The 5 Best Pranks Companies Have Played on Customers

It's April Fools' Day, after all.


Whether you’re being duped or doing the duping, April Fools’ Day is the one day where it’s acceptable to give (and take) a little poke in the ribs. From huge hoaxes to small stunts, companies like Google and Barclaycard will attest to that fact that a little joke can go a long way – in marketing terms, that is.

In honour of April Fools’ Day, we’ve gathered our favourite pranks committed by companies on their customers.


Google’s ‘search by smell’ function

Three Aprils ago, Google played a fantastic trick on tech and science fiction buffs alike: they baited Google users into thinking they’d finally developed the technology to search by smell.

Using a dog’s understanding of the world via sniffing as the basis for their smell software development, the ‘team’ at Google excitedly explained the reasoning, technology and promise of the program “Google Nose” in an announcement video, with frightening accuracy of what we’ve come to expect from a product launch from today’s tech giants.

“Our mobile aroma indexing program has been able to amass a 15 million centibyte database of smells,” ‘engineering lead’ Doug Smith tells Google customers. The scary thing is, in the years since the faux sniff search engine was announced, we’re probably not that far from developing that sort of technology.


YouTube’s ‘This is the End’ Competition

This immense prank caused more terror than it did laughter. In 2013, on the eve of April Fools’, YouTube announced the site wasn’t just a video viewing service, it was an ongoing, secret competition. Not only that, but once they’d chosen their winner for the millions of videos uploaded to the site, they’d delete eight years’ worth of videos and shut the site down, until 10 year’s later.

They made the announcement to their shocked (and suspicious) fans with an elaborate video (see above) and that was the biggest treat of all. All of our favourites were there: David After Dentist, Antoine Dodson, the Charlie bit my finger kid – it was such an elaborate prank that a lot of people really believed it. Luckily, we know the truth: YouTube loves to pull pranks on April 1st.


Domino’s Pizza in a Can


Convenience is a precious commodity these days and Domino’s pizza knew exactly what they they were playing at when, on April 1st, 2013, the company announced the addition of Domino’s Deluxe canned pizza to their product range, available to lucky Japanese customers only.  Priced at a modest 401 yen (just less than AUD5), the prank product even had its only Japanese-language website for added legitimacy.


Barclaycard’s PayWag

As far as outrageous April Fools’ pranks go, Barclaycard’s ‘PayWag’ contactless payment service for dogs wasn’t all that bad of an idea – in fact, it was pretty damn cute. But, as cute as it was, there was no way this furry Fools’ Day joke could be believed and it was the wording of the promo ad that really tipped customers off to the tongue-in-cheek cardless offering: “When your dog wants to make a purchase…” it begins in the explanation of the product. Forget the dog not understanding how the clever contactless payment system hidden in its’ collar worked – it’s the human monetary system we’re not so sure they’d have a handle on. In short, this well-executed and hilarious hoax stands us one of our favourites.


Sephora’s Makeup Hack Mask

A photo posted by Sephora (@sephora) on

We like an institution that can poke fun at itself, which is why Sephora’s Sephora Collection Sheet Hack mask tops our list of one of the greatest company pranks of recent years. In 2015, the cult beauty retailer released their latest product, the “ultimate lazy girl beauty”, to their legion of diehard fans. The creepy facial mask hack was touted as “waterproof, smudge-proof, budge-proof [and] melt-proof”. In short, the makeup product of every woman’s dreams. Problem was, it wasn’t a real product (and the concept was pretty ridiculous). We’d love to know how many customers tried to get their hands on one though.


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