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Newsletter: #972: The “Lessons from Cards Against Humanity” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Cards Against Humanity is a mad-lib-style card game that’s “just as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.” Disclosure: This game probably isn’t safe for work. Really.

But it’s that raunchiness (plus some great word of mouth marketing) that’s gotten a lot of attention. In fact, Cards Against Humanity and all of its expansion packs top Amazon’s Best Seller list in games.

Here are a few things we can learn from their unusual marketing strategies:

1. Don’t make something for everyone
2. Make a sharable version
3. Do something completely different
4. Don’t drop the conversation
5. Let your fans make something
6. Check it out: Headlines Against Humanity

1. Don’t make something for everyone

Cards Against Humanity FAQ

Photo thanks to CardsAgainstHumanity.com.

Cards Against Humanity has a distinct voice they let come through in everything from their product descriptions to their FAQs (“Your Dumb Questions”). It might not appeal to everyone, but then again, neither does the game. By putting that much personality into their stuff, Cards Against Humanity creates a sense of exclusivity — a style that separates the average consumer from the fans who feel like they “get it.”

The lesson: How are you making your stuff feel like it’s made especially for a specific group of people?

2. Make a sharable version

Cards Against Humanity sharable version

Photo thanks to CardsAgainstHumanity.com.

Cards Against Humanity encourages their customers to print their own versions of the game and give them away. In fact, they put a downloadable PDF on their site with detailed instructions on how to make your own (even suggesting which print shop has the best deal). It might seem crazy to give away your stuff, but in reality, they’re earning even more customers through the massive word of mouth these downloads spread.

The lesson: Sometimes it’s more important to get your stuff out there than it is to make a little more money.

Learn more: How to make Cards Against Humanity

3. Do something completely different

Cards Against Humanity Black Friday ad

Photo thanks to Maxistentialism.

On Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity had a very special deal: “Today only! All Cards Against Humanity products are $5 more.” On the biggest shopping day of the year, it could have meant a lot of lost sales for them. But it didn’t. In fact, their sales spiked and went even higher the next day. By being the opposite of every other Black Friday sale, they got their customers’ attention while staying true to their voice (and their “no discounts” policy).

The lesson: Find opportunities to be completely different from your competitors — even if it’s risky.

Learn more: Maxistentialism

4. Don’t drop the conversation

Cards Against Humanity infographic

Photo thanks to CardsAgainstHumanity.com.

Another risky promotion: For one month, Cards Against Humanity let their customers pay what they wanted for a holiday edition expansion pack of the game. It was a successful, one-off deal that could have ended there. Instead, they let their customers know how the promotion went with a hilarious infographic explaining some stats from the experiment, plus what they did with the profits.

The lesson: You put a lot of work into big promotions and marketing stunts. Why not get more out of the work you put into it by telling your customers how it went? Sharing this insider info not only makes for more opportunities to spread the word, but also creates a deeper relationship with your customers.

Learn more: Cards Against Humanity

5. Let your fans make something

Cards Against Humanity suggestion box

Photo thanks to CardsAgainstHumanity.com.

Cards Against Humanity is distributed under a Creative Commons license, which means people can make their own versions of the game. They encourage their fans to make their own in different languages — including this one in Pirate by Sydd — and distribute them on their website. They also accept submissions for new cards or “dumb ideas.”

The lesson: Don’t be afraid to let your fans take ownership of your brand. They’ll feel more connected to your stuff, and they just might make something really cool.

6. Check it out: Headlines Against Humanity

Inspired by Cards Against Humanity, CentUp founders created a game to point out the ridiculousness of click-bait headlines such as “You Will Get Angry When You See What This Eight-Year-Old Finger Painted” and “Here’s An F-Word That’s OK To Say Around Children, But Really Hard To Explain To Them.” Can you guess which one is real?

Check it out: Headlines Against Humanity

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