5 of the biggest April Fools’ Day fails, from Google to Taco Bell

April Fools’ Day is an annual celebration of pranks and silliness, but what happens when the jokes just don’t land how they are supposed to? Ahead of the 1st, The Drum rounds up the five flops from brands that had everyone cringing.

Never trust anything you see on the internet on April 1.

Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell (1996)

25 years ago fast-food chain Taco Bell pulled an epic stunt that got Americans all riled up and went viral – by 1996 standards, at least.

On a seemingly regular spring day, readers of The Philadelphia Inquirer opened their morning papers to see a full-page ad showing the image of the Liberty Bell with the dramatic headline: ‘Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell.’

Completely outraged, locals began calling in radio stations and switchboards to air their grievances. How could a big evil corporation buy such a historical artifact, an iconic symbol of American Independence?

The fallout continued before residents began to remember what date it was. In the end Taco Bell donated $50,000 for preservation and upkeep of the bell.

Google’s mic-drop feature angered users (2016)

Tech giant Google totally missed the mark with its ‘Gmail Mic Drop’ stunt, which caused some tears of frustration rather than laughter. The company announced that there would be a special version of the send button that generated a gif of a Minion character dressed as a queen dropping a microphone to the end of emails.

In a blog post at the time, the organization stated: “Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it.”

Unfortunately, and quite obviously, many people use Gmail for serious matters and did not appreciate the jovial feature.

“We heard feedback that some of you were negatively impacted by this feature, so we quickly turned it off late last night,” Google noted. “In addition, we are working to bring back Mic-Dropped messages that had subsequent replies to your inbox, so you can read those.”

Volkswagen’s stunt becomes a car wreck (2021)

What happens when an April Fools’ Day joke goes bad, really bad? If last year’s Volkswagen stunt is any indication, you get a 10% boost in your stock price followed by a call from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

For those who missed it, a couple of days before April Fools’ Day, Volkswagen announced it was rebranding as Voltswagen of America. It sure seemed like a clever idea, what with all of the hype surrounding electric vehicles. There was even a statement from Voltswagen of America chief executive Scott Keogh, who said: “This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples’ car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples’ electric car.“

Mass media covered it as straight news. Because, frankly, Volkswagen let the ruse go on way too long and made the cardinal sin of lying to the press (never a good idea, people).

The company would come clean, but the damage was done as an angry press corps all too gleefully pointed out that this was the same company that lied about its diesel emissions. The SEC was none too happy either as the legitimately fake news caused Volkswagen’s stock price to fluctuate.

Poo-Pourri introduces the ‘Doo Desk’ (2021)

With many people still working from home last year, Poo-Pourri decided to add a bit of levity to the reality with a ‘doo desk’ that ensured you were able to get work done anywhere, anytime, without ever really taking a break.

Unfortunately, many workers were struggling to find the balance between work and home life, which often resulted in major burnout and decreased mental wellbeing. It was no surprise that the joke totally sank.

Outback draws disgust with ‘lipsteaks’ (2021)

The rarest of them all? Restaurant chain Outback turned stomachs last year with this meaty make-up range.

The names such as ‘The Rarest of Them All,’ ‘Prefer Not to Share My Medium Rare’ and ‘Kiss and Medium Well’ didn’t quite sit well with meat-lovers or veggies, with the former largely stating they would rather actually eat the meal than think about it in cosmetic form.

The campaign was devised alongside Deutsch New York, which also designed Outback’s cozy sweatsuit range titled ‘Steak Wear Swag.’