From a self-driving bike to emoji licence plates, the brand pranks that got April Fools' Day right

Love it or hate it, April Fools' Day offers a serious opportunity for brands. With us all on the watch for the interesting to the ridiculous, those that take part could potentially earn some valuable ‘word of mouse’, likes, shares, retweets and other media coverage. But more importantly, April Fools' Day is chance to prove that your brand has personality.

Having a sense of humour is one of the most effective ways to help build a human connection between your brand and your audience. You could be a brand we’ve forgotten about or that nobody has heard of, but if you can think laterally and show your wit, you’re onto a winner.

One way brands can rack up some giggles is by reflecting on our culture (or lack thereof). Some of my favourite spoof products from the past that do really well include Asos’s ‘clip in man bun’, or the Mooz Selfie Shoes. This year, Mini caught my eye with the new Hipster Hatch Back: a set of wheels worthy of the streets of Shoreditch…

Mini Hipster Hatch

Oxford Dictionary

The Oxford Dictionary has proved it’s no stuffy old book, and beautifully interacted with our culture in this year’s April Fool. New words include the verb to “Leo”, as in when you “achieve something after years of trying”, and “social fleedia - a situation in which one or more social media users choose to close their accounts”.

Honda Emoji Licence Plates

Also pushing the frontiers of communication are Honda. For April Fools it announced a new kind of licence plate which replace letters and numbers with emojis.

Of course, April Fools' Day doesn’t mean you have to be silly. Great ideas can be funny too, especially for brands that deal in technology. These brands can question what’s possible, while showing off their credentials.

Google Self Driving Bike

I wish Google would find a way to make the Self Driving Bike a real thing.

BMW xDrive Baby Boots

BMW is a regular for April Fools' Day. Last year’s Motormouth campaign was brilliant, and once again it made us chuckle by linking what’s great about its brand to a fictional product.

Another way for brands to make the most of April Fools is by using the ridiculous to confirm what they are, and what they’re not. There was something fishy about the The Saucy Fish Co. launching a new lipstick range.

As with everything where the reward is great, the stakes are high. It is possible to overdo it with April Fools' Day. Gmail made a blunder with its Mic Drop Minions prank and created headlines for the wrong reasons.

It’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone can, or should be, the class clown. If you’re stuck for a prank, abstain till a prize idea hits you. A half-hearted attempt is a waste of resources that could damage your brand equity. You don’t want the joke to end up being on you. After all, there’s always enough laughs to go around.

Niamh Deehan is a writer at Elmwood. Check out The Drum's comprehensive round-up of this year's brand April Fools' Day gags.

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