April 1st, otherwise known as April Fools Day, is just like most other days. There is little exceptional about it, unless you count the first 12 hours during which time the only limitation is your imagination. This post isn't about the history of the fool's day, if you want to read that take a look at the Wikipedia entry - though take it with a pinch of salt. What I want to do in this post is examine why big name brands such as Google and Sony use April Fool's day to release "new products" and why some small companies can also benefit.
Many big name brands post news or enter a new product on April Fool's day ... sometimes everyone laughs at how stupid an idea it is or simply because it is so fake its brilliant... and sometimes that happens a few moments before realising the joke is on them because this is a real product, as was the case with Google Mail back in 2004.
The reason they do it is simple, the attention.
Due to the growth of the internet and in particular the viral effect simple products and articles can have online, stupid pranks can gain great traction and reaction. It can drive millions of visitors to your video, website or image - and you can monetise that there and then. Or you can use the prank like Google, Sony, Microsoft etc do ... and use it for brand points of awareness. The viral effect will get your name on the coffee table over every household with a computer and internet access. April Fools Day is the perfect chance to pull a prank and get some wanted attention.
By the way I should point out at this point that it isn't just a single day boost. Websites and blogs, as as well as social media, can mean your fools day hoax can live on for a long time - even after you've forgotten. 2012 seems to be a bumper year for the "best of..." blog posts about fools jokes online, from both big blogs like PC World and smaller blogs like The Ourdoors Blog. And when they write about your hoax they will link to you, some nice link juice from some nice link baiting - just like any other viral campaign.
So, thats why well-known brands use April Fools as a tool for brand awareness. But did you know smaller companies can also use April Fools to gain traction online and grow their audience and potential sales?
For instance, in 2011 The Outdoors Blog posted about Dutch Clogs the New Walking Boots. IKEA last year began selling a Doggy Highchair, The register used apples patent claims to the rectangle and american start up TaskRabbit no longer deals in tasks just puppies!.
Still not seen enough pranks do a search for "april fools 2012" there are lots of best of sites for you to take advantage of. If you want to listen / see some of the best check out This Week in Tech from last night (April 1st, 2012).
If you've spotted an amazing April Fools leave a link below!