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Who’s the Fool?

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Today is one of my favorite days. April Fools Day. It allows us to dream big, take risks and believe that anything is possible.

When I was the CMO of Kodak, I was known as a prankster. I introduced the eyeCamera 4.1 and “Aromatography”. The eyeCamera offered such features as a facial recall assistant (eliminated that awkward thought… who are you?) and selective auto-focus and zoom to name a few. Aromatography, on the other hand, allowed you to smell your photos online. Neither one of these were real products. But, we sure got a lot of buzz, and, what’s more fun than using your imagination and coming up with something outlandish?

One of my all time favorite pranks was back in 1996 when Taco Bell purchased a full-page advertisement in the New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to reduce the country’s debt and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell.

You can only imagine the outrage the National Historic Park in Philadelphia received. People were up in arms about how the United States could sell such an iconic part of American history.

In the end, Taco Bell announced that it was just a hoax. Mike McCurry, the White House Press Secretary at the time joked that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and it was now called the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

The bigger question here is why do companies such as Kodak or Taco Bell come up with such outlandish ideas? It’s all about gaining publicity for the company. It’s hard to put a value on the press coverage Taco Bell received for their April Fools gag. But, I know this. It was 100 times more than the price they paid for the advertisement in the New York Times.

Since Taco Bell came up with this stint in 1996 we have had a number of major technological advancements. Facebook was launched in 2004 as a way to help college students socialize and in 2006 Twitter was launched. Just think about the buzz and all of the 140 character messages.

To see a complete history of social networking, PeopleBrowsr, the high-tech social analytics and engagement company, released a visualized timeline of the History of Social Networking.

I myself have been working on a major technology advancement. The clone app. When I figure out how to get my cowboy boots to face the right way I will be ready to launch.

So, today, as you communicate with your friends and colleagues via Facebook or Twitter, keep your eyes open and see if you can determine hoax versus reality.

 

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