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Brand Blunders: Google’s April Fools’ Day “Prank” and More

Over the years we’ve seen more and more companies and brands attempt to participate in holidays, perhaps in an effort to connect with their customers on a more human level. But things don’t always go as planned. This especially is the case during April Fools’ Day. The media has long participated in the hijinks, with newspapers and magazines publishing fake stories. Since the dawn of the internet, various online publications, online retailers and other web related services have gotten in on the jokes.

Google isn’t the only company getting in on the fun…

Usually when a web service “pranks” their users like this, they don’t necessarily follow through on the whole joke. For instance, ThinkGeek comes out with a series of fake (yet hilarious) products each year that they pass off as real items up for purchase.

Google April Fools Day Prank | Minion Mic Drop | bfw Marketing & Advertising

Let’s be real, people would totally buy this.

When the user attempts to add these “iGrills” to their cart, they are redirected to a page that reveals the elaborate ruse. It’s an innocent, playful and creative joke that drives a ton of traffic to the site each year, and people who are aware of it genuinely look forward to seeing what ThinkGeek will come up with next. Brands recognize April Fools’ Day as a marketing opportunity now, and many try to come up with creative and fun ways to celebrate it.

Google April Fools Joke | Minion Mic DropGoogle’s April Fools’ Day Prank

Enter supreme ruler of the World Wide Web, Google. Now, Google is known for being a pretty sophisticated company – one which is “progressive” and “in-touch” with their user base. But on April Fools’ Day 2016, Google really screwed up. On the morning of April 1st, Google rolled out a small update for their email service, Gmail. As of February, Gmail had 1 billion monthly active users, making this update more than just a small inside joke.

Instead of implementing something harmless, Google decided to add a new tool to Gmail that they called “Mic Drop.” On the morning of April 1st a new post was made on the Google blog:

“Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it.”

Hitting the Mic Drop button also included a little animated GIF of a minion in your email, just to help get the point across.

I didn’t think much of the prank when I saw it – my absolute disgust of “minions” being involved in seemingly everything no doubt contributed to this disinterest. But I was mostly turned off because I knew Google could do better. There wasn’t really anything clever or remotely funny about it. Until something amazing happened.

Google’s Oops Moment

For some, April 1st, 2016 was just a day like any other. Users who were unaware of the “Minion Mic Drop” logged onto Gmail to take care of business as usual. Reality is perhaps the cruelest joker, as innocent users attempting to send serious emails accidentally clicked the mic drop button. Suddenly, the joke was on Google. The company was flooded with complaints from angry users claiming that the innocent “prank” had caused significant damage to their social lives.

“Will Google give me a job,” one user wrote on the Gmail help forum. “Thanks to Mic Drop I just lost my job. I am a writer and had a deadline to meet. I sent my articles to my boss and never heard back from her. I inadvertently sent the email using the “Mic Drop” send button. There were corrections that needed to be made on one my articles and I never received her replies. My boss took offense to the Mic Drop animation and assumed that I didn’t reply to her because I thought her input was petty (hence the Mic Drop). I just woke up to a very angry voicemail from her which is how I found out about this ‘hilarious’ prank.”

So not only did the mic drop button deliver an awful CGI abomination to the person on the receiving end, it also made it so replies were irreversibly muted. Even if the sender had realized what they had done, there was no real way to rectify the situation. Other users claimed it cost them job opportunities, and businesses inadvertently insulted customers when returning their emails.

Twitter user @waxpancake captured this especially cringe-worthy mic drop:

Google was quick to take the button offline. “Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year,” wrote Victor-bogdan Anchidin, Google software engineer, in a blog update.

“Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs,” Anchidin wrote. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.”

You have to wonder who was really pranking who here. Who knows if the user complaints were even legitimate? Regardless, this further proves my theory that minions are destined to doom anything they touch. Google should know by now that users rarely read the terms of service, let alone the fine print of some half-baked April Fools’ prank. If only the big G could recover from their unfortunate mic drop as well as Big Daddy Kane.

John Husak is a Copywriter at bfw Advertising+Interactive in Boca Raton, Florida. bfw is a tight knit collection of writers, artists, designers, technologists and thinkers who share a common passion for doing great work that makes things happen. For more information call (561) 962-3300 or visit www.gobfw.com.

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