April Fools' Day pranks used to be mostly the domain of school-age kids and local radio DJs.
In recent years however a number of technology companies have gotten in on the fun sometimes with an outright effort to pull a classic April Fools' stunt that tricks people in to believing and other times just by being a little silly. Of course, now that so many companies are in on the holiday action, anything announced on April 1 gets met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
That sets a high bar to attract attention on the holiday. Still, that did not stop a number of well-known brands from trying to either pull one over on people or at least make us laugh. Of course, not all jokes work, as one giant technology company learned.
Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL): Put this one in the unintended consequences section, but Alphabet's Google had to quickly drop an April Fools' prank it added to its Gmail service. The company had added a "drop the mic" button next to the traditional send button in the email program. It allowed people to close down a mail thread by sending a picture of a Minion -- the yellow guys from the Despicable Me movies -- dropping a microphone.
That seems silly enough, but apparently it caused a backlash with some people who received the emails perhaps not getting the prank, the BBC reported.
"It looks like we pranked ourselves this year," Google said in a statement. "Due to a bug, the MicDrop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We're truly sorry."
T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS): The No. 3 wireless carrier took a more subtle approach, releasing a video and press release touting a tweak on its Binge On service dubbed Binge On Up. The company played it well with a straightish press release.
For years, the carriers have forced wireless customers to choose between bingeing their favorite shows and going about their everyday lives. With Binge On Up, you don't have to choose, and customers can enjoy non-stop streaming every waking second.
That sounds a little ridiculous, but the joke does not hit home until you watch the accompanying video which shows that the product being offered is a ridiculous headset with a telescoping arm designed to hold your phone. The ad slams other wireless carriers for "making you hold your phone in your hands, like an idiot."
OpenTable: The online reservation service went subtle as well by placing an ad for a new service, Taste-o-Vision, on its website. The mock product promises that users will be able to "Taste photos right from your phone with OpenTable Taste technology. It's easy (and tasty) as pie! Just lick to begin. #LickablePhotos."
The company, which is clearly trying to trick people into licking their phone, offered the following instructions:
- 1. Download the latest version of the free OpenTable app
- 2. Find a scrumptious photo, then give it a little lick
- 3. Book the restaurant or keep tasting*
The asterisk, of course, tells people that multiple licks may be needed.
Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA): The electric-car company went a little more ridiculous, announcing plans for a new model, Tesla W, a watch that's clearly a prank as soon as you see the accompanying picture. The automaker also took a little swipe at smartwatches in its description.
"This incredible new device from Tesla doesn't just tell the time, it also tells the date," the company wrote. What's more, it is infinitely adjustable, able to tell the time no matter where you are on Earth. Japan, Timbuktu, California, anywhere! This will change your life. Reality as you know it will never be the same."
ZipCar: The car-rental brand, which is owned by Avis Budget Group, had a little fun with its millennial audience by fake-launching "Selfie Driving," using the tag line "Let's be honest... we're a little obsessed with you.
The service purports to help consumers pick the perfect car by having users take a selfie. "Proprietary selfie-analyzing technology" then evaluates how you look in the photo and finds the best car for you.
Of course, some of the company's target audience may not get the joke as at least some millennials could plasusibly think that an app that evaluates mood from a selfie in order to match them with a car sounds reasonable. It purports to customize car matches by offering tinted windows for users having a bad hair day, for instance, or matching customers with "super-fly" pictures with cars from its exclusive "Diddy Fleet."
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He wonders why there is not an April Fools' Day movie. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.