an early 20th century version of itself a couple of years ago, giving their videos a 1900s makeover. The company’s blog included a guest entry by then president Howard Taft and users had the option of watching any video in the silent film format.
8. YouTube Becomes One Giant Rickroll — 2008
YouTube took an internet classic and applied it to every video on their homepage, trolling visitors with the power that is Rick Astley. It was YouTube’s first April Fools gag and one that remains one of their best, IMO.
9. Panorama’s Home Grown Spaghetti — 1957
One of the most well-known public pranks of its time happened in 1957 when Panorama showed a three-minute news segment about revolutionary spaghetti-growing tree harvest that was happening in Switzerland. The BBC reportedly received hundreds of phone calls from people asking how they could grow their very own spaghetti tree. A BBC representative simply told them to place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and wait.
10. Qualcomm’s Wolfpigeos — 2009
Probably one of the most bizarre April Fool’s gags — and my personal favorite — San Diego telecommunications company Qualcomm announced their new development of Wolfpigeons. A wolf/pigeon hybrid that was aimed spreading wi-fi and preventing feral cats from killing off network transmitters. Of course to prevent the inevitable wolfpigeon uprising, the company was also developing a line of sharkfalcons, the wolfpigeon’s “natural” enemy.