Over the last decade or so, I’ve changed the way I interpret the words “Easter Egg”. Nine times out of ten today, the two words no longer conjure chocolaty sweets given away by a rabbit. They do however make me want to take a closer look at the product or service that’s using or associating with the words. And if I’m aware of the product or service in question, I’ll definitely jump in to the egg-hunt, and eagerly lap up all the content, theories, and references that make up the Easter Egg.
The latest example of this is the promotional campaign for rapper Eminem’s new music album, ‘Revival’. Now, the record company (Interscope) could have used several ideas to promote the album, starting with Eminem himself. After all, with eight number-one albums under his belt, Eminem is one of the biggest names in hip-hop today, and tends to create buzz with anything he does or says in the public eye. Interscope could have re-hashed the candy pills and fictional rehab center that made up the promotional tactics for ‘Relapse’, the rapper’s album from 2009. The company could have taken a page out of Taylor Swift’s book and posted cyphers on Instagram, or channeled their inner Rihanna to create a haunted-house app, or go the Beyonce way to present the entire album as a “watchable” experience.
Interscope, however, gave the world this:
This ad was released online in late September 2017, and on television in the United States of America. It was also coupled with outdoor advertising, and a richly-detailed website. On the face of it, the campaign appeared to be pretty much paint-by-numbers advertising for a pharmaceutical product, ‘Revival’. However, any discerning viewer would know something was up. Especially if they were fans of the rapper, given the slew of easter eggs in the communication.
Revival aimed to cure ‘Atrox Rithimus’, Latin for ‘atrocious rhyme’. There was also the in-your-face backwards ‘E’ in the brand name, and several allusions to popular Eminem tracks. And of course, the medical name for the fictional drug, ‘Canticum Remedium’, that translates as ‘The Song Cure’.
Within a few weeks, fans were lapping up the communication and spending their time connecting the dots. And around two months in to the campaign, they were rewarded with this:
Those who undertook the Easter Egg hunt received their validation. And though a mainstream promotional campaign broke shortly afterwards, the fictional pharma product narrative continued to serve as buzz-generating fodder.
So, what can one learn from this? I’m no expert, but a dipstick survey of my friends tells me that Easter Eggs (the non edible, largely media-centric ones) are heartily consumed by fans of the product or service. Maybe the behaviour stems from the need to be an insider, or rather, a smart fan. The need to be someone who knows how things are being peddled, or rather, marketed. The need to understand the process and references that any creator uses in the creation process. Or, frankly, the need to keep up with the water-cooler conversations and trivial knowledge that every “true” fan should definitely know.
Do Easter Eggs translate to sales? That’s a tricky question that I think, can only be answered by every individual’s economic condition. But what’s seemingly clear is the fact that Easter Eggs do build up engagement, and can definitely be used as a means to cultivate a deeper connection between a product or service with its audience. And in this context, Easter Eggs remain a tasty treat, albeit, without the calories.