The first of April means, to many Filipinos, that it’s time for summer vacation. It also means – and this applies to the entire world as well – that it’s April Fool’s Day. Every year on April 1, Google does its share of coming up with big pranks for netizens all over, and this year they came up with ideas that are either awesome, ridiculous, or just downright crazy. It’s great marketing, and it’s very entertaining for users at the same time.
Let’s have a look at some of the pranks they pulled this year, some of which I got to try myself:
Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge
Fans of Pokémon not just in the Philippines, but around the world particular, will be very happy about this prank. Google Maps wants to optimize their Maps experience with the help of a Pokémon master, but true to the show’s theme song, you “Gotta catch ‘em all” first.
Joining the game is easy. You just open your Google Maps app on iOS or Android devices, click on the search bar, and then click the blue “Press Start” next to the Pokéball below the search bar. In my case, I was taken to the map of Tokyo, where I started looking for Pokémon that appeared. You need to pin them to catch them, and you can view what you’ve caught in your Pokédex. I’ve caught 44 of 150 as of writing.
Google+ Auto-Awesome Photobombs
Eric Murphy-Chutorian, a Staff Software Engineer at Google, posted on his Google+ profile that they were introducing a new feature to Google+ Auto-Awesome today: Auto-Awesome Photobombs. All you have to do, according to the post, is to upload a photo of yourself or your friends, leaving a space for a celebrity photobomber, and you can expect what he calls a “spontaneous appearance in your pictures!”
Right now, he says, they’re starting with David Hasselhoff, but they will be adding more celebrities – that is, according to the post. The image is supposed to look like this:
Additionally, if you mention him on Google+, you might just get a reply.
I tried this April Fool’s Day feature and didn’t get photobombed (except for the original photobomber in the picture – the security guard behind me, inside the store). However, I did get a reply from David Hasselhoff, as promised:
Google’s pranks weren’t limited to their own properties – the startups they acquired also joined in the fun. Waze, the popular social mapping software they acquired last June 2013, announced an acquisition of their own, Israeli startup SingeSpotter.
The result of this announcement is new service WazeDates, where drivers will be alerted whenever another single driver is in the vicinity. The official blog says:
“WazeDates, powered by SingleSpotter, alerts drivers to other likely singles on the road nearby. Wazers can adjust preferences to search for drivers based on age, sex, orientation and more. Once a desirable driver is found, users simply invite them to a destination by sharing their ride, or use Map Chat to say hello.”
They’ve even created a video explaining their expanded service more:
Entertaining and Effective User Engagement
These pranks, and the other pranks that Google pulled this year for April Fools, arguably top their April Fools pranks from last year. What they do have in common with last year’s pranks is that they are both effective at the following, which is important in online marketing and branding:
- User engagement (they got users to participate in the prank)
- Viral quality (they got users to talk about the “new features” that they announced and let people test today)
- Cross-platform marketing (they pranked using multiple resources in their large pool)
- Driving organic traffic to their different properties (thanks to the previous three points)
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