Cards Against Humanity is one of the hottest party games out right now—it touts itself as a “party game for horrible people” and encourages people to bring out the NSFW version of themselves (or allow people to be themselves more, at least in my experience). Aside from the official game, there are online versions of the game (branded Pretend You’re Xyzzy and CardCast). CardCast even allows you to add custom card decks to Pretend You’re Xyzzy—some custom decks include The Walking Dead, Pokemon and even Tumblr Social Justice Warrior (SJW) themed packs. Popular YouTubers such as Markiplier and PewDiePie have their own card decks as well.
However, Cards Against Humanity took a bold step into the marketing unknown—literally asking people to give them money for nothing. “The ultimate Black Friday experience is to buy nothing, and we will sell that to you,” the company said on its blog. Surprisingly, the company made $71,145 from their unusual promotion. While many people did give them $5, some people gave them more than the $5 they were asking for—one person even gave them $100. “This promotion was a huge risk—we had no idea if it would get a positive or negative response, or any response at all,” said Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin.
The company has done many unusual (or, for those unfamiliar with the card game, downright outrageous) promotions before—in 2013, they donated $100,000 to American public schools by asking people to give them $12 to receive 12 mystery gifts over 12 days, donating the tenth day to American public schools. Last year, the company gave customers a box of excrement for $6. “We all really hate Black Friday, it’s just kind of a horrible day,” Temkin said in 2014. “It comes after this day where you’re supposed to be thankful for what you have, and then it’s just this whole huge media spectacle of people fighting each other to save $50 on a TV.” Cards Against Humanity also bought an island in Maine, renamed it Hawaii 2, and split it up among 250,000 people who bought their 2014 holiday mystery pack—which has endured controversy regarding zoning laws.
What exactly was the $71,145 used for? Cards Against Humanity split the cash among their 17 employees for an average payout of about $4,185 per person. While many employees used their cash to buy electronics, several put money into savings, bought gifts for others, and paid student loans. Some unusual purchases included a $1,500 custom suit of men’s armor and even a 24-karat-gold vibrating massager ($3,120). However, employees also chose to donate to charities and nonprofits such as the American Refugee Committee and Planed Parenthood.
Temkin’s creation and business practices show that the game is more than bringing out the funny or dark side in each other—and to use humor as a marketing tool for a good cause. “We’ve been doing these kinds of jokes for a few years now, and I think the key thing that we’re learning is to trust our gut a little more than we usually do. If something makes us laugh, it will probably resonate with other people as well,” Temkin says.