This week marks the celebration of three major religious holidays: Easter, Passover, and Ramadan. But only one of these holidays lends its name to hidden secrets within video games, movies, and software. I am talking, of course, about the mysterious Easter egg.
What is an Easter Egg?
Digital Easter eggs trace their roots back nearly 50 years, when in 1976 an Atari game designer hid a secret design credit within the game Adventure; players had to enter a secret “room” and perform a series of steps that ended in crossing a single pixel to view the message. Video games have featured hidden Easter eggs ever since.
Today, Easter eggs, so named because of the requisite hunt for them, appear in many places – if you just know where to look:
- Google is known to have hidden dozens of Easter eggs in its search results
- Tesla hid multiple Easter eggs in its software before making them intentionally accessible
- Pixar hides Easter eggs in pretty much every one of its movies, often repeating jokes or making references especially for die-hard fans. (Many other movies do the same, but Pixar is particularly revered for its consistency.)
Easter Eggs in Pinball
I remember when I discovered a fun Easter egg in one of the pinball machines that I own, WHO dunnit? by Bally. I couldn’t wait to tell my kids about it, so I actually woke them up – at midnight.
“Midnight Madness” is a secret mode which only occurs if a game is started or played at midnight. In the middle of playing, the lights go out, the flippers go dead, and the player loses any balls in play. Just when it seems like the game is broken, the screen flashes “MIDNIGHT MADNESS” and plays 12 gongs like on a grandfather clock.
Suddenly, all four balls launch, and every shot on the table is worth three million points for as long as you can keep at least two balls in play. On the display screen, words like “BOOM,” “BLAM,” and “DOH!” appear every time something is hit (which is quite often with four balls in play), in a font reminiscent of the original Batman TV show.
When it’s over, the player is exhausted, fulfilled, and probably setting an alarm for the following midnight to try it again.
Another secret mode in the same game is called “3-D Mode,” and this one is activated by a long series flipper combinations in a precise order. It changes the display to 3-D so the game can be played with 3-D glasses.
Easter Eggs in Customer Experience
So what’s the point of these Easter eggs, and what do they have to do with customer experience?
These secret-yet-memorable experiences create loyal fans who feel like they are “in the know” or members of a special “club” – in other words, they feel special. And isn’t that what great customer experience is all about?
You don’t need to be in the movie, video game, or software industry to employ Easter eggs. Fun little surprises can be hidden anywhere in your customer experience too. For example:
- Squaremouth, a travel insurance company, hid a $10,000 prize in its insurance policies to raise awareness about the importance of actually reading legal documents before you sign them.
- Amazon features real pictures of employee’s dogs, as well as a link to “Meet the dogs of Amazon,” on any page reached in error. (This is referred to as a “404” error page, and many other sites have fun with theirs as well, including this one.)
- Easter eggs can be hidden in menus, welcome letters, websites, mobile apps, contracts, invoices, login screens, legal disclaimers, landing pages, on physical signage, in restrooms, in out of office messages, on receipts, while waiting on hold, and so much more. Use your imagination!
Whatever holiday you may be celebrating this week, remember that Easter eggs can be enjoyed by your customers all year long.