In its first photo on Instagram, the world record egg (@world_record_egg) looked so smooth that you might have accused it of using Facetune, the airbrushing app that celebrities, influencers, and “normal people” rely on to perfect their photos. This egg could have been a supermodel, but instead, it had ambitions to beat Kylie Jenner’s record for the most-liked photo on Instagram.
The world record egg acquired 18.2 million likes in just 12 days, surpassing Kylie’s photo of her newborn daughter, Stormi that had 18 million likes. And it was only just getting started. The egg earned its own Super Bowl commercial for the nonprofit Mental Health America, its Instagram profile gained over 10 million followers, and its record-holding post eventually surpassed 52.9 million likes.
THAT KIND OF GROWTH SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE AND SKETCHY
I know, but in an interview with the New York Times, the egg’s founder asserted that the phenomenon was completely organic. Chris Godfrey, a 29-year-old advertising creative employed by the & Partnership in London, saw Kylie’s record-holding post and recruited two friends to answer one burning question: Could he surpass her record (and maybe, just maybe, “break the internet”) with something as plain and mundane as an egg? “An egg has no gender, race or religion. An egg is an egg, it’s universal,” Godfrey told the Times.
Due to the simplicity of this feat and its execution, people assumed that the account holder paid influencers to create buzz. One guy from Massachusetts went so far as to falsely take credit for the egg’s success. But if you review the timeline of the world record egg from inception to viral explosion, you’ll find credibility in this claim and learn strategies that can inform your digital marketing campaigns. Here are 7 lessons to learn from the egg who cracked the internet (and its human creators).
1. TRANSLATE DATA INTO REAL-WORLD INSIGHTS
Though Godfrey claimed that “no one person helped the egg’s rise in popularity and no single account or group of accounts helped it to explode,” he noticed engagement with younger people spiked around 3 or 4 p.m., when schools let out for the day. This trend helped him draw the correct hypothesis that school-aged kids helped his egg cross the finish line. Alissa Khan-Whelan, one of the friends working with Godfrey, told the Times that she watched this notion play out in real life. She saw videos of kids in their class saying, “Miss, miss, have you liked the egg?”
Think about your demographic and their typical daily routine when you analyze data to help you identify when they’re most likely to engage with your content. Optimize your posting times to guarantee attention from the maximum amounts of eyes.
2. MAKE YOUR FOLLOWERS FEEL SEEN AND APPRECIATED
The caption of the world record egg’s post was: “Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this.” Despite a few grammatical flubs, Godfrey used low-key genius language in this caption. The words “let’s,” “together,” and “we” sparked a sense of teamwork competition.
He also re-posted user-generated content from the egg’s fans on the account’s Instagram Stories, which mimics temporary Snapchat story format. This made followers feel seen and appreciated. The egg’s followers even banded together to create the #EggGang fandom, which has kept the channel’s momentum going since its first post.
Playing to millenials’ eager vanity will get them to pay attention to your brand’s message and encourage them to engage with your campaigns.
3. EMBRACE A SCHTICK
Prior to the Times interview, the creators behind the egg gave an interview to BuzzFeed News…as the chicken who birthed the egg. “The account holder replied that it was actually being run by ‘Henrietta’ — a chicken from the British countryside,” said BuzzFeed. “Henrietta declined a phone interview but agreed to answer questions via email.”
Henrietta told BuzzFeed that the egg’s name is Eugene and said that she started the account when she stopped drinking for Dry January. “I saw this as a challenge to beat it,” said Henrietta. “It was nothing personal.”
The brilliance of this interview went deeper than these colorful clips of dialogue. Godfrey and his team spoke to the perfect publication to reach a demo willing to play along with a silly challenge; namely, the click-happy BuzzFeed reader who delights in a viral gag.
Even a whole month after this pandemonium erupted, the egg’s creators continue to treat it like a living, breathing celebrity with a brain and personality of its own. Khan-Whelan spoke to the Times about the egg like a friend who happens to be genderless: “Eugene is global, Eugene is really global all over the world. He likes football. Or she, sorry. Or it.”
Now, they share glimpses of the egg’s daily life on Instagram Stories. Here’s a vignette from the egg’s recent trip to Los Angeles. Buckle up, safety first!
4. TAKE A RISK BY COMPETING WITH ONE OF THE BIGGEST CELEBRITIES IN THE WORLD
- Kylie Jenner has 127 million followers. By issuing a threat to steal her crown, things can go one of three ways:
- She’ll call you out for pulling a cheap stunt and a large percentage of her followers will do the same
- She’ll call you out for pulling a cheap stunt using your username, a large percentage her followers will navigate to your page, and a moderate percentage of those followers will like your viral post
- She won’t call you out at all and she won’t influence the trajectory of your post
Godfrey and his team’s encountered a combination of all three outcomes. Kylie posted this revenge video after the world record egg surpassed her photo in likes. Her playful response didn’t position the egg as a villain. Instead, it highlighted the absurdity of the competition and her competitor (from whom she will surely reclaim the title in the future). Through it isn’t guaranteed, baiting celebrities and public figures can get you noticed.
5. INTERWEAVE YOUR NARRATIVE WITH A LARGER CONVERSATION
The egg’s creators made it more than just a viral sensation. They lent its “voice” to mental health awareness in a commercial produced with and aired on Hulu. The egg revealed that becoming an overnight celebrity greatly impacted its mental health. “The pressure of social media is getting to me,” says the egg. “If you’re struggling, too, talk to someone.” The account’s posts in the days leading up to the Super Bowl illustrated that the egg was cracking and foreshadowed this narrative.
The online ad sent viewers to the website for the nonprofit organization Mental Health America, and the egg’s creators told the Times that mental health is the “first of several causes” that it will come to advocate for. Designating a purpose to a campaign gives an audience a reason to care about its success.
6. WORK HARD, AND YOU’LL CATCH THE ATTENTION OF BIG INVESTORS
The Times reported that Nick Tran, Hulu’s vice president of brand marketing and culture, pursued the opportunity to collaborate with them on a Super Bowl commercial. As Andrew Essex, chief executive and founder of Plan A, a creative holding company, told the Times, “Dollars always follow eyeballs.” Although the idea for the egg seemed pointless on paper, monetary investment wasn’t required to kickstart it. Social media is the perfect place to experiment with low-risk/low-cost/ (potentially) high-reward ventures such as this.
7. WISH FOR LUCK
Although it is attainable, an organic viral reaction to a post or campaign is extremely rare. Essex told the Times, “The fact that they were able to get a lot of people to look at a picture of the egg — it was the ultimate anomaly, just a complete freak event.” Godfrey responded, “But it’s a fluke that caught the world’s attention. It’s what you do with that attention that counts.” Unfortunately, you can’t purchase phenomenal fortune, but you can wish for it by the dozen.
What did you think about the egg when you first saw it? Comment below on your initial thoughts!