Friday, November 28, 2014

My New Favorite Company

In the past week I've placed two orders through Cards Against Humanity, totaling $21 in spending. I have no idea what I'm going to get for that $21, so why did I bother? That's what I want to talk about.
First, I should point out that I actually don't own a Cards Against Humanity set. I think the game is fascinating, but I think the game would get old quick if played with the same group of people all the time. The fascinating thing about the game is that its primary mechanic is about reading people: what combination of words will make this person laugh? The more familiar you are with a person, the better the chance you'll know what to put together to win that turn. If you don't know that person, you can only fire blindly, base your choices on your own sense of humor, or attempt to cater to a lowest common denominator.

That said, it's not long before the possible combinations begin to get stale, and my interest in the game begins to wane.

Still, the company is clearly doing well, making expansions to the game to keep it interesting... but they're also focused on some of the most interesting publicity campaigns I've ever seen. They've cultivated a personality that makes them stand apart from every other company I've seen through a combination of a sharp sense of humor and carefully crafted rudeness.

For instance, at a PAX not long ago there was a package of something called "pwnmeal" in each goodie bag: a package that looked like an earnest attempt to market oatmeal to gamers, in a package that anybody who's familiar with Quaker-brand oatmeal will recognize. Inside, hidden among what I assume is actual oatmeal, were a few new cards you could use to expand your CAH deck. I wonder how many people threw away those packages without realizing what they truly contained.

And then, last year, they had a program in which you send them $12 and they send you 12 gifts. The result was one of my favorite reads from the past year. I mean, holy crap, here's a company using their brand and massive following to do some real, measurable good in the world in a way that's legitimately entertaining. That's the sort of thing I which we as Fangamer could do more often. (We try.)

This year they're doing something similar, but this time it's $15 for 10 things. I have no idea what to expect from this, but as someone who works in a company where we mail stuff out every day, I have no idea how they can ship out 10 different things for $15, much less also make the things they're shipping out. I had to sign up for it, if only to satisfy my curiosity to reverse engineer the process.

And then, of course, we have their Holiday Bullshit item for sale for $6, which may very well be a box containing literal feces from a bull. I'm prepared for that possibility. I mean, for $6 (shipping included) I can't imagine it being much more. But, then again, we'll see.

My favorite part of that whole process is their attitude, though. It bleeds into every detail, from the naming of the products, through the checkout process, and even in the post-order process, where the confirmation page urges you to "GO OUTSIDE" with a button that directs you to a Google Maps searching for "parks near (your zip code)". The whole thing is pretty brilliant.

The best thing about it is that it gives me something to aspire to, as a person who helps run an online business. We already work to inject Fangamer with a personality that exudes from our various pores: our product descriptions, the check-out process, Haiku Bot, etc. However, I don't think we've entirely settled on our company's voice yet. It certainly won't be CAH's jerkwad persona, though. (I respect their dedication to that persona, I'm not very good at pretending to be a jerk.) More likely it'll be something similar to what we've shown so far: a somewhat silly/surreal persona that's at time sincere and at times self-effacing. From there we need to refine our voice and begin applying it to the rest of the company.

Anyway, in conclusion, I'm looking forward to studying Card Against Humanity, the company, for the next few years.

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