If you've walked around New York City in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, you may have come across a two-and-a-half-foot-tall egg. It happened to me the other day. There's a large egg with a beige and brown shell perched in the small park outside Fast Company's offices in downtown Manhattan, like a statue dedicated to a fallen hero or a political figure. In truth, it's a temporary art installation: Egg Number 253.
299 more egg-shaped creations are scattered throughout New York City as a part of the second annual Fabergé Big Egg Hunt. (Last year's event took place in London.) In the month leading up to Easter Sunday, Fabergé is hosting a very big hunt of very big eggs, each one created by a different famous artist. The painter David Salle is responsible for the sculpture outside Fast Company's offices. Other participating designers, artists, architects, and brands include Tracey Emin, Mark Quinn, Zaha Hadid, Ronnie Wood, Peter Beard, Diane Von Furstenberg, Marchesa, Olivier Theyskens, and Bruce Weber.
Like any Easter hunt, participants try and find as many eggs as they can. But unlike a typical backyard Easter romp, the game extends throughout New York City's five boroughs, and participants "collect" their finds not in a basket, but using Fabergé's Big Egg Hunt app. The person who locates the most eggs has the chance to win "precious gemstone pendants" worth tens of thousands of dollars each, care of Fabergé.
It's an impressive feat to coordinate "the world's biggest egg hunt" in a major metropolitan area. But more impressive is how Fabergé, a more than 100-year-old brand, is using an assortment of digital components to make a company associated with the Russian tsars feel relevant to Americans in 2014. The Fabergé brand name dates back to the mid-1800s, when Gustav Fabergé, succeeded by his son Carl, founded the jewelry shop House of Fabergé. In 1918 the store was nationalized. Since then, the company name has passed through many hands. Pallinghurst Resources LLP, an investment advisory firm based in London, has held the name since 2007. On the company's website it describes its current era as one in which the business is connecting the company name with the Fabergé family while remaining relevant. The Big Egg hunt and its various digital components are a part of that effort to stay relevant.
The Fabergé website is as beautiful as it is useful, with animated colorful boxes to guide egg-seekers to relevant information. At the top of Fabergé's Big Egg Hunt app, with which users can "check in" in at egg locations they discover, there's the Hunt partnership with online art site Paddle8, which is auctioning off the giant eggs for the Elephant Family charity.
"What Big Egg was drawn to with Paddle8 was two main things: One was our online reach," Osman Khan, Paddle8's chief operating officer, told Fast Company. "With 200,000 followers or members, we have a global audience, if you will, that is really intrigued in, obviously art, but also unique objects." In other words, the Paddle8 audience likes distinctive pieces, such as Farbergé's giant one-of-a-kind eggs. (Unique surfboard and shoe auctions have also done well on Paddle8's website.)
Paddle8 also provides Fabergé's Big Hunt with an assortment of bidding and marketing tools. For example. Paddle8 has 40,000 people signed up for its newsletters. Aspiring art collectors can also sign up for Paddle8 alerts regarding their favorite artists.
It's early to call this year's Fabergé hunt a success: The extravaganza ends this weekend on Easter Sunday. But last year the Big Egg Hunt raised raised $1.5 million for the Action for Children and Elephant Family charities. Last year's buzz also upped visitors to Fabergé's London store and its website saw a "huge increase" in visitors, according to Fabergé creative and managing director Katharina Flohr.
This year, the egg hunt has already made headlines in the art world. Jeff Koons's gazing ball-accented egg has already been bid on all the way up to $360,000 from its starting price of $500, breaking Paddle8's previous record for its most expensive item ever sold. As of this writing, the Egg Hunt online auction has seen $15 million in bidding activity, according to Khan.
That's already a pretty big win for Fabergé, since its commitment to art is a key part of its brand strategy. "Fabergé was always a great advocate of the arts and fascinated by modern art and the avant-garde," explained Flohr. "Essentially we are just continuing this ethos today by getting involved with contemporary art projects such as the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt." The brand has participated in other artistic collaborations, including commissioning British artist Ian Davenport to create an exclusive design for the tail of one of VistaJet's aircrafts.
For Fabergé, this kind of approach works because it relates to the company's roots. "Peter Carl Fabergé had an endless artistic curiosity that compelled him to draw inspiration from a vast treasure trove of stylistic sources from Renaissance, Rococo, and Empire to the lyricism of French 18th century and even Russian folklore," explained Flohr. "Today, our jewelry and watch collections marry extraordinary contemporary design with references or motifs from our heritage. The blend of legendary heritage with 21st century design is very distinctive to Fabergé."
And of course the giant eggs themselves are all distinctive, striking, and beautiful. You can find pictures of them all here.)