Rory Sutherland is the IPA president and vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK
Rory Sutherland is the IPA president and vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK
A view from Rory Sutherland

Perspective: Why some of us love the little extras that Easter Eggs promise

Like many people, I carry an annual rail season ticket. Nothing unusual about that, except my annual season ticket (fancifully called a Gold Card) is valid for travel between Ryde Esplanade and Ryde St John's Road.

Both are on the Isle of Wight, a place I have never visited. Why do I pay £132 a year for a rail journey I never make?

Well, strictly entre nous, the pricing structure of National Rail contains an anomaly left over from the days of Network South East. Anyone with a Gold Card travelling in the region after 10am saves 33 per cent on off-peak returns and can upgrade to First Class for the whole day for a fiver - providing they are not travelling on the route for which their season ticket is valid. The Ryde season ticket, being a very short journey, is the cheapest way to enjoy this perk.

My need for a table to write on, combined with a deep-seated aversion to the poor, makes £5 for First Class a bit of a bargain.

I am sure some killjoy will close this loophole soon. They shouldn't. I believe tricks like this can be the basis for an ingenious new form of marketing. I certainly make 40 or 50 extra journeys by train each year since discovering this...



And that's my point. What do you call a discrepancy that rewards cunning in this way? I had no idea, until I read a paper by Tim Jones of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, written towards his IPA Excellence Diploma.

It is, of course, callled an "Easter Egg" - a little secret gift or cheat hidden within computer games by programmers to reward the inquisitive and to provide social currency for gamers to share among themselves.

This is the genius of Tim's paper. He suggests people designing loyalty programmes, pricing schemes or user experience have much to learn from computer gaming and the "psychology of reward" that games designers understand far better than marketers do.

I don't want to give away more than this - the paper will be published in Campaign in late October - except that I believe what he is suggesting is as important as it is original.

One intriguing property of pricing is that a drop in price for any good soon brings with it a corresponding fall in a consumer's estimation of that good - or, to put it in plain English, "the consumer surplus creates no long-term hedonic value".

However, a low price that is available to me and you but not to everyone else does make the two of us happy. That's why Amazon Prime works. That's why Easter Eggs work. So let's keep this Ryde thing a secret between us adfolk. Otherwise it'll ruin it for everyone.

Rory Sutherland is the IPA president and vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK