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Insight from Ritualized Habits: What our Wordle Obsession Reveals About Us as Human Beings
By Egg Director Lindsay Groninger
As insights thinkers, we’re always digging into the way people customize their lives to suit their context, needs, motivations, and aspirations to tell us why they, uniquely, behave the way they do. You can look almost anywhere to find this – something as routine as daily hygiene practices, something as special as holiday traditions, or something as new as Wordle.
When we dig in, its often through the frame of how people ritualize their lives.
Because rituals are personalized habits – experiences that are crafted and optimized to uniquely suit a consumer’s life. The way we construct rituals provides rich context clues as to who we are, how we prioritize our lives, and what we’re functionally and emotionally looking for from what we’re ritualizing.
Just look at how much we can glean about someone’s life based on their morning coffee routine.
Consumer A is a working parent who sets the Mr. Coffee Pot on automatic 12-cup setting every weeknight in part because they can’t always grab breakfast on their way out the door, but coffee is non-negotiable. They’re ritualizing coffee in a very different way than Consumer B: the early bird who insists on a French press every morning, in bed, while journaling intentions for 10 minutes before the chaos of the day takes over. Digging into how consumers design these rituals and the why behind it can indicate a lot about these types of consumers without knowing anything else about them.
Coffee’s been around a while, but I’ve recently been enamored with learning of all the ways consumers are ritualizing Wordle, everyone’s new favorite daily puzzle, and what that says about the people playing. In the past few days I’ve talked to folks who:
- Play first thing in the morning, as a couple, over coffee (two ritual worlds combine!) before their kids wake up
- Compete with old college friends and have started awarding prizes to daily winners
- Share their score daily on social media as an indicator of how the day is going overall
- Sit in solitude and play by themselves as a midday break, without sharing, without socialization, for a concentrated moment of peace and quiet
See what I mean? The way people have customized their Wordle experience says a lot about them, both in that moment they’re playing and about their broader lives. It also strikes me that Wordle is the perfect thing to ritualize – it’s customizable both in how you play (what’s your strategy? Do you always start with the same word?) and when/where/with whom you play (the context).
The cultural zeitgeist around Wordle is another valuable lens to consider. Its inception, a gift to a spouse to offset pandemic boredom and anxiety, speaks to a widespread need. It turns out, a lot of us were craving a daily brain test that felt challenging but not all-consuming (you can only be so consumed with a game that ends after the 1st round). Something to look forward to every day. Change that feels exciting instead of daunting. A reason to connect with others when many still feel cut-off.
Of course, not everyone’s playing – and there’s learning in that too. What type of person opts in to Wordle in the first place? Do you have to be a word nerd? Just generally curious? Competitive? What type of person opts out? Or just doesn’t know/care about the sweeping force of Wordle that’s enchanted so many others in recent weeks and months?
I’ve been hearing quite a lot about Wordle in the four virtual walls of Egg Strategy, but then again, I have a hunch that in Wordle’s audience segmentation, Brand Strategists overlap almost completely with the “heavy engagement” consumer. We tend to be curious creatures who love a new way to stretch our brains. And you gamified it?! Wordle, a heartfelt thank you for that. Clearly the New York Times saw the synergies between Wordle’s magic and their platform, and their readership behaviors.
What could other brands glean from Wordle’s quick rise? The value in a pull strategy (1x a day) versus a push? How making something easily shareable, even from a simple microsite, can help it get spread quickly across platforms?
If you want to chat more about how ritualized behaviors can provide insight into your brand’s audience and potential engagement strategies, please reach out.