Easter eggs as an engagement tactic

In communications, we could use ‘easter eggs’ as a way to convey a second, almost hidden-in-plain-sight level something else besides the crux.

Puns are one example – the sentence could read in a normal way but the puns add a second context that makes sense and adds to the fun/engagement factor. For example, if I say, “We are primed for Amazon”, it means what it says, simply, and could also be a pun around Amazon Prime (whether intended or not, depends on who the reader reads it).

Brands have used such Easter Eggs to their advantage in assorted context. In product packaging, Paper Boat uses them well – noticed the text at the bottom of the pack? Yes, they do have text at the bottom of the pack!

Think about it – they do not need to think of or print anything there at all… after all, who is going to see the bottom of the pack and why?

But when someone discovers it (across multiple periods in time), it brings them some joy and a positive perception about the brand, and they spread the word. Such ‘words’ spread faster and more widely online, these days!

Here’s Zomato using the tactic in their mobile app.

One of my favorite attempts like this is in the Netflix series Ozark.

Now, TV series have something contextual to the show/episode in the beginning or end of the each episode. But even this requires conscious thought and effort – after all, given these are standard/same credits at the beginning or the end, they could make it just once and keep showing it for each episode as-is, isn’t it?

For instance, the police procedural crime drama Criminal Minds (than ran from 2005 to 2020, across 15 seasons) used to start and end with a quote from a famous personality, usually uttered by a character in the show.

Here are the 6 quotes from season 1, for example.

More such quotes from this series, here: Criminal Minds Wiki

More recently, I found some fantastic, thought-provoking quotes at the beginning of an outstanding TV show called Condor. This is one of the best spy thrillers that’s not available yet in India on OTT.

Each episode starts with the quote and then a few words are highlighted from it as the rest of the words fade into black, in a way to add context to explain the predominant sentiment/feeling in the episode.

Here are all the 20 quotes from the 2 seasons of Condor (10 episodes each).

Many of these quotes made me think a lot. I particularly loved the first one, by George Elliot. The loneliness caused by distrust is a visceral loneliness inside the mind! And this works perfectly for the highly exciting first episode where things happen so dramatically!

Ozark does it really well – instead of using quotes, it uses 4 images as a way to foreshadow something about the episode and showcases them in 4 quadrants of the O in Ozark in the title sequence! Not just that – those 4 objects are also drawn (by the show’s graphic designer Fred Davis) almost in the shape of Z, A, R and K!

Every episode has this, across 3 seasons!

Here are some samples and the explanation of what they mean (some spoiler alert) for the first 3 episodes of season 1.

If this interests you – find the full title sequence visuals and explanation here:
– Video collage of title sequences Season One | Two | Three
– Complete explanation of the title symbols

Much like Paper Boat, the question is, why do they do this at all? It’s just the title being shown and the O could be an empty O too – so, why bother?

The effect is similar to the easter eggs in products and apps – when someone identifies this, hiding in plain sight, and then deciphers that these are not 4 random objects… and connects it to something in the episode, episode after episode, not only does the person feel more engaged to the show but he/she also spreads the word.

And when you search online for ‘Ozark title symbols’, you find that tons of people have noticed this and are talking about it. Besides the naturally engaging show’s content, this adds to the aura of how smartly it is written.

The effort is not too much, in thinking up such easter eggs, but the fact that someone bothers to think about it once in the first place… that’s what matters. That attention to detail and the confidence that users, audiences and people would notice and appreciate that little nuance added… that matters in powering word-of-mouth!

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