How To Sell Nothing And Still Have People Love Your Brand

It’s every business-minded person’s pipedream: to do nothing but still rake in the cash.

To my knowledge, a business completely founded on doing nothing but being in the black still doesn’t exist, although there is a company that does, literally, sell nothing.

Yet everyone’s favourite off-colour game, Cards Against Humanity, managed to sell nothing at $5 a pop this Black Friday… to the tune of $71,000 USD.

If you’re a fan of Cards Against Humanity like I am, you’ll know that last year they sold literal bull poop last year for Black Friday – and made about $180,000 from it. (Some people didn’t get the joke before they bought, leading to some hilarious accounts after the fact.) This year’s campaign was along the lines of last year’s, in the sense that these ‘sales’ are meant to boycott the consumerization of the holiday season and the insanity that is Black Friday every year.

More and more retailers are trying these anti-campaigns on for size.

And it gets better: every year, Cards Against Humanity does something honourable with their Black Friday profits, from giving to charity to spoiling their employees.

And people love Cards Against Humanity for these campaigns. This year’s stunt was quickly shared across the internet and social media with overwhelmingly positive sentiments tied to it.

What Cards Against Humanity caught on to earlier than most brands represents a growing trend: increasingly non-traditional marketing stunts that aren’t about Company X raking in the profits, but instead that are focused on amusing, delighting, or respecting their employees and client bases without expectation of profit.

Not too long ago, I reviewed the REI Black Friday anti-campaign that *shockingly* let their employees have the day off to ‘go outside’, a great branding exercise in itself. More and more retailers are trying these anti-campaigns on for size, and the ones like REI and Cards Against Humanity are striking gold in finding the right balance.

It’s transforming a brand into the values that resonate with Gen M.

These anti-campaigns can be boiled down to these brands really knowing and understanding the values of their target customers. Even better, they understand their customers to the degree of wanting to embody these values in their employees through positive reinforcement like days off or special treats.

And this kind of stuff gets noticed. Gen M, slowly but steadily becoming the largest buying demographic in North America, loves this stuff. It’s not a banner add that takes over their screens, it’s not a pushy commercial, and it’s not an email in their junk mail. It’s transforming a brand into the values that resonate with Gen M through no trickery, but all good-will.

Welcome to the future of retail marketing.

About Jessica Thiele

Jessica Thiele is a marketing professional with a penchant for shopping and learning about how modern retail - online and offline - is changing. With a thirst for knowledge and a deep attention to detail and research, Jessica hopes to inspire the same passion for modern omni-channel retail and retail technology in others.

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