I’ve recently become all-too familiar with Kickstarter since the recent launch of my boyfriend’s campaign for his brand, The Dream Hoodie. His goal was to raise enough funds (using a flagship product) to incorporate the company, develop more product samples and get a website up and running.
To the untrained observer, the process seems pretty simple: make a video, fill out some information about your project and share the living daylights out of the campaign (with every human you’ve ever interacted with… since your pre-school teacher). Because I wanted to be a good boyfriend, not to mention the fact that I make my living as a marketer, I became his Kickstarter partner-in-crime.
We did a lot of research on what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign and learned a lot along the way. Here are my key takeaways:
1. You aren’t just launching a product, you’re launching a brand:
On Kickstarter, you need to create a video and a website. After an initial first crack at writing copy, we realized that in order to succeed, we needed to take a step backwards and figure out our purpose – what was our reason for existing in peoples’ lives? Technically, we were just selling a product but in reality, also introducing a new brand. We realized that while some people would give just because they liked us, more of our network needed a real reason to believe. Our true task was to first create a brand, then sell the product.
Once the brand foundation was set, we were able to start developing copy for the website, a script for the video and supporting imagery for online communication.
2. You must do a LOT of planning before launching a campaign:
We’ve all heard about the $1 million+ campaigns. Recently, for example, crowdfunders donated a million bucks to get LeVar Burton back on TV doing “Reading Rainbow” (a personal childhood favorite). But most of these high-dollar campaigns have something else going on. “Reading Rainbow” was a success because it made people nostalgic for their childhoods (and had a huge celebrity endorser).
It’s a different ball game if you are just a regular person trying to start a personal campaign because you have to appeal to a new and wide audience. It’s true that the people you know will make up the bulk of your pledges, but you must do some serious legwork if you want to be successful. We found that having a PR strategy BEFORE launching the campaign was an incredibly useful tool. My advice: have a press release ready to go, and line up bloggers and news contacts to be prepared for the campaign’s launch. And again, you have got to be clear on what your brand is all about and why consumers should care about it, ahead of the launch.
3. Prepare yourself for a new, full-time job:
Not only does it take a boatload of time to prepare for the launch, but once you launch, it becomes your life. You are a human, social media-and email-marketing-5 texts-a-minute machine. People will be constantly asking questions and you have to respond in real time.
The bottom line is that it takes more work than you would think to launch and successfully fund a Kickstarter campaign. It is essential that you start by developing more than just a product but a brand idea, and have clearly defined why it should exist in people’s lives. Be prepared to use a language and tone online and in-person communications that are consistent with the brand message you are trying to convey. Have the time and resources set aside to properly handle the set-up and preparation time, along with the active pledge period.
I’m proud to say we did get funded in the end, and that the total funds came in just hours before the pledge period was over. After that, my boyfriend and I definitely needed the Dream Hoodie to relax and escape (and about a gallon of vodka).