Along my block, the small white buds of the pear blossoms push out to reach the sunshine.
I’m writing on Easter Sunday, a holiday celebrated with eggs since the 1200s.
From my wrought iron baker’s rack bookshelf, a hand decorated egg in red and black egg hangs from a red ribbon. I bought it when I studied writing in Prague.
Table of Contents | Volume 11, Issue 15
In digital terms, an Easter egg refers to something special such as a feature or message concealed in a software program or computer game that a user finds unexpectedly.
What Digital Easter Eggs Mean For Marketers
Warren Robinett created and hid the first digital Easter egg in the 1979 Atari VCS 2600 Adventure game in a one-pixel gray dot on a gray background. It read “Created by Warren Robinett”.
Why did Robinett do it?
Because Atari didn’t give video-game designers credit for their work.
To inspire their game designers In 1979, Atari’s marketing department distributed 1978’s list of top-selling games with each one’s sales. These games made roughly $100 million in sales (or $420 million in today’s dollars.)
Since individual designers created specific games, they realized that their work drove significant revenues. As a reward, they earned merely $16,000 to $25,000 (or $67,000 to $105,000 in current dollars.) So the memo had the opposite effect. The designers realized that Atari undervalued them in terms of compensation, royalties and public recognition.
While creating the game “Adventure,” Robinett discovered he could insert his name into any of the game’s rooms. He didn’t tell anyone about doing this and it wasn’t discovered during testing. So Atari shipped thousands of copies of the game where Robinett’s signature could be unlocked by any player.
In Robinett’s words, “They took away my royalty, but I tricked them into publicizing my name.”
Instead of acting like Atari:
In August 1980, a teenage gamer named Adam Clayton discovered Robinett’s Easter egg and wrote to Atari’s consumer service department asking them to explain it.
Customer service had no idea what Clayton was talking about!
When I worked at Bertelsmann, the senior staff received a selection of customer correspondence every month so we could understand what customers’ questions. On multiple occasions, marketing found out about issues like Atari’s through these letters.
Actionable Marketing Tip
- Routinely review customer service calls and inquiries to ensure that you haven’t created a problem without realizing it. Empower your head of customer service to contact a senior member of management to fix any significant problem quickly before it becomes a bigger problem.
Having been underpaid multiple times during my career, I love how Robinett got his revenge on Atari. If I had been in their marketing department, I’d recommend creating a more elaborate story to entice future gamers to look for hidden Easter eggs in the future to make them in to a feature.
As a marketer, ask yourself,
“What Easter Eggs do you hide in your marketing to engage your audience and make them want to find out more?”
Marketing Lesson of The Week
► Watch Out – Gen Z Comes Of Age
This past week has been stuffed like one of my mother’s oversized matzoh balls with more attention-grabbing news than usual. While it’s our policy to steer clear of political news, I’m discussing the shooting in Nashville and related activity since they show Generation Z’s path forward in the US and beyond.
The words of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy spoken 55 years ago after the shooting death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr bears an eerie resemblance to our current environment.
“… we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”
To-date in 2023, there have been at least 146 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in the US. The US averages at least one mass shooting per day.
Every one of these lives lost to these deadly guns matters and our rules should protect children attending school. These guns aren’t used to protect someone’s home or livestock on a ranch. They kill real people. I know this first hand since a friend of mine’s father was shot by an illegally purchased gun.
On March 27th, shooter Audrey E. Hale, a former student of the Covenant School in Nashville who was being treated for an emotional disorder, killed 6 people, both adults and children.
On March 30th, the Tennessee House proceedings stopped when Representatives Jones, Pearson and Johnson, from districts in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis, started chanting “No action, no peace” on the House floor.
On April 5th, students, parents and teachers marched on the Tennessee state government in Nashville for rational gun control, an issue the majority of the state supports. The peaceful protesters included people across generations and cultures. It wasn’t just Gen Z college students. It was families including mothers.
More than empty words amplified on cable and online media, these events involved ordinary people, especially Gen Z students, getting out of the comfort of their homes and from behind their various screens to act. These actions involved lots of people. It made a difference since they acted on the issues that mattered to them.
While the Tennessee representatives aimed to quash the voices of these two elected men, they did the opposite. They made these men into heroes known far beyond Nashville, Tennessee.
Clouded by their desire to silence these men and the people they represent, they created a story that went viral around the world gaining power over time.
For example, President Biden reached out and spoke with the 2 representatives.
Beyond the Tennessee state government, these 2 representatives were elevated by the people who sought to quash their voices. From a marketing perspective, this translates to taking care in how you choose to accomplish your business objectives since they can backfire like woke-washing.
More importantly, recognize that Generation Z is starting to make its voice heard across a wide array of key social, economic and environmental issues. As a marketer, consider how your actions will be interpreted by this new key demographic.
Actionable Marketing Lesson
- Assess the influencers your brand wants to support. Think beyond the people who you want to represent you and consider the people you don’t want to shine a light on. In this case, these men grew in stature due to their opponents.
► NFP Content Grabs Attention
This past week, ProPublica, a donor-financed news organization, broke a story that every news entity across the US raced to cover. They reported on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s unreported use of Dallas businessman Harlan Crow’s private Bombardier Global 5000 jet, super yacht and other vacation perks for over 20 years.
As a public servant receiving a salary of $285,000, Thomas never disclosed any financials related to gifts from Crow. The breadth and regularity of gifts Thomas received are unprecedented in the history of the US Supreme Court. Specifically:
“Thomas’s failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said. He also should have disclosed his trips on the yacht…”
As this Instagram shot shows Thomas didn’t hide from the camera or public social media!
What makes ProPublica stand out as a content source beyond being donation financed?
It uniquely reports public interest stories that other entities don’t or can’t.
These stories get overlooked by major news outlets since they require lengthy investigations. Instead, the current media environment serves rehashed information reported by other entities and discusses key “issues with experts.” At the same time, newspapers face dwindling readership and funds to report their own local news.
Trust in news organizations has declined since the public increasingly turns to shows and outlets that reflect their point of view.
► Keep Fueling Your Content’s Stardom With Distribution Fuel
ProPublica published “Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire” on April 6, 2023, and updated it on April 7th. Like an unwanted guest at a party, instead of leaving quietly, it continued attracting more and more attention from the public, other media entities and the government.
This bombshell story continues to attract attention extending its life on ProPublica and beyond. Also, it’s gained earned media across platforms for ProPublica.
Why does this matter to you?
Because you must earn your audience and their trust!
The big marketing win:
When this story broke, ProPublica used it as the centerpiece of a request for donations.
This excerpt from the first reader donation request was included in the second email. It had 2 “Donate to ProPublica” buttons.
“We have the time and the resources to dig into the behavior of people who hold the highest government offices because we’re reader-supported. Tens of thousands of readers donate to ProPublica each year to ensure that we continue to have the freedom and resources we need to keep at this for as long as it takes.
ProPublica sent another email including the first one.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Make your audience communications worth their time. ProPublica’s President, Robin Sparkman spotlights the important news for readers before asking for money.
- Use more than one call-to-action (CTA). Don’t assume that readers will see the first CTA you place. Instead, place different requests in different formats to attract more responses.
► ProPublica’s Mission
ProPublica’s objective is to protect independent journalism by holding people in power to account and to produce real change.
“[Specifically,] ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded in 2008 to fill a growing hole in journalism: Newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models are failing.”
ProPublica goes further. At the bottom of each article, they post their mission and ask readers to donate to support their independent and deep investigative reporting that many news organizations can no longer afford to produce. Even better, they back up their claim with 6 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism.
Actionable Marketing Tip
- Be prepared to take advantage when a marketing opportunity presents itself. Don’t limit it to one single emailing. Spread your promotion distribution over different platforms and times especially when the story continues to gain attention like this one.
Lately, it seems like almost every article is about AI in some form. Often, these pieces throw around big words, probably created by some form of artificial intelligence so you can’t tell whether they’re true or not.
So are you ready to get up to speed with artificial intelligence?
Then read these 2 books by some of my favorite marketing smarties:
► Marketing Artificial Intelligence: AI, Marketing and the Future of Business by Paul Roetzer with Mike Kaput
► AI For Marketers: An Introduction and Primer, 2nd Edition by Christopher S. Penn
100+ Free Blog Post Title Ideas To Inspire Not Tax You
Plan Ahead: Mark Your Calendar
► Project Voice 2023 – April 24 – 28 in Chattanooga, TN
The number 1 event for Conversational AI / Voice tech in America
► Creator Economy Expo – May 1-3 in Cleveland, OH
If you run a content-first business this is the event to attend!
Use the code AMG100 to get $100 off any pass. I’ll be there along with Jesse Cole (Savannah Bananas), Joe Pulizzi, and other inspiring creators.
► CX Connect – June 13–15, Online via Zoom
► The Conversation Design Conference – July 24th – 25th in London, UK
bringing together the leading thinkers and doers in Conversation Design.
Organized by VUX World.
► Marketing AI Conference – July 26 – 28 in Cleveland, OH
► Voice and AI – September 5th to 7th in Washington, DC
► Content Marketing World 2023 – September 26 – 28 in Washington, DC
► MarketingProfs B2B Forum – October 4 – 6 in Boston, MA
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P.S.: Want Heidi Cohen to contribute a quote or other commentary to your next article, presentation, video, research, or book? Then hit reply to this email and ask.