Transgression is Cards Against Humanity's brand: The raunchy, politically incorrect card game got famous by eliciting shocked laughter, and its fans have begun to look forward to Black Friday every year as their anti-marketing Christmas. On past Black Fridays, CAH has raised prices, sold nothing, taken donations to dig a giant hole for no reason and other trollish shenanigans.
This year, CAH's stunt takes a political direction. "It’s 2017, and the government is being run by a toilet," its message begins. "We have no choice: Cards Against Humanity is going to save America." The company is offering to send people "six America-saving surprises" for $15, and has revealed a preview of the first surprise: It bought a plot of land on the U.S./Mexico border that would obstruct the building of a border wall, and is sending its customers "an illustrated map of the land, a certificate of our promise to fight the wall, some new cards and a few other surprises." And lest the government attempt to seize the land, CAH has retained the services of "a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built."
Talk about divisive rhetoric. This is about as far as a brand can get from Michael Jordan's perhaps-apocryphal "Republicans buy shoes, too." But such messaging is very much of the moment, and takes cues from President Trump himself, who generally speaks directly to his base of supporters without making any overtures of unity to the political left. It's a different kind of calculus: Rather than seeing "everyone" as your audience and seeking some amount of buy-in from them all, you can seek deeper buy-in from those already inclined toward you and your brand values by actively spurning everyone else.
This is also part of a trend we've been hearing about from several communications professionals: The public wants to know brands' positions on political issues, and may be turned off by those that stay apolitical. Remaining silent in this divisive era can be seen by both sides as complicity in what their opponents are doing.
Does this work? Well, here's one data point: Cards Against Humanity's promotion is already sold out.
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