Deck the Halls with Bullshit: Cards Against Humanity’s Brilliant Bah Humbug Campaign

How do you convince 100,000 people to each give you $12 without providing any explanation? Apparently all it takes is a foul-mouthed Santa Claus in a swimming pool and an air of mystery. That’s exactly how party game Cards Against Humanity introduced their most recent viral holiday campaign. The self-proclaimed “party game for horrible people” announced its “12 Days of Holiday Bullshit” campaign this week, promising participants 12 mystery gifts over 12 days in exchange for $12.

Beyond an introductory video from “Santa” and a cheeky FAQ page, the company divulged very little information about what participants could expect. All that’s promised is 12 gifts for both the naughty and the nice. Regardless, all 100,000 slots for the promotion are already filled. I’m a broke grad student and even I joined in on the fun. So what’s the deal? Why are we willing to shell out $12 when, for all we know, we might be sent 12 lumps of coal?

We’re living in a time when the day after Halloween means that stores suddenly transform into an ominous blob of all things red, green and sparkly and Starbucks employees begin force-feeding customers some sort of gingerbread crème brûlée Christmas-tree-in-a-cup. Every major company has a winter campaign bigger than the year before, and they’re all looking to out-holiday the others.

Cards Against Humanity isn’t an ordinary brand, though. The independent company was started by a Kickstarter campaign, provides customers with a free downloadable version of their game, and tends to throw caution to the wind when it comes to traditional marketing techniques. The “12 Days of Holiday Bullshit” campaign stays true to their brand personality – it’s funny, it’s blunt, and it pushes the envelope. Cards Against Humanity recognized that their core demographic likely wouldn’t care for flowery words and the promise of good cheer. Instead, they harnessed the in-your-face sarcasm and humor embodied by their game to catch attention. And it was surprisingly refreshing.

Even though Cards Against Humanity likely doesn’t have a marketing budget anywhere close to those of larger game makers, they recognized the power of a successful viral web campaign. The exclusivity of the promotion, the mystery behind it, and some help from tech blogs and social media sites spreading the word allowed this small company to pull off quite a feat.

It’s unclear what will happen with the rest of the holiday campaign. According to the “12 Days of Bullshit” FAQ page, Cards Against Humanity isn’t actually making any money off of the campaign. However, the level of awareness generated is a success in itself. Cards Against Humanity has people all over talking about their brand and spreading their name. Come Christmastime, I wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of stockings stuffed with Cards Against Humanity bullshit.

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