Strategic Marketing in Action embraced several campaigns swerving off-road for excitement and attention. And yet all are pleasant, off-kilter campaigns drawn up in boardrooms to entertain and shock our systems into an emotional reaction; however, no company offers such consistent, stunning displays of anti-marketing that persuade us away from buying. Every year, the Chicago-based Cards Against Humanity rolls out publicity stunt after publicity stunt for the public to buy nothing but crap.
Selling “crap” is free from embellishment. The mean-spirited card game company sold 30,000 ($6 each) packages of “literal feces from an actual bull” in protest of 2014’s Black Friday. Maybe it’s not so odd the company opted to send customers literal boxes of dung, for the company went on record that they don’t believe their products should go on sale. During 2013’s Black Friday, all of their products were $5 more on Black Friday, earning free advertising through headlines from news outlets. The increased prices, and those awaiting the price to drop down the next day, boosted the sales of the company from the preceding year (2012).
Even stranger, the 2015 Black Friday promotion for Cards Against Humanity offered nothing for $5 or more. To the tune of $71,145, over 11,000 people gave Cards Against Humanity money for nothing. The news didn’t stop there. Cards Against Humanity employees detailed his or her plans for the thousands of dollars of the holiday promotion. Beyond the “we got money for nothing” nose rubbing, employees sharing purchases emboldens the company’s image of a business run by unique, charitable individuals. Donations to charities, front-row tickets to the Chicago Cubs’ season opener, box of Snowcaps, or feeding the homeless in Chicago displayed the life behind the company. It gave a window into the interests and desires of the staff (one employee admitted their fantasy of being a medieval knight through their purchases.)
This is where Cards Against Humanity garners love. People power the company, and the power rests with the consumer because Cards Against Humanity should have failed. So much so, there’s an option to print out the card game for free right on their site. Consumers still opt to buy the standard $25 pack because of the convenience and quality. Every stunt and business decision they pull works because no punches were pulled, and their fans are a large part of it.
Last December, Cards Against Humanity pointed a gun at art. The company bought a Pablo Picasso original for a social experiment. The experiment was to decide the fate of the painting: donate it to the Art Institute of Chicago or destroy it with a laser cutter. 150,000 subscribers of the company’s “Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah” drove the decision as each subscriber received a photo of the painting and a promise to receive a sliver of the destroyed painting. 71.3% voted to donate the painting. Additionally, one of the founders of Cards Against Humanity made the news months ago; Max Temkins sent the Bundy Oregon Militia Occupation a 55-galloon drum of personal lubricant and posted the Amazon order on Twitter.
Without a doubt, Cards Against Humanity is the cool, cynical rich friend willing to pull off incredible showings of humor and heart. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are used for elaborate jokes or putting other companies’ corporate social responsibility efforts to shame. The money raised from the “Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukah” gave the Chinese manufacturer workers of Cards Against Humanity a paid week of vacation. That’s just one facet of the company’s dedication for giving back.
At the end of the day, all the outlandish ploys grant Cards Against Humanity a dedicated community awaiting the next unexpected comedic caper. They positioned themselves as an anti-consumerism company ready to mock business practices all in the name of satire and headline. Truly, Cards Against Humanity are the kings and queens of anti-marketing.