Cards Against Humanity Uncovered a Secret About Digital Marketing

 In Business, Case Study, Marketing

Cards Against Humanity Uncovered a Secret About Digital Marketing

Question: what kind of company raises their prices on Black Friday?

Answer: a smart company that will increase revenue.

Disclaimer: this blog has a naughty word. Though Mouse and Man is a family company, we’re willing to illustrate our points without sugarcoating. Plus, since you’ve undoubtedly heard that infamous hot mic recording a couple of weeks ago, we know you don’t exactly have virgin ears.

Here’s the situation. On arguably the largest consumer day of the year, Cards Against Humanity added five bucks to their low-dollar price tag. In doing this, the company tapped into a huge digital marketing secret, which I’ll reveal at the end of this article.


Take out your pocket calculator, and you’ll see that’s a 25% markup…on a day when mega sales serve as the magnet that draws hordes of shoppers ready to trample each other for a Tickle-Me Elmo.

Customers could have been miffed. Instead, they ate it up. And that’s because a sizable chunk of buyers felt as if they were in on the joke. Over the years, Black Friday has become as much as a hindrance as it is an opportunity. At best, the “holiday” is divisive.

Thing is, not many businesses reach out to consumers who disapprove of the Black Friday hysteria. Cards Against Humanity tapped into the hate in a playful way. And in case the image above didn’t paint a clear enough picture, this one should do the trick:


CAH Understood Their Constituents

Before we profile the audience, it’s best to understand the product itself. Developers describe their product as a “party game for horrible people.” A catchy tagline, for sure. And it piques curiosity.

In a nutshell, players complete fill-in-the-blank statements with the funniest and/or most politically incorrect statement possible. One person lays down a statement that is to be finished and then judges the answers based on his or her criteria.

For example: Joe lays down a card that says “The class field trip was completely ruined by ____________.” And then Shirley lays down “The Cookie Monster’s diabetes diagnosis.” Shirley is a sicko, and so she wins that round.

Cards Against Humanity employed a marketing tone that matched the product. It’s a somewhat crude party game, so why should the marketing be any different? The audience’s sense of humor drew them to the game. The marketing technique paid full attention to that fact.

CAH Was Not Afraid to Speak to Shoppers in Real Time

Marketing is rarely an in-the-trenches kind of thing. It’s largely a matter of setting up little snares in the digital ether and hoping someone gets snagged. It works sometimes. It doesn’t work sometimes.

What you don’t see too often is real-time communication.

Cards Against Humanity went social—in traditional and non-traditional ways. The company played stunts that went viral all over various social media channels. And buyers instagrammed and tweeted their most knee-slappingly funny card combinations.

The CAH team was always there to make comments right back to their community. After all, it’s a party game for horrible people. So the more horrible people, the merrier.

This marketing technique allowed them to continue the user experience even when the game wasn’t being played. The conversations kept the absurd nature of the game going. In some ways, the marketing cultivated a culture around the product.

When you could share your most outrageous card combination, the party became a more global event.

CAH Showed Its Humanity

Cards Against Humanity, despite its R rating, proved that it’s not against humanity at all. Quite the opposite, really. In other words, they donate a sizable amount of money to worthwhile causes. And yes, they use that angle in their marketing strategy, but not in a sleazy way.

For one, wholesomeness in the world of CAH has nothing to do with forsaking naughty words and thinking that makes up for shady business practices. Look no further than our favorite super store Wal-Mart. Employee wages and near-slavery manufacturing aside, the company legally leveraged “smart” inventory.

In a nutshell, once flag sales rose after the September 11 terrorist attack, Wal-Mart decided to buy all the stock available. In this way, competitors couldn’t take a slice of the market. The biggest company on the planet may not sell unwholesome products, but they have an unwholesome business model.

And that’s why the mega store turns many people off. CAH, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach to business management.

Even though the raunchy factor sometimes goes up to level eleven, this is not to say that the creators are inhuman. The developers are keenly aware that sometimes the world isn’t such a fair place. And unlike many companies who pick safe charities that most people can get on board with, CAH tried a more honest approach:


If that’s not candor at its finest, what is? In fact, CAH decided to take it one step farther and share thank-you notes from the factory workers. You can read those here.

So What’s the Secret?


CAH was not afraid to develop a disruptive product. They were not afraid to tell the truth in their marketing efforts. They were not afraid to be unorthodox, creative, and bold.

Fear was absent. And candor prevailed.

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