A few months back, I was charged with promoting gapCon, gap intelligence’s most valuable day of the year, with a little game called Hide-a-Herbie.  The task seemed simple enough: hide our mascot “Herbie” somewhere in the office, rewarding his discovery with a prize related to the conference.  The game seemed like a fun and light-hearted way to get people looking forward to the event.  Unbeknownst to me, finding a level of challenge between disappointedly simple and despairingly difficult would prove to be a game in its own.

For the first round of the event, Herbie was hidden in an office plant outside of our kitchen. An email with a clue was sent out, mentioning that Herbie was “planted” somewhere the office.  Before anyone could even decipher the clue, one of our data specialists Laura Mashburn spotted him as she was coming out of the kitchen.  It was not the little-kids-on-Easter-morning-looking-for-eggs-moment I was hoping to create.  Apparently, this was too easy.  It was time to step up my game.

Undeterred by the previous lackluster discovery of Herbie, I set out to create the second round of the event – Hide-a-Herbie: The Se-quill (get it?).  This time I recommended gappers not “read into” any type of clue, but one gapper quickly caught on.  After sending the email I went to grab a coffee, when I got back to my desk a few minutes later I was shocked to see Herbie defiantly sitting on my desk.  Turns out our Camera and Smartphone analyst Scott Peterson read the email moments after I left and was able to locate the missing Erinaceinae within minutes.  Obviously, I had not considered that I work with people who analyze data for a living.

For the third round of the event (which made it a quill-ogy), I decided that all bets were off.  I crammed Herbie into a discrete corner of the office between the wall and a window where no one would ever find him. This time around no clues were to be initially provided.  The email was sent, people read it, they searched, but Herbie was not found.

As some time went by it was apparent that SOME kind of clue was needed to keep people looking for Herbie, so I posted several “Missing Hedgehog” posters around the office. Seeing as he was hidden up high in a crevasse of sorts, I noted on the poster that his favorite movies were Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit, and 127 Hours.  As time passed and gapCon grew nearer, people started giving up; even those who had made previously valiant efforts to find him.

I needed to lead people to Herbie’s location in the window without making it too obvious, so the call was made to introduce song lyrics.  Admittedly, the first song that came to mind was Dido’s 1999 song “Thank You” (made popular by its inclusion as a sample in Eminem’s 2000 song “Stan”).  The lyrics containing the clue were as follows:

…the morning rain clouds up my window (window) and I can't see at all…

The clue was sent out, people listened, they searched, but no one could ascertain his hiding spot.  The excitement created by the clue was short-lived, and at this point I had run out of clues.  Luckily, our Ads Manager Nick Jordan was eventually able to analyze the data line by line in order to decode the lyrics and rescue Herbie.

Just a couple weeks before gapCon, we got permission to give away the ultimate grand prize for Hide-a-Herbie: a free vacation day.  I accepted the task of hiding our mascot once last time, only to realize one thing: people had already searched every inch of this office.  So I decided to take a novel (and some would say borderline-crazy) approach to this final round of Hide-a-Herbie.

I obtained a half-pint half and half carton, cut out the bottom, and placed Herbie inside (yes I washed it out first). But how would people know to look inside the fridge? The answer would be multiple clues hidden around the office that when combined would point to the hidden location.  At the time, I was very confident that I had struck the right level of challenge for this game.  As clues began to be found people started to link them together, but even after all the clues were discovered no one pinpointed the location.  To this day my fellow co-workers argue that the clues only made sense in hindsight:

  • Appearances can be deceiving (he was in a hallowed out carton)
  • You must uncover the truth (ok that’s kind of similar to the first one)
  • You have to open a door (refrigerator door)
  • The stance golfers take before putting (would align you eye-level with the carton in the fridge)
  • Think inside the box (carton = box, or “ice box” for fridge)
  • K marks the spot (there was a large “K” on the carton of ”Knudsens” half and half)
  • 457 (the milliliters marked on the front of the carton
  • He does have company where he’s at (I meant the other items in the fridge, ok – that clues not so great)

With gapCon only days away I held out hope that someone would find Herbie in time to neatly wrap up the game before the conference that it was meant to promote.  However, gapCon came and went, and despite the event being over I refused to disclose the location. Days turned to weeks with no one coming any closer to rescuing Herbie from his frigid fate.  Until one day, I opened the fridge and it was suspiciously empty!  Turns out Product Specialist Melissa Castro had unknowingly tossed out Herbie when she was doing a ritual purging our office fridge. To reward Melissa’s willingness to commit such an unpleasant and selfless act of actually clearing out the fridge,  it was agreed that Melissa was most deserving of the final Hide-a-Herbie reward. 

So, after months in the making my duties to gapCon had been fulfilled, people had fun (whether they liked it or not), and I had learned a value lesson: next year I’m volunteering to be in charge of the budget or something.