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April Fools!

Google Treasure MapsApril Fools' Day pranks have always been a mainstay of our society, a time to prank and be mischievous. But past our younger years, it's been regarded a strictly a "childish" act, as professionals simply don't have the time for such shenanigans.

So when tech giants like Google started publishing April Fools pranks of their own, the general public only fell head over heels for it. And for them.

It's been very telling that this year Google was joined by so many other industry leaders and household names in releasing an April Fools promotion or fake-marketing campaign. But are these companies just in the spirit, or is there a strategy behind this?

Fun Times

Google is one of the most notorious for its April Fool's pranks, largely because with so many users of its many services it's hard not to notice their fake announcements. Also, Google already has a reputation for integrating hidden fun features and easter eggs on its websites, so April Fools' jokes are only right up its alley.

Thanks to all these efforts, the general public holds a highly favorite opinion of Google. They are a "fun" company, one that's not afraid to let its hair down. Remember, friendly pranks are best done between friends, and by pranking its users people think more intimately of Google. This works out, considering how much Google actually has pervaded our intimate life: our search interests, our uploaded content, our documents and projects, etc.

But by carrying this tradition of an April Fools' prank every year, people have come to expect it. It is a yearly treat, like a mischievous holiday gift. We eagerly await it, receive it, and are delighted by it. We tend to think of Google as a company made up of people not afraid to have a little bit of fun. They're our friends.

A Prankster's Gambit

Google has never been anything short of a juggernaut in the online community, but all the acclaim they've been getting just for these pranks hasn't gone unnoticed. More and more companies have been releasing April Fools' jokes of their own. Initially it was the better-known game studios and other "geek" companies, all wishing to present the image of a fun-loving group as opposed to just "The Company."

But this year has been significant, as the number of participating companies has increased greatly. Just look at how many jokes came out this year, and from such a diverse amount of companies. Not just software and online businesses, but consumer products as well.

So have more companies decided to relax somewhat and have a little fun? Or is it something else.

Big Business

Google's April Fools' jokes have only gotten more popular thanks squarely to social media. All of their jokes, and especially the better ones, have all gone viral. Everyone wants to tell their friends about the coolest "new" feature from Google, and for those savvy enough to realize these are just joke-features there is still a great sense of urgency. These joke-features will only be around for April Fools' Day, so if you want to play around with the joke-features yourself you have to do it during that day.

Fun and quirky content, establishing something against the norm, combined with a limited-time sense of urgency; it's the perfect recipe for a viral success.

And other companies have taken that to heart. Their own joke-announcements are just more viral bait, serving to promote their own brand and win over the public hearts and minds of consumers. These other businesses want to be perceived as favorably as Google, and to have their "jokes" shared throughout the social network web.

When people see other companies being so lackadaisical on April Fools', companies hope they become that much more endeared to us. Just one more reason to support them and not the generics or rival brands. After all, those other ones are clearly just the stiff corporate types out for a buck.

But jokesters? They're our friends. And we always seek to support our friends, right?

Meanwhile advertisers go crazy for April Fools', because this viral-bait brings in a smorgasbord of pageviews, and thereby lots of impressions and clicks. Anything that brings the crowds to a website's doorstep is a huge boon, and since humor sells across the board: why not? For a relatively small investment to produce something clever and funny, there is a huge potential long-term return.

You can't buy that kind of loyalty, but you can make one heck of an impression.

For a fun little quasi-holiday, April Fools' sure has gotten some big business behind it now.

What are some of your favorite company April Fools' jokes, and how do you think it served that particular brand?

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