After 10 full days since the Internet’s favorite holiday, April Fool’s, I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Just tell me which brand had the most successful prank video on YouTube so I can get on with my life here in the real world.” Ok fine, so you’re likely already sick of the parade of pranks unleashed online last week. Google alone had at least like 8 different pranks on display. Some voices in the media this year are even wondering whether the Internet has in fact , while others have simply become jaded by “basically recycling PR stunts” of the companies they cover.

Yet, the fact remains that brands have recognized April Fools as a yearly, can’t miss opportunity to grab people’s attention in a unique, humorous way. And so, perhaps we can look at the bright side, consider how both society and brands can benefit from a little sense of humor now and then, and recap which pranks delivered the most successful results on YouTube based on views, engagement, and fan power.

By using ZEFR tech to analyze and compare over 30 of the top brand April Fool’s videos on YouTube, we discovered a few key takeaways for brands and agencies already looking ahead to 4/1/2015.

Pranks Make Odd Bedfellows: Collaborations & Integrations

The most common thread you should recognize among some of the most successful pranks this year had to do with the mantra that two heads are better than one, as seen in the five partnerships/collaborations/integrations listed here:

  • Google and Nintendo
  • The Fine Bros and Friskies
  • Toms and Uber
  • Rosetta Stone and Nerdist
  • Virgin America and Nest

All of these brands recognized the value of combining their voices together to reach wider audiences, whether through a collaboration with another brand, or doing a brand integration deal with YouTube influencers/creators. While some earned less exposure than others, the overall trend speaks volumes about why brand integration and collaboration is crucial for the future of social marketing. It’s not enough to rely on your owned channels. Authentically integrating with other, outside channels is a must for brands looking to get in front of new, younger audiences.

April Fools Winner by Views on YouTube

If you measure success purely on the basis of views, than Google and Nintendo’s collaboration is the clear front runner for biggest April Fool’s brand video of 2014 with over 14 million views for their “Pokémon Challenge” video:

Side note: for those with good memories, you’ll recall that this isn’t the first collaboration between Google and Nintendo. For April Fool’s 2012, they brought us “Google Maps 8-bit for NES”:

April Fools Winner by Engagement on YouTube

It’s important to remember that views alone isn’t the only measure of success on YouTube. When it comes to optimizing fan engagement, in the form of likes and comments, YouTube creators The Fine Bros and Friskies run away with the top prize for their brilliant “Cats React to Viral Videos” prank:

Although they lost the views battle, The Fine Bros and Friskies beat out Google and Nintendo in the fan engagement column with over 187K likes and 27K comments on the “Cats React” video, compared with 104K likes and 24K comments for “Pokémon Challenge.”

How’d they do it? The answer likely comes from the fact that The Fine Bros’ channel has amassed close to 8 million subscribers. When compared to the 200,000 subscribers on the Google Maps channel, a wide gap appears in terms of which channel has the more engaged audience.

While it makes sense that an entertainment channel like The Fine Bros would have a more interested a fan base on YouTube than a cloud based map application’s channel, the lesson for brands is again brought home: working with YouTube creators can be the most authentic and engaging way to earn exposure. If you’re only thinking about your own channel, you’re missing the boat.

Empowering the Fans, and the Unexpected Overall Winner

If you want to measure the true success of YouTube’s prank, in which they announced that they have been behind all of the biggest viral videos ever, one video alone won’t tell the whole story.

But first, here is their “most watched” video from the campaign, announcing the prank to the world:

The 2 million plus views for this video aren’t too shabby, but where YouTube really succeeds here is by creating a piece of content that readily inspires fans to generate earned media around the entire campaign. YouTube themselves uploaded additional “new trends” specific videos, such as “Clocking,” “Kissing Dad,” and “Glub Glub.” When combining all of YouTube’s official videos, nine in total, the view count rises to almost 3.5 million views.

The story continues, though, once you look beyond YouTube’s official channel and follow the fans. And, as YouTube has shown, when you create fake new trends, fans will gladly create fake versions of their own. Here are two fan uploads from my fav new fake trend, Clocking:

And there’s plenty more examples of earned media where that came from, as a ZEFR search found more than 50 “Clocking” videos already, 30 “Kissing Dad” videos, and 120 “Glub Glub” videos, with more on their way, no doubt.

Which once again illustrates why a total approach to understanding YouTube needs to go beyond the channels of “owned media” that you happen to control. The fans are always part of the conversation, and ignoring them creates a blind spot in measuring your campaign’s effectiveness.

The Late Blooming, Surprise Winner, All Thanks to a Fan

The real over winner in views for April Fools 2014? Well, if you open up the competiion to fan uploaded earned media, then the trophy goes to…..

Aquinas College!!

Who? Why? Here’s why (headphones users, beware of loud volume at the start):

That brilliant little prank video, uploaded by an Aquinas College student on April 5th, 2014, already has well over 21 million views in just 5 days. Most importantly, check out the link in the video description box:


Thus, when’s webmaster notices a huge spike in traffic this week, he or she will have YouTube to thank. More specifically, the school can thank the power of the fan on YouTube for generating the kind of free, earned media exposure that most brands would love to have.

Ultimately, it serves as a reminder that no matter how carefully coordinated or creative a brand tries to be with their April Fool’s PR stunts, the fans on YouTube will get the last laugh.