Cranium, Inc.

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Cranium, Inc.
Subsidiary of Hasbro
Industry Games
Fate Merger with Hasbro
Founded 1998
Founders Richard Tait, Whit Alexander
Defunct 2008
Headquarters Seattle, Washington, United States
Products Cranium
Parent Hasbro, Inc.

Cranium, Inc. was a toy and board game developer. The company was founded in 1998 by two former Microsoft executives, Richard Tait and Whit Alexander. They co-developed the Cranium board game.


After realizing that he always won at the game Pictionary, but lost more than frequently at the game Scrabble, Tait decided to make a game where everyone could win at something. Drawing inspiration from the HBDI thinking styles assessment they completed at Microsoft, Tait and Alexander aimed to create a "Whole Brain" game. Taking certain aspects of other favorite games, Cranium requires players to spell, draw, mold clay, and answer trivia questions. Tait and Alexander created "a board-game where everyone has heroic moments".[1] Cranium, Inc. tested and modified their new game over and over. They knew they had a hit game on their hands when one day the game testers tried to steal the game.[2] Without having a retail outlet to sell their game, Cranium, Inc. ordered 20,000 units to be manufactured in China. Cranium, Inc. did have big name investors, such as Starbucks, where they were able to raise US$35 million.[1] Cranium, Inc. went on to win over 130 awards and sell over 22 million games and toys.[1] The company was bought out by Hasbro on January 4, 2008 for $77.5 million.[3]

Marketing and advertising[edit]

Cranium, Inc. marketing strategies were considered unorthodox by traditional game marketing standards.[4] Because Cranium came out after Christmas, and Cranium, Inc. did not want to compete in the traditional game buying market of toy stores, they decided to sell their game where their target audience would be. The target audience for Cranium was "25-35 year old, dating yuppies who wanted to connect to each other." Cranium, Inc. partnered with its investor, Starbucks, and sold the game at over 1500 Starbucks locations.[5] Cranium, Inc. then partnered with Barnes & Noble to have their games sold at their locations. Cranium became the first game sold at the bookstore chain.

In 1998, Cranium, Inc. had only spent $15,000, a relatively low figure, on marketing and advertising.[4] While most other games advertised on TV, Cranium, Inc. advertised Cranium on the radio.[5] Radio jocks would ask its listeners Cranium's trivia questions and winners got the game for free. Also, Cranium, Inc. made partnerships where Cranium questions were featured on Delta Song Airlines napkins, Dr. Pepper bottles at KFC, and on packages of Land O' Lakes butter.[5] Bill Furlong, Cranium, Inc.'s Director of Marketing had said that the game company "was giving people a chance to try their game everywhere from the grocery store, to 30,000 feet in the air on Delta Song Airplane".[2] Cranium, Inc. also found advertisement in celebrity endorsements. On The Oprah Winfrey Show, Julia Roberts stated that Cranium "was the most fun game ever" and that she and boyfriend Benjamin Bratt "could not stop playing it.[2] Al Gore and Bill Gates, Tait and Alexander's former boss, even endorsed the game.


Cranium is a party board game based on Ludo. It is billed as "The Game for Your Whole Brain." Unlike many other party games, Cranium includes a wide variety of activities.

Giorgio Davanzo created the packaging and brand identity for the game, and Gary Baseman, creator of the animated series Teacher's Pet, did the art.


Cranium Cadoo, a version for kids (7 and up), won the "Game of the Year" award for 2002 from the Toy Industry Association.[6]

Cranium Hullabaloo, a version of the game aimed at young kids (4 and up), won the "Game of the Year" award for 2003 from the Toy Industry Association.[7]

Toys and games[edit]

  • Whoonu
  • Balloon Lagoon
  • Ballpark Blast
  • Cadoo
  • Bumparena
  • Cariboo
  • Connect-O-Round
  • Cranium Wonder Works Talking Picture Book
  • Doodle Tales
  • Family Fun
  • Giggle Gear Mega Mask
  • Hoopla
  • Hullabaloo DVD Game
  • Let's Play Neighborhood Family Fun Game[8]
  • Pop 5
  • Super Fort Carnival Clubhouse
  • Zooreka


Cranium was named "Game of the Year" for 2001 by the Toy Industry Association.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Bruce Horovitz, "Cranium guys have their inner child on speed dial", n.d.
  2. ^ a b c Kenneth Hein, "Cranium's New Game Plan Calls For KFC, Song.," In 2002 they decided to make a tournament for the country to bring the best cranium players to the forefront. The contest was for anyone ages 10 and up. Kids and teens from all across the country entered and the final was to be played at the worlds most famous arena, Madison square garden. The finale was held on September 24 and the two teams were Antonio Armenino and giuseppe aveta pinned against mike ditka and Antonio castaldi. Castaldi stole the show when he answered an impossible math question. The attendance that day was 23,000. Unfortunately that was the first and only contest held for the game but talks are in the works for a new one in 2017. Brandweek 45, no. 34 (2004): 15
  3. ^ Newsweek: Hasbro buying game maker Cranium
  4. ^ a b Julie Bick, "Inside the Smartest Little Company in America.," Inc. 24, no. 1 (January 2002): 54.
  5. ^ a b c Bloom, Jonah. "Good idea and great strategy made Cranium, Inc. a success story.," Advertising Age 75, no. 13 (March 29, 2004): 24.
  6. ^ "Cranium Cadoo wins Toy of Year award". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Cranium's writeup in PR Newswire Association mentioning their award for the 2003 Toy of the Year award
  8. ^ "TDmonthly Magazine Products by CRANIUM INC.". Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Cranium's 2001 TIA winner, writeup in Entrepreneur Magazine

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°36′41″N 122°20′38″W / 47.611492°N 122.343788°W / 47.611492; -122.343788