Fools’ Gold: The Best PR Stunts from April
April 1st is a day that divides offices, torments families, and confuses consumers. And this year was no different. There was the usual collection of bizarre, wacky and downright unbelievable PR stunts, from the release of postage stamps featuring ‘Brexit icons’, to the British Transport Police’s smelly food ban on London transport.
In homage to all the brands that tried to pull the wool over our eyes, here are a few of my favourite pranks:
The British Transport Police ban smelly food on public transport
The British Transport Police had some good-natured fun at the expense of commuters by announcing a ban on eating smelly food on trains, tubes and buses. They released a statement saying, ‘as part of new anti-social behaviour legislation, those caught consuming offensive edible items while in transit could face a penalty fare of up to £2,000’. It goes on to suggest that a Criminal Food Behaviour Order will be slapped on anyone caught consuming eggs, fish, blue cheese, sausage rolls, fermented shark, or any form of fast food.
The spokesperson for the force, Inspector ‘Pete Pong’ said, ‘stinky food has been a long-standing contentious issue on Britain’s rail network. I am pleased we could respond to the public’s concerns and work to stamp out this very pressing problem.’
The campaign got lots of media attention, but it backfired slightly with the public, as many were disappointed to find out it was a prank. One said: ‘If only. It’s the people that decide to eat a box of fried chicken on a packed bus that need fining. That stuff stinks.’
Tinder tackles height-fishing
Dating app Tinder pulled an early April Fool’s stunt to throw everyone off the scent. On March 29th, the company announced it was launching a new feature on the dating app. They introduced the ‘height verification’ badge to stop users pretending to be taller than they are.
In a fake blog post, Tinder said: ‘it’s come to our attention that most of you 5’10ers out there are actually 5’6. The charade must stop. This type of dishonesty doesn’t just hurt your matches, it hurts us, too’. They went on to explain that users would need to insert their accurate height with a screenshot of him or herself standing next to a commercial building. From there, the app would ‘verify whether or not they were telling the truth.’ Tinder also released a 40-second video giving users step-by-step instructions on how to use the feature. The clip generated more than 3.6 million views on Twitter.
This tongue-in-cheek stunt was absurd but not outside the realms of possibility. Crucially, it also raised awareness of a topical online issue: catfishing, where users create fake online identities to lure in potential daters.
Brexit hits Breton
According to UK clothes retailer Boden, Breton shirts are the latest casualty of Brexit. On April 1, the brand claimed consent had been withdrawn for it to continue producing the French-inspired wardrobe classic in the UK. It added that anyone owning a Breton top will need to apply for a special EU shirt licence to wear one or face a fine of up to €1000.
As a result of the ban, Boden came up with a solution for its customers: a complimentary stripe removal service to erase the offending lines from the tops. The retailer will then send back a ‘Bret-off’ top.
Meata-blockers launched for wannabe vegans
Following a record-breaking Veganuary, it seems that every brand is jumping on the vegan bandwagon. On April 1, online doctor Zava teased the public with a revolutionary new product for carnivores that want to kick their meat habit. The company claimed their plant-based meata-blocker tablets have meat-suppressing properties. They work by diverting blood flow so the hormones involved in creating meat cravings can’t circulate around the body as efficiently.
They claim the pills also cause a decreased sense of smell meaning there’s less temptation when a tasty bacon sandwich is nearby.
The product was ridiculous but believable. The stunt worked because the company tied the campaign to a popular trend. Traffic to their website spiked and got the previously unknown brand got plenty of valuable media attention.
And finally, …
Brexit stamps released
The Royal Mint announced the launch of six Brexit-themed first and second-class stamps, to mark the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The ‘Icons of Brexit’ series supposedly featured Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jean-Claude Juncker, Nigel Farage, John Bercow and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Brexit icons were presented as famous historical figures, complete with a relevant line of copy.
PR stunts aren’t just for April 1st
You don’t have to wait until April 1st to pull off an attention-grabbing PR stunt. If you’ve got an idea and need help making it happen, get in touch.