Internet hoaxes have become a way for brands to obtain attention and notoriety, either intentionally or not. Perhaps the influx in brand hoaxes as of late have been in response to the real Twitter hacks of Burger King and Jeep, which spawned spikes in followers and a stream of media attention. The Burger King hack, for example, gained the fast food chain 30,000 new followers on Twitter.
Some of the best hoaxes of 2013 weren’t even pulled by the brands themselves, but the brands benefited from the attention regardless. Here are five of the best brand hoaxes pulled off this year.
Shortly after Burger King and Jeep experienced real hackings on their Twitter accounts, cable networks MTV and BET thought they would give followers a hack of their own. Their "hacks" were actually marketing stunts. The channels — both owned by Viacom, which should have been the first clue as to the phony nature of the hackings — sent out weird tweets and switched logos on their Twitter profiles, mimicking the Burger King and Jeep incidents.
It’s speculative, but the channels likely saw what serious attention the hacks brought to Burger King and Jeep and thought it could be a funny marketing stunt. Some followers didn’t find the hoax so amusing, but the negative repurcussions from the stunt were minimal.
We totally Catfish-ed you guys. Thanks for playing! <3 you, @BET. ;)— MTV (@MTV) February 19, 2013
The next hoax on our list comes not from the brand itself, but from Internet prankster Jamie Jones. Jones posted this photo of a letter from WeBuyAnyCar.com, a used car buying service.
Jones created a letter resembling an official response from the company, in which it declined to purchase a red and yellow toy car. He then posted the photo on Twitter and the letter quickly went viral with over 33,000 retweets and 15,000 favorites on Jones' account alone. WeBuyAnyCar.com enjoyed the attention they received from the Twitter explosion and had fun with the fodder. Rolling along with the hoax proved to be a good thing for the brand.
We Buy Any Car wrote back to me. pic.twitter.com/TPYuyXcHrq— Jamie Jones (@JamieDMJ) September 28, 2013
The popularity of the fake WeBuyAnyCar.com letter appeared to spawn some copycats. A photo of a letter that seemed to be from customer service at pen manufacturer Bic made the front page of Reddit earlier this month. The realistic looking letter appeared to respond to a Mr. Harrison, who had a problem with a Bic pen that would only draw male genitalia. Jamie Jones, the author of the WeBuyAnyCar.com letter, denies involvement in the Bic letter. So far, no one has stepped forward to claim the prank.
Bic wasn’t as amused as WeBuyAnyCar.com about the letter, but of course, the used car buying service’s letter was much more innocent. A brand rep told Digiday, “This letter is by no means an official document, this is just a forged document used for humoristic purposes by Internet users.” That rep said they were taking the necessary steps to make clear the letter was a hoax and potentially ask that it be taken down.
The Reddit thread still exists, but the photo has been removed. Even if the attention is wrapped up with male body parts, making the front page of Reddit is exposure a lot of brands would die for.
It should have been obvious that when Scope announced they were launching a bacon-flavored mouthwash so close to April Fool's Day that it was a prank, but so many people wanted to believe. The brand even developed a tempting commercial that had many YouTube viewers wondering if it really existed.
To further flesh out the hoax, Scope even developed a mini-site devoted to Scope Bacon, the name selected by the brand for the new product. To bacon lovers' dismay, Scope quickly revealed that Scope Bacon was an April Fool’s prank, but the mini-site remains for those fans who want to reminisce about what could have been.
A drawn out and quickly escalating Twitter conversation between comedian Kyle Kinane and what appeared to be an auto-responding Twitter account from salsa brand Pace Picante quickly took the Internet by storm. In fact, Marketing Dive even fell for the ruse. The exchange started when Kinane noticed that the Pace Twitter handle had favorited a 10-month-old tweet making fun of the salsa brand. Kinane started rapidly tweeting about Pace to get a response out of what seemed to be an auto-responding bot. Eventually, the conversation moved to direct messaging and escalated quickly to an alleged employee lashing out against Pace.
Soon after publications started running the story, Kinane revealed the whole thing had been a prank on him by fellow comedian Randy Liedtke. Pace owner Cambell’s Soup Co. spoke out on Twitter saying that Pace never had a Twitter handle to begin with, but they wished Miles, the fake employee involved in the direct messages, luck. A good sense of humor is certainly the best way for a brand to handle such hoaxes.
@rossluippold Pace Foods does not have a twitter handle and the account was not authorized. We wish Miles luck though!— Campbell Soup Co (@CampbellSoupCo) December 2, 2013
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