The Cards Against Humanity Black Friday Sale

For Black Friday, the creators of the wildly popular card game Cards Against Humanity decided to do something different. They would get in contact with Amazon and convince them, that for one day only, they would raise their price from $25 to $30. Here’s how it came to be:

After some discussion, Ben came up with the idea of raising the price for Black Friday and that was so outrageous that I fell in love with it instantly. Two books I read recently that informed my decision were Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath and Marty Neumeier’s Zag, which are both kind of shitty business/science books that make the somewhat-obvious point that being small and nimble can give you advantages that huge lumbering opponents don’t have. Anyone can do a sale for Black Friday, but nobody but us could get away with raising their prices and risking a ton of sales just to make a joke.

The other guys were pretty skeptical, but Ben and I convinced them one by one, 12 Angry Men style, until they agreed to let us try a truly insane pricing experiment. The final piece needed to convince everyone was the mockup of the landing page that I designed, with the glowing “consume!” button. Once everyone saw how funny that looked, they knew we had to go through with it.

According to the post:

The sale made people laugh, it was widely shared on Twitter and Tumblr, and it was the top post on Reddit. The press picked it up, and it was reported in The GuardianUSA TodayPolygonBuzzFeedAll Things DChicagoist, and AdWeek. It was even the top comment on The Wirecutter’s front page AMA, which had nothing to do with us.

They ended up doing a little better than last year and maintained their #1 spot on Amazon for toys/games. Bravo for the brilliant idea.

The Origin of Black Friday

Writing in The New Yorker, Amy Merrick profiles the origin of “Black Friday”:

Beginning in the nineteen-thirties, thousands of fans thronged Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium for the Army-Navy football game. As festive as the mood was inside the stadium, it wasn’t nearly so cheerful for the Philadelphia police officers who had to herd the crowds. The game was frequently held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and just as visiting fans were showing up the day before, holiday shoppers also would descend on downtown. On those Fridays after Thanksgiving, the late Joseph P. Barrett, a longtime reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin, recalled, even members of the police band were called upon to direct traffic. The cops nicknamed the day of gridlock Black Friday, and soon others started to do the same.

Retailers worried the phrase would scare people away. A few weeks after the 1961 game, which President John F. Kennedy had attended, the P.R. pioneer Denny Griswold described in her industry newsletter, Public Relations News, the efforts by Philadelphia merchants and city officials to rebrand the day Big Friday, in reference to the start of the holiday shopping season. (“The media coöperated,” Griswold wrote.) Big Friday didn’t stick, but the idea behind it did, in Philadelphia and, eventually, beyond. A few decades later, when the term came to describe a day when retailers’ ledgers shifted “into the black” for the year—a connotation also pushed by marketers—people assumed that had always been the connotation.

How is your Black Friday shopping going? Or is it?

Do People Secretly Love Black Friday?

Why will millions of people brave long lines this Friday (Thursday evening if you’re shopping at Wal-Mart) in order to score some Black Friday deals? Do people secretly love Black Friday? I am not buying this research, summarized in The Atlantic Wire:

For all the stress of the waiting, the Black Friday deals have a physical—and positive—effect on our brain. In the age of the smartphone, retailers lure customers with mobile coupons to get cell-phone shoppers to buy at the store, rather than online. And so even if discounts will get deeper in-store or on Cyber Monday, Black Friday-specific coupons can offer an immediate sense of relaxation. All of which makes consumers happier, found a recent Claremont University study.

Measuring the oxytocin levels of a group of female shoppers after giving them a coupon,  neurologist Dr. Paul Zak found that the deal increased this hormone’s levels in some shoppers. As this hormone (not to be confused with Oxycontin) has been linked to feelings of love and trust, Dr. Zak concluded that the positive mental reaction to it has become one of the reasons we love coupons so much. We view it as a social gesture, he says. “We’re so engrained to being social creatures that even receiving a coupon online is viewed by the brain as a social experience,” Zak says. “We’re building a relationship with an online shopping site like it’s a personal relationship.” The same study also found the coupon reduced stress and increased happiness in some participants. Ergo, on Black Friday, the biggest coupon day of the year must make this hormone go wild in some shoppers’ brains, making it a very relaxing and lovely experience.

At certain levels, consumers enjoy arousal and challenges during the shopping process,” researcher Sang-Eun Byun told The Washington Post’s Olga Khazan. “They enjoy something that’s harder to get, and it makes them feel playful and excited.” Given that bit of science, it’s no wonder that shoppers have acted quite aggressive in recent years, as this Christian Science Monitor article notes

The people who choose to partake in Black Friday, will likely associate many of its aspects with positive feelings. In fact, the day doesn’t evoke angry or related emotions for many of its participants, found an study from Eastern Illinois University. The researchers observed consumer behaviors and emotions on that day and… calmness, happiness, and courteousness ranked higher than anger and anxiety. 

As for me? I am staying on the sidelines and not stepping a foot within brick-and-mortar stores.