Unwrapping the Easter egg effect: How and why to surprise, delight, and bond with your community
This post originally appeared in Fast Company.
When executed authentically, Easter eggs can add a touch of magic to your marketing campaigns, creating memorable and meaningful interactions with your audience.
If you thought Easter eggs were reserved exclusively for the likes of Marvel and Atari, think again.
In marketing, finding innovative ways to connect with your community and stand out from the competition is essential. One strategy that has gained momentum in recent years is incorporating Easter eggs into the branding and marketing world.
An Easter egg is a hidden message, feature, or reference within content or a product that requires a keen eye or insider knowledge to discover. They can take many forms, from subtle references to pop culture to interactive elements hidden within a website. The concept originates from video games, where developers often hide secret items or levels for players to uncover.
So, what makes Easter eggs such a powerful tool in marketing?
More Than Just Chocolate: Tuning Into Your Community
I recently came across Burger King’s “We Give Up” campaign, which nods to the Home of the Whopper’s best seller: the Chicken Royale sandwich. You read that right. Despite consistent efforts to promote the signature beef Whopper, customers still prefer the chicken-based alternative.
In one of their campaign photos, a young man bites into his Chicken Royale at the bus stop. Easter egg connoisseurs quickly noticed a hamburger-shaped bus route titled Route 54, a nod to the year Burger King was founded.
Incorporating Easter eggs into your branding and marketing materials signals that you are in tune with your community. It shows that you understand your audience’s interests, values, or, in this case, their purchasing patterns. When a brand integrates references or jokes that resonate with its target demographic, it creates a sense of connection and relatability.
Surprising and Delighting Your Customers
In an age where information is readily accessible and the internet offers few secrets, Easter eggs provide a refreshing change of pace. When consumers come across these hidden treasures, it triggers a sense of discovery and excitement. Take tech giant Google, for example. Renowned for its playful Easter eggs, there’s an entire list of active search queries that are sure to surprise and delight users.
Some include the T-rex game appearing on the no Internet connection error page and searching for “askew” in the Google search bar. These playful surprises add a touch of whimsy to the user experience, turning a mundane error screen or search into a moment of delight.
Building Stronger Community Bonds
Beyond delighting individual customers, Easter eggs can bond an entire community together. When fans of a brand or product discover hidden references or messages, it creates a shared experience and fosters a sense of belonging. This shared knowledge becomes a talking point among community members, fueling discussions, debates, and competitions to find the most elusive Easter eggs.
Video game communities are particularly adept at building bonds through Easter eggs. Developers often leave obscure clues and puzzles hidden within their games, challenging players to collaborate and share their discoveries online. One of the earliest examples of a video game Easter egg is Adventure by Atari.
The story goes that one developer secretly programmed a hidden room in the game with his name since Atari did not want to publicize their names. More than a year later, a teenage player stumbled upon the secret, kickstarting a community of gamers searching for other Easter eggs in the game.
How to Implement Your Own Easter Eggs
While Easter eggs are a fantastic addition to any marketing strategy, it’s important to use them authentically. Here are some guidelines to ensure that Easter eggs enhance rather than distract from your branding efforts:
1. Keep it Relevant
Ensure that your Easter eggs make sense within the context of your content or product. Don’t force references that feel out of place. One example of a relevant Easter egg is Jeep’s designs of animals carved or painted on their cars, like this gecko below the windscreen.
2. Keep it Fun
The nature of Easter eggs is meant to be fun, so get creative and keep it light! For example, when we revamped the 5andVine website this summer, I couldn’t help but add our own Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind-type Easter egg to the 404 error page.
3. Maintain Consistency
Easter eggs should complement your brand’s identity and messaging. Avoid conflicting or confusing messages. When Arnold Schwarzenegger shared this photo in January 2022, fans assumed it was promoting his latest project. The poster turned out to be an Easter egg promoting BMW’s new line of electric cars and one entertaining Super Bowl commercial.
4. Encourage Sharing
Create Easter eggs that encourage users to share their discoveries with others. Social sharing can amplify the impact of your hidden treasures. I love Cadbury’s Worldwide Hide campaign, which invites people to hide digital purple eggs via Google Street View. If found, the hider can choose to send a real chocolate egg straight to the seeker’s home.
When executed thoughtfully and authentically, Easter eggs can add a touch of magic to your marketing campaigns, creating memorable and meaningful interactions with your audience. So, as you embark on your marketing journey, consider adding a few Easter eggs along the way—they might just be the hidden key to unlocking your brand’s full potential.