NEW YORK • When Mr Chris Godfrey learnt early last month that the record for “likes” on an Instagram post was held by the celebrity and businesswoman Kylie Jenner, he took it as a challenge.
He remembers thinking: “Could something as universal and simple as an egg be great enough to beat that record?”
It could! Just nine days after the thought, that record was cracked.
Mr Godfrey had beaten Ms Jenner’s post about her infant daughter with a simple picture of an egg. The original egg post now has more than 52 million likes – Ms Jenner’s post is shy of 19 million – and the egg’s account now has more than 10 million followers.
Why an egg? Mr Godfrey explained: “An egg has no gender, race or religion. An egg is an egg, it’s universal.”
The 29-year-old, who works for creative agency The & Partnership in London, and the two friends he enlisted to help him with the account have now delivered their second act.
It is a commercial produced with and aired on the streaming service Hulu, timed to take advantage of the annual US Super Bowl ad extravaganza.
In it, the egg shares a story about how going viral has affected its mental health.
“The pressure of social media is getting to me,” the egg discloses in the commercial, after introducing itself. “If you’re struggling, too, talk to someone.”
The ad then directs viewers to the website for the non-profit Mental Health America. The creators say that mental health is the first of several causes that the egg – which they and their fans call Eugene – will come to stand for.
“People have fallen in love with this egg, and Eugene the egg wants to continue to spread positive messages,” said Ms Alissa Khan-Whelan, 26, one of the friends working with Mr Godfrey.
After the birth of the egg on Jan 4, Mr Godfrey stayed anonymous. But he, Ms Khan-Whelan and another friend, C.J. Brown, 29, agreed to speak to The New York Times to tell their story and explain their intentions. “We felt that the time was right to come out,” Ms Khan-Whelan said. “We can put any speculation to bed.”
There has been a lot of puzzlement about how a picture of an egg created an Instagram frenzy. Some speculated that the account’s creator had paid influencers to spread the word. Others even took credit for growing the egg’s audience. Mr Godfrey said such claims are untrue and that the account’s growth was “completely organic”.
“I think it was perhaps the younger generation,” he said. “In the schools and stuff, it started to spread... through playgrounds.”
Marketers agreed that young people had been key to the egg’s success. (Instagram technically requires users to be 13 to create an account, but that rule is often disregarded.)
The egg’s audience was also amplified by Mr Godfrey’s decision to incorporate user-generated content into the account’s Instagram stories, where posts expire after 24 hours.
The team behind the egg declined to talk about the money it has been offered or the big names it has come into contact with, preferring to keep the attention focused on Eugene. (Asked about one marketer’s claim that partnering with the account would be worth at least US$10 million (S$13.5 million), Ms Khan-Whelan said the number was “greatly exaggerated”.)
Mr Godfrey, Brown and Ms Khan-Whelan said they are less interested in money than in promoting positivity. “We’ve had plenty of amazing offers and opportunities that have come on to the table,” Ms Khan-Whelan said. “So many. We’ve not really been sharing details because we don’t think this is about us. This is about Eugene the egg and what the egg can do.”