April Fool’s Day is one of the most important days on which brands compete for people’s attention. It’s a great opportunity to show a human, and often humorous, side of a brand.
But it isn’t just about laughs. There are strong marketing objectives behind these funny videos. For Honda, it’s a disarming way to introduce a new vehicle, adding in truths along with a few stretches of it.
We’ve been capitalizing on April Fool’s Day for a few years. From concept to execution and production, we do it all under one roof. Because of that, we have developed a recipe for success that helps us break through the clutter.
First, the idea must be socially relevant. It should be reflective of culture and offer sublime commentary. Second, it should mix truth with lies, to further confound people and highlight the current real features. Next, social currency is a necessary component so people will want to share and fool their friends. And finally, it should be funny in its delivery, but not so over-the-top that it is immediately pushed aside as farce. We ride the razor’s edge of believability to keep people guessing (and sharing).
It’s not an easy dish to make, as many other brands are competing for attention. But for the brands that do it right, there is an ultimate payoff. Many publishers and networks are ready to play along, and spread your prank further. An idea on April 1 lives or dies by earned media, and we are lucky to have been featured prominently over the years on national nightly news programs and across the Internet.
Here’s a roundup of the last few years of April Foolery.
Honda "Sixth Sense" 2018
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Honda’s main objective has always been providing safe forms of transportation. But how do drivers stay safe as they go from the roads to the sidewalks? In comes Honda Sixth Sense, a revolutionary mobile app designed to alert pedestrians to a number of threats.
Our imaginary app boasts features like Sidewalk Departure Warning, which notifies users before they veer off their paths, and the Personal Avoidance System that helps people avoid awkward encounters.
This production was truly a team effort. We produced it with our in-house production company, Bö’s House of Visual Arts. It also featured RPA talent both on screen and in our voice-over, giving our associates opportunities to shine outside of their day-to-day work.
Within just a few days, our hilarious prank racked up over 2.5 million hits on YouTube, surpassed 350,000 views on Instagram, and caught the attention of news outlets like BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and The Drum. While some people knew this was all in good fun, AdWeek called it “pretty inspired,” and Campaign US argued, “Many of us could actually benefit from this app.”
Honda Horn Emojis 2017
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Honda is a company built on innovation. Engineers are dedicated to perfecting every inch of their vehicles. However, one feature has been left untouched for over a century, the conventional car horn. With Horn Emojis, drivers are able to better express their emotions on the road by selecting beeps that are more reflective of real-world driving situations.
These Horn Emojis work like a traditional car horn; however, they offer more expressive horn sounds tied to a contemporary way of communicating, emojis.
Horn Emojis were developed by Honda Dream Labs, a fictitious innovation lab in California City, California. To be efficient with our dollars, we chose the real Honda Proving Center, an isolated test track in the desert, to shoot. It gave us the ability to more accurately express the testing facility look and feel.
HR-V Selfie Edition 2015
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Creativity called it “one of the funniest April Fool’s [they’ve] seen."
So what was it? The HR-V Selfie Edition, of course. This HR-V included a number of camera lenses sprinkled across the car’s interior and exterior, for whenever you were in the mood for a selfie. Then we released a video of “Ashley,” a lovably narcissistic selfie queen, beta-testing the car and showing off its real interior, exterior and select tech features.
Our ultimate stunt occurred at the New York Auto Show, which happened to fall on April 1. We opened Honda’s presentation by playing the beta test video in front of close to 2,000 members of the press. We even created a “real” HR-V Selfie Edition to display at the show and a mock website touting its camera placements.
FIT KIT 2014
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While everyone was embracing the maker community, we thought we’d have some fun with them on April Fool’s Day. So we created the Fit Kit, the first do-it-yourself vehicle you can build at home. The vehicle arrived in 180,000 individual boxes and we followed the lofty-minded exploits of Vanessa and Caleb, and their need to build everything by hand.
We teased the idea by featuring images of boxes and announcing that the next big thing from Honda was coming. We also created an online presence on Tumblr and Etsy for the Vanessa and Caleb, since that’s where this couple—and people like them—would most likely spend their Internet hours. Then, on March 30, we released the video.
Andrew Boyd from The Times-Picayune said, “There's lots of great stuff floating around on the web today in honor of April Fool's Day, but for my money, one of the best ones is on Honda’s website and in a Youtube video: build your own Honda Fit!”
A.J. McCarthy of Slate, a self-described millennial and hipster-neighborhood (Williamsburg) resident, simply said, “Honda nailed it.”
It’s true; the Fit Kit was popular with fans and the press. So much so that Martha Stewart reached out to us. Our executive creative director had lunch with her, and gave her a framed picture of one of the quotes (which was also shared on Tumblr). We noticed the quote was picking up steam on Twitter, so we created a needlepoint of it.
We created a hipster logo, press release, instruction manual, and even used a drone for good measure. The campaign coincided with the upcoming launch of the new Honda Fit, and served to show the vehicle in a simple, fun and unassuming way.
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The 2014 Odyssey was the first vehicle to come with an in-car vacuum, the HondaVAC®. In order to tout that seemingly far-fetched feature, we doubled-down with HondaHAIR™, a snap-on accessory that allowed for in-vehicle haircuts.
HondaHAIR offered the convenience and cost savings families were seeking. We even linked it to a fictitious do-it-yourself mobile barbering movement, which “can be seen on more than 6,500 Pinterest boards, 100 Facebook groups and thousands of YouTube videos,” according to our press release.
HondaHAIR was an instant hit, with Inc. magazine calling it “an all-time best April Fool’s day prank.” Because of this attention, it immediately raised awareness for the HondaVAC, a key differentiator in the minivan segment, and helped pave the way for a strong sales year.
TERII (Theft Evasion Response Intelligent Interface) 2012
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This was our first April Fool’s Day video, and it provided a great springboard for things to come. We used fingerprint scanners to decipher who should or should not have access to the new Honda Accord. When an unauthorized person activated the technology, a robotic-sounding woman’s voice advised the potential wrongdoer to step away from the vehicle.