Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell
On the morning of April 1, 1996, an ad appeared in The New York Times with a headline that read: "Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell." The ad copy explained that US fast food outlet, Taco Bell was "pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country's most historic treasures.
It will now be called the 'Taco Liberty Bell' and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country's debt." It sounded logical, if distasteful. In another press release, Taco Bell helpfully explained that people had been "adopting" highways for years and that purchasing a national treasure was just a way of furthering that idea.
What happened next:
Thousands of people called in their complaints to the home of the Liberty Bell, the National Historic Park in Philadelphia, but by noon, Taco Bell admitted what many people suspected, since the day was, after all, April 1. The Taco Bell ad was an April Fool's joke, and the media and public ate it up (no pun intended). More than 650 print media outlets and 400 broadcast outlets covered the prank, reaching more than 70 million Americans, according to Taco Bell's marketing department.
The company's revenue increased by $500,000 that day, and by $600,000 more the following day, compared to the previous week's sales. Even then-White House spokesperson Mike McCurry, when asked about the Taco Liberty Bell, got inspired to reveal that the Lincoln Memorial had been sold and would from now on be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
It can pay to have a sense of humour about your business.
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