When we mention the term “Easter egg” in a digital environment (a website, game or app), we’re not talking about the plastic eggs with chocolate and other prizes inside. Instead, Easter eggs refer to a special type of content that is ‘hidden’ in various parts of a digital application.
For those with a trained eye, Easter eggs can generally be found by opening a website's source code. They may take the form of animations, images or functions. While these pieces of code are a chance for the guys behind the scenes to have some fun, they can also play a strong role in the branding and marketing strategy for companies.
Let’s take a look at how Easter eggs can specifically benefit your inbound marketing and retention strategies:
One way to incorporate Easter eggs is to utilize them to make common, mundane Internet tasks more enjoyable. Waiting pages, settings pages and situations in which customers have to fill out forms are all instances where fun Easter eggs are appreciated. A bit of humor or a clever page design in these situations will provide visitors with a better experience using your site.
Take 404 'page not found' error pages for example. Many websites don’t bother customizing 404 pages, instead showing users a lifeless—not to mention frustrating—error code. Landing on a 404 page is a quick way to disappoint visitor expectations and lose potential customers.
Easter eggs are popular for making 404 pages a less frustrating experience. Spicing these pages up with jokes, cool images and interesting content is a great strategy to turn a problem into a chance to engage potential customers.
For example, Blue Fountain Media turned its 404 page into a functional Pacman game. The number 404 was designed into the game’s map, which delivered the message while entertaining visitors.
If we look at this from a marketing psychology perspective, it’s easy to see the big picture. Blue Fountain is an Internet marketing agency with a fairly standard site structure. Most marketing agencies have a portfolio, list of services, case studies, etc. The general feel for the site is progressive, creative and professional, but this doesn’t really differentiate the company from competitors. Then we hit a 404 page and boom! We’ve just spent 10 minutes playing Pacman. This exemplifies Blue Fountain Media’s values and creativity and could potentially end up turning a visitor into a lead.
But 404 pages don’t have to be as high-tech as a custom Pacman game. That example just happens to mesh well with the industry of the company. Other industries, such as brick and mortar shops, may just need to customize an image:
This example comes from CJ Pony Parts where we immediately notice a thematic element: car parts/roads. A Pacman game would likely be too farfetched on a Mustang parts website. However, an HTML5 game of Speed Racer could be the next 404 upgrade for CJ Pony Parts.
It’s important to mention that 404s can be even simpler and serious to stress company values. Here’s a great example from Empire CAT:
This page features a high-resolution background image with a customized 404 box. In the box, we see a polite apology along with a list of core links. As a visitor, core links help us stay on track. 404s break the flow of our interactions and search intent, so core links act as a virtual Band-Aid, keeping the relationship (the visitor and the website) together.
It is often the case that Internet Easter eggs originate from web developers simply having some fun in the midst of their difficult and tedious jobs. The impact these Easter eggs can have is far greater than that of a typical office joke. Easter eggs serve as a communication tool with which organizations can express certain aspects of their brand image to customers.
The 404s on reddit are hyper-focused on branding. They feature artwork of the site mascot, an alien named Snoo. One of the ‘stickier’ aspects of the 404 pages on reddit is that they change every time we refresh the page. I’ve spent more time than I realized just hitting refresh over and over, admiring all the unique, stylized pieces. Here are a few more examples:
Another popular company that has utilized Easter eggs to convey its brand image is Google. Google programmers designed the web browser to physically spin on the screen every time users type the search query “do a barrel role.”
While this animation doesn’t have any tangible benefits for Google or web users, users tend to find it amusing, and it allows Google to portray itself as a light-hearted and clever organization.
Zappos has used a similar approach with its “falling kittens” mobile site animation.
Users who visit the Zappos site and physically shake their device will be greeted with an animation of kittens falling on the screen. This displays ingenuity on the part of Zappos web designers as they were able to take advantage of the functions commonly used on mobile devices. This animation gives people something positive to walk away with regardless of whether they made a purchase.
Easter eggs of this nature serve as valuable word of mouth tools for an organization’s marketing strategy. When people discover and draw amusement from your Easter eggs, they become potential ambassadors for your brand. These individuals will leave your site and share their unique experience on social channels and with friends.
This process gets people talking about your organization and its clever use of games and hidden content.
Allowing people to customize their user experience is another way to get people talking about your brand. Facebook has achieved this via its custom language options, such as “Pirate” lingo and “Upside-Down” text. This type of customization is just another way for Facebook to give people a unique and interesting user experience.
Features such as changing background colors or sporting unique profile awards are some the additional tactics websites use to improve user experience and increase time on site.
Easter eggs do not have to be limited to minor jokes and trivial animations. Coffee Cup is an example of one company that leveraged Easter eggs as a campaign to raise brand awareness and promote sales. Throughout the Coffee Cup site, different Easter eggs were hidden along with more than $20,000 in cash prizes to incentivize the virtual Easter egg hunt. This campaign led to increased sales for Coffee Cup while simultaneously increasing web traffic and encouraging people to learn more about the company.
The reality of digital Easter eggs is that people will spend more time on your site or app, will talk and share it with friends, and cement a brand image that resonates with a target audience. This is an effective inbound retention strategy with appealing long-term value.
Are you using digital Easter eggs in your inbound marketing strategy? Let us know how in the comments!
Jesse Aaron is a professional blogger with a passion for homebrewing. He writes on a variety of topics on his blog Mashbout. Follow Jesse on Google Plus.
Photo Credit: ollily