The Best Branded Content of March (and April Fools’ Day)
Last April Fools’ Day, our co-founder Shane Snow and head of events Jess Black posted Craigslist ads in 16 cities offering up a free goat. They posed as Sam Slaughter, our VP of content, instructing all goat-seekers to call him immediately.
Sam was very confused when the calls started coming in, but he was also proud of the collection of batshit crazy voicemails accumulating. It was an exquisite collection because the prank had legs—Sam was still getting calls three months later. But most importantly, it reminded us of the true spirit of the holiday: complete absurdity.
Most brands struggle with absurdity, and as a result, most April Fools’ jokes from brands suck.
Google is the perfect example. The search giant made a pass at absurdity by adding a Gmail button that inserted a Minion mic-drop meme into email replies before muting the conversation. It felt like a bad brand partnership from 2013, and to make matters worse, tons of people used it inappropriately by accident. One guy may have even lost his job. But even if the consequences were more appropriate, the gag still wouldn’t have worked, because it was just a mashup of two memes popular three years ago.
On the flip side, we have this amazing five-song rap album, #WatchtheStove, that Hamburger Helper dropped on April 1.
Why? Who cares. The songs are shockingly catchy, with hooks like “Hamburger Helper eat it all then we dip / It’s been on the stove so long might burn my lip.” The five tracks been played millions of times, and Twitter has been very into the absurdity of Hamburger Helper making trap music.
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 1, 2016
hamburger helper mixtape will have you ready step in the kitchen like pic.twitter.com/FzjUNuiPP9
— JAKE ELLIOTT SZN (@Nevers_Failures) April 1, 2016
— Kristi Omnomcoochie. (@JediMassaYoda) April 1, 2016
— motorolaJONES (@HeadBan_Shawti) April 3, 2016
The idea apparently came from a Twitter follower, and I want to high-five the 25-year-old marketing manager at General Mills who sold the concept to her bosses. According to Billboard, the glorious album was created by a team at McNally Smith College of Music. HuffPo even wrote a clickbait think piece wondering whether Hamburger Helper had upstaged Beyoncé.
In this roundup of the best branded content from March and April Fools’ Day, Helper is the clear winner. But there are still some other efforts that deserve daps.
Zulu Alpha Kilo: Website Launch
Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo got its April Fools’ game on early when it relaunched its website as a parody of everything you hate about agencies. It featured a founder’s video:
Ridiculous case studies:
And a pretty amusing buzzword generator:
Self-congratulatory agency site relaunches are the worst, but this one deserves applause.
Real-estate site Renthop used FEC campaign donation data to create an interactive map that shows the political leaning of every NYC-area zip code, lest you move to a neighborhood in Brooklyn where ironic Ted Cruz support has gotten out of hand. And the map is pretty fun to play around with—New York magazine even covered it in detail.
In my hood (the Lower East Side, or 10002), Hillary is out-raising Bernie handily, despite receiving just 39 percent of all donations. Given that the map reveals how few donations Donald Trump has received in his home city, it may get a lot more attention soon.
Netflix: John Stamos, Being
Netflix went deep on April Fools’ Day, almost completely revamping its brand to focus on John Stamos.
First, the company released a trailer for a John Stamos biopic: John Stamos, Being:
A VERY exciting new original documentary unlike any other. “John Stamos: A Human, Being” comes to Netflix April 31https://t.co/AhIVOF9xIj
— Netflix US (@netflix) April 1, 2016
Then, Netflix leaked cellphone footage of Stamos freaking out at its office:
Finally, the brand even revamped its algorithm recommendations to be Stamos-centric, with categories such as “Trending Now Like John Stamos,” “Comedies John Stamos Thinks Are Funny,” and “TV Dramas That Make John Stamos Feel Things He Hasn’t Felt in a Long Time.”
Ultimately, Netflix tapped into something that BuzzFeed has known for a long time: Millennials, for whatever reason, find it really funny when you obsess over John Stamos.
Black and Decker/Comedy Central: Hand Job: Portrait of an American Model
Comedy Central is following the BuzzFeed model and making funny shortform videos for brands. The early lineup of branded videos is impressive, but the most amazing part of the project is that the company somehow convinced Black and Decker to make a show called Hand Job.
The show is legitimately funny, and it’s a smart monetization strategy for the cable network.
But—and I can’t stress this enough—it is not a trap album supposedly released by an anthropomorphic oven mitt that promotes Hamburger Helper. If you wanted to know what a mic drop looks like when it comes from a brand, well, this is it: