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Tell the truth: Did you even blink an eye when you noticed David Hasselhoff photobombing your Google+ photos earlier this week? While Google's April Fool's stunt may have made a few people smile, it certainly wasn't a surprise. The online search giant has become known for pulling pranks on the first of April, and it's not alone.

It seemed every company in creation tried to get in on the fun this year, from British amusement parks offering rides for dogs to Virgin's SmartKicks, a take on the recent introduction of smartwatches and smartglasses.

Weird-but-true news also made a triumphant appearance this year, with stories about Willie Nelson's stuffed on-stage armadillo being kidnapped and returned, and a supposed candidate for the Holy Grail having been found in Spain.

But when a marketing event becomes this saturated, is it really effective anymore? No. The truth is that the sheer volume of April Fool's Day pranks this year diluted the whole concept of the day. Like the Fonz on the infamous episode of "Happy Days," this marketing idea has jumped the shark.

Back When it Worked

Companies have been playing pranks on consumers on April Fool's Day for more than a century. All the way back in 1887, a New York newspaper claimed Thomas Edison, the big name in innovation at the time, had invented a machine that turned water into wine. But those pranks were much more effective before the rise of social media.

A company could keep its buzz alive for days as people speculated over whether the prank was really true, instead of simply hopping on Twitter to find out if it was a hoax. In fact, the truly great pranks, like "Talk of the Nation's" 1992 April Fool's joke claiming that Richard Nixon was jumping into that year's presidential race, actually enraged people to the point where they were calling into the talk show crying.

Less Effective, Less Buzz

These days it's hard to imagine consumers ever being caught so off guard. In the days before April 1, there's tons of speculation of what the pranks will be and which ones will be the funniest. That means people are expecting them. Well, it's the same way for pranks. When you can see them coming from a mile away, they lose their shock value.

And when they lose their shock value, fewer people talk about them. There were so many April Fool's Day jokes in 2014, it was hard to keep up with them all. Plus, some companies only made a half-hearted attempt to pull off a joke. Skittles, for instance, tweeted out a picture of a product it called Glow in the Dark Skittles, but it did nothing else to promote the stunt.

The Bottom Line

If you're not going to fully commit to a marketing tactic, then don't try it, especially on a day that's become as crowded for attention as April Fool's Day. Next year perhaps it would be more interesting to see a company pull the ultimate April Fool's prank: Announcing a real initiative on April 1. Now that would get people talking.

Author Bio 
Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer. You can see more of her work by following @adrienneerin on Twitter.

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