Typical Black Friday sales are all about convincing consumers to purchase products by offering deep discounts.
Chicago-based Cards Against Humanity has turned that whole concept on its head for three years running, with this year’s Black Friday “sale” really taking the cake.
If you haven’t already heard, here’s the gist of their 2015 Black Friday offering: for $5, customers got absolutely nothing.
And they made $71,145 off of the gimmick.
A combination of fiercely loyal fans, well-laid groundwork, and an authentic, off-the-wall brand allowed Cards Against Humanity to pull it off.
Here’s what you can learn from their antics.
Building a Brand from an Inside Joke
The main reason the Cards Against Humanity crew got away with their Black Friday anti-sale? The move was completely in line with their no-holds-barred, irreverent brand — a brand that literally evolved from an inside joke shared by a group of high school friends.
In case you’ve never had the fortune — or misfortune — of playing the game, Cards is like an adult version of Apples to Apples featuring the tagline, “A party game for horrible people.” It’s not for the faint of heart and the easily offended, as innuendo and “Too soon!” references run rampant. But for those who don’t take themselves too seriously, the game is incredibly fun — and as a player, you feel like you’re in on the joke along with its co-creators.
The brand identity they’ve cultivated isn’t just reflected in the game itself — it’s in all of their digital marketing. The FAQ section on their site is titled “Your Dumb Questions”:
On Facebook, they share a mix of promotional posts and fill-in-the-blank messages to essentially invite users to play the game on their brand page. They also respond to comments to further encourage engagement:
Posts are peppered with the same tone the game itself conveys. See the self-deprecating humor in the post below?
What other brand could announce a product with the disclaimer that it’s “just okay” and get away with it?
The Cards website also perfectly captures the brand’s quirkiness. Consider the bulleted lists detailing what the company’s employees elected to spend their portion of Black Friday revenue on:
A Tradition of Black Friday Subversion
This year’s Black Friday “sale” wasn’t the first for Cards Against Humanity — it’s a running joke that each year the company holds a non-traditional promotion. In 2012, they allowed consumers to choose their price and purchase an expansion deck. In 2013, they sold the game for $30 — $5 more than its regular sales price. In 2014, they sold bull excrement. Thirty thousand people bought literal poop, willingly. If that doesn’t speak to the power of brand loyalty, I don’t know what does.
This annual tradition of turning Black Friday on its head is part of the reason this year’s outing was such a success. In a way the Black Friday sale has become a part of their brand identity, representative of their oddball sensibility. There’s also the fact that lovers of the game want to be in on the joke, meaning they’ll literally buy anything just to be able to say they participated.
Horrible People Who Do Good Things
Another major side of the Cards brand is its dark humor — it is a game for “horrible” people, after all! But the company has also made philanthropy a part of its brand by frequently donating proceeds to various charitable foundations. They even founded a full-tuition scholarship for women pursuing STEM degrees. As we’ve said before, cause marketing can be valuable for your small business or brand.
Even though this year, proceeds of the Black Friday sale were split between employees rather than donated to charity, as the website shows, many of the Cards team gave a portion of their profits to non-profit organizations of their choice. Their brand has a definite dark side, but it’s gleeful, not malicious.
Let’s Build Your Brand.
While we can’t guarantee your branding will ever net you $71,145 for nothing, we can help you create a clear and well-developed brand identity that’s cohesive across all marketing channels.
To get with our branding team, call Turn The Page today at (816) 527-8371 or (844) 889-5001.