Branded April Fools' Jokes: The Good, The Bad and The Lazy
Every year on April Fools' Day, my grandfather would call me and tell me there was a spot on my shirt or that my shoelaces were untied. He did this from about the age I was old enough to hold the phone until he died when I was in my early 20s. It was a timeless joke that earned laughs every year. Some jokes just have that quality—you know they're coming, and yet you still chuckle.
A lot of brands looking to get in on the April Fools' action should take notes.
It's the time of year where companies and brands conjure up some manufactured hilarity for the sake of appearing more human and gaining their consumers' trust in the hopes of taking their money. Some of these attempts are home runs and actually boost our impression of a company. Others really fall flat, and dance on that border of cleverness and pandering to a young audience it doesn't fully understand.
While bopping around the internet as one does on a Monday morning, we found a few examples of brands getting in on the April Fools' Day fun. So, without further ado or any more hilarious pranks, here are some of the best and worst April Fools' promotions from all over the place.
McDonald's Shake Dipping Sauce
OK, these sound gross, right? That's because they definitely are. McDonald's teased their "Shake Dipping Sauces" as milkshakes in dipping sauce form for things like fries or chicken nuggets.
— McDonald’s⁷ (@McDonalds) April 1, 2019
Here's the part that makes it a good April Fools' promotion, though: This would actually work. The law of averages dictates that you know at least one person who refuses to eat fries from Wendy's without dipping them in a chocolate Frosty. That's pretty much all this is. These would be a success, and that is why this joke is successful.
Nissin's Cup Noodles Headphones
We'll have more on this tomorrow, but we had to throw it in here. Nissin unveiled these Cup Noodles branded headphones, "available on its web store," that are juuuust close enough to being plausible that, at first, it was nearly impossible to tell they were fake:
— digitalchumps (@digitalchumps) April 1, 2019
Jameson's Glitter Bomb
Putting glitter in someone else's house should be considered a war crime, and offenders should tried at The Hague. Once glitter enters a home, it does not leave. It's like a cockroach in an atomic wasteland.
That said, roommate theft is a lower form of criminality somehow, so Jameson's joke about installing a glitter bomb that covers the thief in glitter for the foreseeable future, possibly even following him or her to the grave, leaving their casket and hair still full of the stray glitter piece for all of eternity, is hilarious. We don't condone glittering someone else's property, but we do condone a quality anti-theft joke.
OK, now for some of the bad jokes. These are the ones that are akin to open mic comedians thinking they've cracked some code in the pop culture zeitgeist and have found the secret to becoming the next Jerry Seinfeld—a political commentator and observational extraordinary. In reality, they are lazy, pandering, or a combination of the two.
Hotels.com Pet Passport
OK, to tell the truth, we actually kind of like this one. It's silly and cute. But here's why we don't like it:
It's a joke satirizing the looming Brexit deal (which will maybe still happen), and how many U.K. citizens now have questions about taking their pets abroad for vacations. The joke here is that pets can get a full European experience without ever leaving the U.K. It's clever, but it's poking fun at a pretty touchy subject right now in the U.K. and Europe.
Anything Involving Avocados
For some reason, the joke du jour for the last few years has been directed toward millennials' supposed affinity for avocados and, by extension, the perceived high cost of avocado toast at the mostly urban cafes these millennials tend to frequent. Because of that, millennials can't afford to buy houses or afford health insurance. Hilarious, right?
According to The Drum, Maryland Cookies created "avocado cookies," which it dubs an "Instagrammable snack" and throws in some other jargon about super-foods and other things making fun of young people for caring about their bodies.
In that same vein, Hasbro "announced" that the new iteration of Mr. Potato Head will now be a "new, vegan-friendly character, Mr. Avo Head." He's even decked out like every millennial caricature—big headphones, beard, oversized glasses and a bun in his hair. Basically, he's Aquaman with a job.
— Mashable (@mashable) April 1, 2019
Tremendous. It's like looking in a mirror.
The point I'm trying to make here is that April Fools' jokes, and really all "pranks," don't need to be at someone's expense. The good ones are those where even the mark is laughing at the end. Trying to pander to youth or ending up making fun of people who are actually a target demographic is just bad business. Yes, we millennials are capable of taking jokes. We just prefer ones that don't touch on stereotypes that were tired 10 years ago. And before anyone tells me I don't know humor, I'm smack in the middle of every major comedy movie/TV show's target age demographic. I'm it. I am the center of the Venn diagram of humor appreciation.
Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to dip Big Macs in strawberry milkshake sauce, because the avocado health craze is over. It's all about junk food now, baby.
PS, your shoelace is untied. (Gotcha!)