A reader sent the following email:
Mark, I always enjoy reading your Pragmatic Pricing site and got this link sent to me from a friend. Once I saw it, you were the first person I thought of.
The Cards Against Humanity team came up with this idea, got Amazon to go along with it, and crushed it on Black Friday. It’s interesting because it got additional press, which probably drove more eyeballs, but people knew that the next day it would be $5 cheaper and they still purchased it.
From a pricing perspective, could this be repeated? I’m guessing people felt ok about paying more because it was “fun”.
First Ryan, thank you for the nice comments about Pragmatic Pricing.
The lesson I glean from this successful “experiment” is that when a company can create something fun or funny or surprising (in a positive way) about their offering that makes the conversation go viral, it has a great chance of boosting short term sales. In this case, the company, Cards Against Humanity, was able to turn the Black Friday sales tradition on its head and charged more. This was so unusual and outrageous that it went viral. Then some of this extra attention turned into sales.
It is interesting that many people purchased at the higher price on Black Friday instead of waiting and purchasing the next day for $5 less. Maybe they didn’t pay close attention and assumed it was a discount, when in fact it was the opposite. Maybe some did voluntarily pay a little more just because it was fun. I tend to favor the explanation that they weren’t aware. (How often do we just assume certain things are true when we make purchase decisions?)
However, note that a lot more people purchased the day after black Friday. Some of these may have been aware of the gag and waited. Some of them may not have heard of the stunt until Saturday. Regardless, the attention of this outrageous pricing scheme is undoubtedly what drove the sales.
To answer Ryan’s question, could this be repeated? I would say yes, but not too many more times. I would guess that even though it made a big splash, only a small percentage of the population heard about it. There are still millions of people whose attention has not yet been grabbed by this shocking pricing strategy.
That said, there are possibly other pricing strategies that may grab people’s attention. A few years ago we wrote about the Subway $5 footlong, which we believed was successful because it was both surprising and memorable. Keep watching and we will surely see more.