Over at Seth’s blog today, he writes about Easter Eggs. Not like the bunny brings, but the kind that software and games programmers hide in their products. They are little things like images, extra levels, or even complete little games unto themselves; that can only be seen by executing a specific series of (highly improbable) keystrokes. For instance, one version of Microsoft Excel had one where you had to use a certain set of navigation keys to go to a specific cell in the spreadsheet, then go through a series of dialog boxes, and hold down three keys simultaneously while clicking something. If you did all this perfectly, then you would enter a virtual room with all the Excel program team’s names and photos on the walls.
One version of Maximizer (the contact management software I used to be involved with) had a less complicated one, where if you double-clicked the Maximizer logo in the Help>About dialog box three times in a row, a special animated graphic would appear.
The example Seth mentions is at the bottom of the French washing instructions on this label, which actually really was sewn into some of the laptop bags that Tom Bihn made in 2004. I’m sure all my readers are sharp enough to translate those three lines, but just in case, it says, “We’re sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn’t vote for him.”
The point is, Easter Eggs are like insider information. They give people a sense of being part of a community: “Hey, is that a Tom Bihn bag? Did you read the label?” or “So you’re an Excel power user, eh? Do you know how to get the programmers’ names to come up?” People who have special, secret knowledge about something feel more connected to it.
Getting around to bars (Finally! It’s the first bar-related item since June 4!), there are lots of things that I’ve seen done to create a sense of membership. The most common is for honored patrons to have their own dedicated beer stein that always sits on a shelf and is only used by that specific customer. I’ve seen barstools (or more accurately, places at the bar) dedicated to specific customers, à la Norm on Cheers. There’s even a club here in Moncton that placed a “Reserved for Joe Smith” sign on the parking spot closest to the door for their best customer.
The technique isn’t what is important, though, nor is it even the people who are recognized. It’s the understanding of the system, or the joke, or the irony behind the gimmick that brings your regular customers together into a tribe of shared knowledge. When someone asks, “What’s the deal with all those steins on the wall,” or “Who’s Joe Smith?”, and you know the answer, it connects you with the place and the other people who know the answer.