April 1, 2008, 12:00 AM

Traffic peaks at ThinkGeek this April Fool’s Day—no joke

When it comes to boosting traffic, e-retailer ThinkGeek.com isn’t afraid to use every trick in the book—joke book that is.

When it comes to boosting traffic, e-retailer ThinkGeek.com isn’t afraid to use every trick in the book-joke book that is. The online retailer, which sells toys, games and novelty products, adds a selection of fake gag gifts to its web site every April Fool’s Day, and the tradition has established quite a following. ThinkGeek says traffic to its site has spiked every April 1 since the tradition began in 2001.

“We really started to do it just for fun,” says Jennifer Frazier, co-founder, design and user interface manager for ThinkGeek. “We had no real intentions of causing any kind of buzz.”


But the program did create buzz. Traffic at ThinkGeek increased 700% between March 31st and April 1st this year, Frazier says. And, she adds, each year brings more curious pranksters to the site. The last few years, traffic on April Fool’s day has been about twice as high as it is during the busiest day of the holiday season.


Part of that traffic may stem from the YouTube videos ThinkGeek began creating last year to accompany the mock products. In 2007, the e-retailer created one video for its Wii Helm, a Wii controller built into a helmet to allow a consumer to use his head to control the Nintendo video game console. The video has been viewed 443,000 times.

This year, ThinkGeek made videos for three of its products. Frazier says it’s difficult to track the videos’ impact because there is not a direct link from YouTube to the ThinkGeek site, but, at a minimum, she says they boost brand awareness. The company also is getting more mentions on blogs and forums because of its April Fool’s tradition, ThinkGeek says. However, Frazier says ThinkGeek has not seen a noticiable increase in sales from the program.

Employees brainstorm all year on unique, quirky gifts and then meet for a brainstorming session a couple months before the launch. This year’s lineup includes the hyper-caffeinated Captain Buzz`s Spazztroids breakfast cereal, complete with a healthy 180-milligram dose of caffeine per bowl; the Personal Soundtrack T-Shirt, offering the perfect dramatic melody to accompany each daily personal experience; and the Betamax to HD-DVD Converter, so a consumer can transfer all those old Betamax tapes in that box from his parent`s basement to high-definition DVDs.

Everything on the company’s home page today is fake, except a $20 T-Shirt. When a consumer attempts to place a mock item in the cart, she gets a message that the item is not for sale. Mock items will stay on the ThinkGeek homepage for a few days and then be archived so latecomers can still have a chuckle.


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