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A complete history of corporate gags

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Yesterday VW committed the corporate crime of trying to be funny. It said it was changing its name to Voltswagen to mark its shift to electric vehicles.

April Fool!

As these things go, I’ve seen worse. But this stuff is partly why some of us look at large corporations with a mixture of frustration and fear.

The fear being that we might end up stuck inside them one day, wiping away tears of boredom hour after endless hour.

I asked colleagues: Can you think of an example of a big company making a good joke, ever?

The reply comes: Deliveroo managing to convince itself that it was worth £7.6 billion?

Indeed – very funny, but not intentional.

Some other entries, but we aren’t sure how many are deliberate:

Paddy Power once offered 100,000-1 on Pope John Paul II being the next signing at Glasgow Rangers – and then refunded punters when the pontiff picked up a niggle after slipping in the shower.

G4S guards once tagged a prisoner’s prosthetic leg (he skipped his curfew by detaching the limb), which was a rare example of a security guard displaying some wit.

We used to particularly enjoy the costume comedy of Euan Sutherland squeezing into company clobber when he was boss of Superdry – particularly that hilarious leather jacket he wore to lift staff morale during photoshoots.

Procter & Gamble claimed a few years ago that it was going to sell a bacon flavoured mouthwash. It aroused so much interest from people who wanted to buy it that they had to admit it was a spoof.

Toshiba once took out newspaper adverts claiming to have invented a left-handed keyboard.

But it is a largely barren field. Few publishers are queuing up for the rights to the tome: the world’s greatest corporate gags. Nor its pocketbook cousin: the world’s greatest German corporate gags.

Have a good Easter.

Staff who put their mental health first fared best in lockdown, says this survey from Tilney.

April is “Stress Awareness Month”, we read, and sorting out your personal finances would help.

It is good that we are taking this stuff seriously, I think.

See press release.

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