Did you know that while waiting for your YouTube video to load, you can play the game Snake? Try going to Google Search and typing "do a barrel roll."
What about all those hidden treats in DVDs, where going to a specific menu and hitting the right keys or selecting certain choices in a particular order reveals some nifty hidden content?
These are all examples of easter eggs, hidden treats that delight when found...but finding them is half the fun. Easter eggs are usually just that, treats, but can they be used for greater marketing good?
Easter eggs were originally just little unused tidbits that developers snuck in simply because they could. Sometimes these tidbits were random bits of content that didn't get used anywhere else, but not worth completely discarding either. Sometimes the tidbits were just little inside jokes, not really meant for the general public. But news of these tidbits did get out, and people quickly took to searching for these "Easter eggs" for themselves, just to see if they were true.
Now Easter eggs are widely known to exist, much like stingers after the movie credits have finished rolling (an Easter egg in and of themselves). It's just a matter of knowing where the Easter eggs are purported to exist, and what methods are necessary to uncover them.
Easter eggs have become endeared by consumers. Everybody loves a little bit of a scavenger hunt. It's something to do besides just watch the movie, or browse the website. It's an activity, something they can perform, not just passive viewing. It's a prime way to provide engagement, and in the best flavor of engagement: a game.
An easter egg forms a bond between the content producer/developer and the viewer. Finding these hidden treasures is like being a part of an inside joke, one that only a select number of individuals are aware of and can partake of. It forms a connection between the finder and other finders. It also forms a bond between those finders and the content developer.
These unorthodox gems are an indication that the content producer likes setting up these little games, something that dispels the belief of the "sterile professional." It makes the studio that made the DVD, or the company that made the website, that much more approachable. That much more friendly. More human.
So why are these easter eggs important? Because they are a display of your company letting its hair down. Proof that your studio isn't just a corporate entity, but filled with people too. It endears your company to the viewer. And whatever progress that goes towards making your organization seem more like a friend and less like a merchant is good, because people typically stick with their friends.
That endearment can be enough to persuade somebody to purchase from your brand, to form that loyalty that makes them keep coming back or stick around. Everything, from a competitor to forcibly raising your prices, are reasons for a consumer to leave. But if the impression that your company is fun, creative, and friendly exists, there is just that much more inertia to the consumers potentially jumping ship.
Google has their hands in everything. They have enough data to form increasingly accurate profiles of its users. They don't need to breach privacy restrictions when they already know enough about you. They border on monopoly by squeezing out other, smaller for-profit services with their free utilities. Google makes billions off its ads, something consumers normally abhor.
And yet, why do people still like Google? Because they're fun, they're funny, and they're full of treats. Google Doodles and easter eggs have gone far in building an impressive loyal user-base just as much as their free services.
For the amount of time and resources towards making a simple little easter egg, you're more apt to get the return of loyal customers in the long-run. Customers who are willing to keep buying from you, just because of this bond. And that's worth all the marketing budgets in the world.
Easter eggs are made by people, for people. They are like that sly, knowing wink, conveying that if you take this off-beaten track you'll find something wonderful. These hidden features and content are candy, and people love candy. They're willing to go hunting for it, even diving into the dirt for it.
Again, why? Because a friend told us it was there. And when we do find something delightful, we're more apt to believe that friend when they say there's more. And because we can then be sure our friend has a candy-filled game set up for us, we listen when they speak.
What are some of your favorite easter eggs? Do you ever prefer one company's easter eggs over another's? Or have you even signed up for a service or purchased something just because you heard their easter eggs were that good? Say so in the comments.
By the way, here's a list of Google's April Fools' jokes and easter eggs. Don't forget to check tomorrow for this year's hoaxes!