Article reposted with permission from Business Insider.
The people behind satirical card game Cards Against Humanity wanted to get noticed on Black Friday, but they didn’t want to discount their game below $25.
So they came up with a strange, perverse offer. For a limited time only, you could buy Cards Against Humanity for … $5 more.
The plan worked. The absurd offer got a lot of attention and sales spiked.
The offer looked like this:
Here’s a chart showing the sales spike:
Cards Against Humanity creator Max Temkin told the story of how he came up with the idea on his blog.
A lot of people have been curious about how our “everything costs $5 more” Black Friday sale worked, and if it was successful for us.
This is a difficult time of year for us because we spend almost no money on marketing, and it’s easy for us to get lost in the noise and money of the holiday season.
We initially started talking about doing a Black Friday sale over the summer, and came up with the idea of a “$0.01 off” coupon. I liked the idea, but have always maintained a policy of no deals, no discounts, and no sales for Cards Against Humanity, even during our Kickstarter. To me the game is always $25, it’s never another price, and doing any kind of deal or discount undermines the simplicity and honesty of the game.
After some discussion, Ben came up with the idea of raising the price for Black Friday and that was so outrageous that I fell in love with it instantly. Two books I read recently that informed my decision were Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath and Marty Neumeier’s Zag, which are both kind of shitty business/science books that make the somewhat-obvious point that being small and nimble can give you advantages that huge lumbering opponents don’t have. Anyone can do a sale for Black Friday, but nobody but us could get away with raising their prices and risking a ton of sales just to make a joke.
The other guys were pretty skeptical, but Ben and I convinced them one by one, 12 Angry Men style, until they agreed to let us try a truly insane pricing experiment. The final piece needed to convince everyone was the mockup of the landing page that I designed, with the glowing “consume!” button. Once everyone saw how funny that looked, they knew we had to go through with it.
Nothing crazy here. I put together a landing page and we replaced all the “buy” buttons on our site with the new pricing. I edited the FAQ to include:
Why do all of your products cost more today?
We’re participating in the tradition of “Black Friday,” an American holiday celebrating a time when the Wampanoag tribe saved the settlers of Plymouth Colony with incredible deals. All of our products are $5 more today only, so you can enjoy buying them that much more.
I’m mad that you’re making a joke about Black Friday.
You’re probably a bad person.
We called our contact at Amazon and explained the idea for the sale to them. They thought it was funny but were also pretty annoyed – apparently monkeying with pricing on the biggest sales day of the year isn’t as funny to Amazon as it is to us.
The sale made people laugh, it was widely shared on Twitter and Tumblr, and it was the top post on Reddit. The press picked it up, and it was reported in The Guardian, USA Today, Polygon, BuzzFeed, All Things D, Chicagoist, and AdWeek. It was even the top comment on The Wirecutter’s front page AMA, which had nothing to do with us.
I was pretty sure that our fans would be into the “$5 more” sale, but I had no idea that it would turn a day where we’d normally be totally overlooked into a huge press hit for the game.
So how did we do? A little better than last year. We kept our position as the best-selling toy or game on Amazon. My guess is that peoples’ buying decisions just weren’t that affected by $5.
The interesting thing to note is that we got a nice lift in our sales the day after Black Friday (“Regret Saturday”). That might be from people who were waiting to buy the game until it came back down in price, or, more likely, those are sales from people who heard about the game after our Black Friday press. Not bad for an ad that paid us to run it.
Cards Against Humanity is a party game along the lines of Pictionary, Taboo, or Charades. The big difference is that it revolves around making jokes about things like (real cards) “Amputees,” “Spontaneous human combustion,” and “Doin’ it in the butt.” The game’s tagline is: “A party game for horrible people.”
Temkin and his buddies made up the game one New Year’s Eve to stave off boredom a few years ago. Then they turned it into a commercial product with funding from Kickstarter, a site where strangers contribute money toward projects.
Obviously, this kind of “offer” won’t work for everyone — or probably, anyone, ever again.
But it is a reminder that when marketing your product you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, and that sometimes, going loudly in the opposite direction can pay off big time.
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