Cards Against Humanity, which is basically a more adult, politically incorrect version of Apples to Apples (the game where you match what you feel is the best response to a companion card laid out by someone), recently did an experimental promotion for their holiday expansion pack. They offered to mail out the extra cards to their customers for a “pay whatever you want” fee. Cards Against Humanity noted that each pack cost about $1 to make but left it up to the individual to decide how much to pay for them.
Given that customers were free to choose how much to pay for the expansion pack (a marketing move that has been done many times before, including by the band Radiohead), you’d think that most people would shell out at least a buck or two instead of going all Grinch-mode and not offering any money whatsoever. Or, conversely, you would expect Cards Against Humanity to require customers to pay at least a dollar for the pack to recoup their printing costs. But no, customers were free to pay nothing, though rest assured this Grinchy behavior didn’t go unnoticed as indicated by their shipping details:
Mean? Yes. Inappropriate? Of course. Unprofessional? Absolutely. But the game is called “Cards Against Humanity” and the whole point of it is to be offensive and terrible, to induce guilty chuckles and groans. So in this instance I’d argue that calling a customer a “Huge Asshole” is completely in line with the company’s brand.
It’s fine for a company to show some emotion, whether it’s being self-deprecating or teasing the customer, so long as it makes sense for the brand and is clearly in good fun. Obviously it would be inappropriate for Disney to refer to one of their customers as a “Huge Asshole,” but Cards Against Humanity can get away with it because of the nature of the product they produce. Note, however, that even Cards Against Humanity would likely face criticism if they used a racial slur or a misogynistic term to address their customers–it’s a fine line between being jokingly mean and actually being hateful.
As for Cards Against Humanity’s holiday experiment, they posted the results on their website. Customers paid an average price of $3.89, with the mean price being $5.00 per pack. They netted a profit of just over $70,000, showing that most people were decent enough not to screw them over for some free cards. And to show that even though they may call their cheapskate customers “Huge Assholes,” they’re not such bad guys after all, they donated all of the profits to the Wikimedia Foundation. It’s a charitable move that does a good job of showing that although Cards Against Humanity is a “mean” game that is sometimes “mean” to its customers, at its core it’s run by a good group of people who know how to push the boundaries just far enough to create laughs.