Case study: What happened when Cards Against Humanity trolled Black Friday

The NSFW party game offered up some of the craziest deals in a holiday known for them.

Company: Cards Against Humanity
Campaign: Black Friday
Agency: No agency assisted. In-house team handled strategy, social media, copy, and design
Duration: November 23, 2018

Cards Against Humanity managed to cut through the roar of Black Friday marketing efforts by offering up (literally) ridiculous deals, all listed for 99% off their market prices.

Deals included: A $20 bill for 20 cents, a Ford Fiesta car for $97.50 (originally $9,750), an 85-inch Sony 4K Television for $34.99 (originally $3,499), and the flight suit worn by Bill Pullman in "Independence Day" for $39.95 (originally $3,995), among many others.

Strategy
Cards Against Humanity has a history of making a splash on Black Friday, starting in 2013 when the brand upped the price of its game by $5. Subsequent campaigns have included selling actual bull shit and re-launching itself as a potato chip business.

This year, the company wanted to continue its tradition because, as Cards Against Humanity’s community director Jenn Bane put it, "Black Friday is silly and gross."

The team began planning for the holiday-themed campaign last summer. By early fall, it had settled on taking an extreme approach to the price slashing that defines the holiday.

"We wanted to pull off a sale so stupid and irresponsible that no other business would ever attempt it," Bane said. "It was our attempt to break through the noise of Black Friday."

Tactics
The deals, which ran from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Black Friday, were posted on the site 99PercentOffSale.com every 10 minutes. The company also released a press release at 10 a.m. that day and promoted the campaign on its social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook.

Save the press release, there wasn’t a coordinated effort to pitch the media, Banes said.

"Our strategy, in general, is to do something weird and outrageous that makes us laugh, and we hope it resonates with people in the same way," she said. "We see this joke as an improv scene: we set the stage, and then let our fans run with it."

Results
The campaign went viral, generating a big response on social media as people reacted to the deals. A single post announcing the promotion generated more than 6,200 likes, 3,200 shares, and 1,500 comments on Facebook.

It was also covered extensively by traditional media outlets, garnering write-ups in The Verge, MarketWatch, Business Insider, USA Today, TechCrunch, and Yahoo News.

The campaign resonated with fans, with 99PercentOffSale.com averaging 50,000 simultaneous viewers - many of whom were tired of traditional Black Friday deals.

"We received thousands of fan emails every hour," Bane said.

The enthusiasm from those lucky enough to snag a deal was particularly intense.

"All products were real - we sourced them online ourselves - and were shipped to delighted customers in the weeks following," she said.

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