Have you ever wondered how top Kickstarters get crowdfunded? Even for some seemingly absurd ideas?
I mean a museum of pizza memorabilia? What can I say, people love their pizza. Creator Brian Dwyer raised over $16,000 to open Pizza Brain, The World’s First Pizza Museum & Restaurant located in the heart of Philadelphia.
While physical products seem to perform the best, you can find top Kickstarter projects on everything from photography books supporting refugees to comics to potato salad. Yes, potato salad. More on that later.
In this post, we will look at some of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in various categories, and what specifically has made them so successful—including tugging at the heartstrings, using humor, building a connection, and employing great graphics and videos.
If you’re considering or already planning your own crowdfunding campaign, consider these powerful weapons you can add to your arsenal.
Thinking About Funding a Creative Project with Kickstarter?
There are 3 great reasons to go with crowdfunding. The first one is a bit obvious, to raise money. But the benefits of crowdfunding go deeper than that. It can be a great way to validate your idea. Can you get backers? And also a fantastic way to build a community around your passion.
You can check out Kickstarter’s Project Guidelines here.
Kickstarter has an active platform where loyal backers search for products and causes to support. It is not always the biggest numbers that win. You just need true fans.
In the words of Kevin Kelly,
To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.
Today we’re exploring Kickstarter successes and pulling back the curtain to see what are the makings of a successful campaign.
What’s Behind the Most Successful Kickstarter Campaigns?
We’ve narrowed down a handful of killer strategies that some of the top crowdfunded campaigns in history have leveraged to find their remarkable success.
Know Your Audience Well
Who will love your project and why? Top Kickstarter projects speak the language of the people they want to reach. Two campaigns that have been ultra-successful in knowing their audiences well and speaking their languages are VSSL Camp Supplies and Coolest Cooler. The VSSL Camp Supplies project, The World’s Most Versatile Compact Camping Tool was funded in under four hours far surpassing their $18,770 goal.
Lovers of camping and all things outdoors want versatility and durability. VSSl delivers big time. They also want tools and supplies that are lightweight and compact.
Research the language of your audience wherever they hang out most online and highlight top words and phrases in your images and videos, the same way VSSL did in its media:
The brand knows the product features that will appeal most to its audience and highlights these in prominent places as seen in the image above.
Next up, Coolest. The coolest cooler around with more than 60,000 people pledging over $13,000,000. You read that right. Millions for a cooler. Now, it must be noted that the Coolest Cooler also went on to become a poster child for a viral Kickstarter campaign gone awry, so there are a lot of lessons to be learned there too. But in terms of marketing, they got a lot right.
Coolest Cooler, Kickstarter
Before you get to all the great product photos and cooler features, you are presented with a video on how old coolers are boring and haven’t been changed in over 50 years. Want to be cool? You need a cool cooler. The team knew they were reaching out to the outdoor adventurous types or those longing to get more adventurous, the ones ready to have some fun.
In their campaign copy, they are selling that adventure and fun, not just a cooler. They let early supporters vote on which colors would be available, getting backers engaged in the design process right away. Classic red and basic blue are out. It’s Margarita, Coolest Orange, or Blue Moon from here on out.
They also showcase the evolution of the design, giving backers a behind-the-scenes look at the design process. This is a cool way to let supporters see how your idea came to be.
They take you step by step through all the features, from waterproof speakers to beach tires, while also weaving in why each feature is so important.
- Know your audience and speak to them
- Get them involved in the process
- Have a great product with detailed images of features
Having quality images and an engaging intro video are important, but remember that it is about the message over production quality. You do not want to get so wrapped up in making a slick video that you forget what your campaign is really about. Backers care more about the heart of your story. They want to connect with you and your passion.
Creating Connection Through Story
Kickstarter Mark Tuschman speaks from the heart with his campaign Faces of Courage. Mark shares his mission through a story. Walking into a shelter for victims of abuse in Mongolia, he was hit with the harsh reality that so many face but also the wonderful work that rarely makes headlines.
Mark’s campaign uses the Kickstarter platform to not only fund his project but share an important message with the world:
I want the world to see their faces, feel their pain, and understand both their powerlessness and their unshakable dignity. Faces of Courage is my way of speaking out on their behalf.
Mark had pages designed for the first chapter so potential backers could get a feel for what the book would look like once completed and published.
The most successful Kickstarter campaigns, meant to reach the heart, also share the impact as Mark does on their campaign pages. The photos and page mockups are beautiful. Mark has a quality product and presents it with a quality presentation.
- Make your body of work mean something
- Draw people in with story
- Create a mockup
- Share the impact
Explore why your project has value. Coolest has value because it is a new spin on an old classic and lets people get outdoors to explore. Faces of Courage has value because it is presenting a global problem that needs attention. But remember that your project does not have to go that deep.
Humor has value too.
Which brings us to the most unusual campaign I have yet seen. I promised we would get here…potato salad.
“I’m making potato salad.”
That’s all the campaign description said and almost 7,000 backers pledged over $50,000.
The Power of Humor
So how did creator Zack Brown raise so much dough just for being willing to make potato salad? Humor. The intro video is dramatic and hilarious and I’m not the only one who thought so. Zack even made headlines, and a print company called Homage reached out to him to create an “I backed potato salad” t-shirt.
What do you do for rewards when your campaign is to make potato salad?
With a $5 pledge, you can choose a “potato-salad-appropriate” ingredient. For $20 or more you also get a potato-salad themed Haiku. From start to finish, this campaign makes you want to get involved just for the sheer joy of seeing how it all plays out.
Zack is proof that simply sharing who you are and having fun can pay off and pay off BIG.
What began as a laughable joke between friends quickly became an internet sensation, complete with hats, t-shirts and more than $55,000 raised. You most likely saw Zack everywhere from our Good Day Columbus studios to Good Morning America; everyone wanted to talk to THE potato salad guy and hear just what the heck he was going to do with all that money.
– Katelyn Murphy, ABC 6 On Your Side
Key Takeaways from Potato Salad:
- Get creative
- Humor can pay off big
- Share update videos
- Create a hashtag #PotatoMadness
- Have fun with pledge rewards
Zack came back to thank everyone for supporting his campaign. When connecting with backers you want to provide value and be original. Others have tried to copy Zack’s idea and style with other easy food making campaigns with far less success. When Zack did it, it was new and unique.
He was having fun and he was more about the creative process than about the funding. His original goal was to just raise $60.
Put The Focus On Your Creative Process To Harness Media Power
Stephanie Pereira, director of community communications at Kickstarter, recommends the 70/20 rule when it comes to talking about the process versus asking for funding.
Another key is to harness media power. Fans helped get Zack featured on ABC 6 and other top Kickstarters have turned to on and offline media to share their projects too. One such campaign, The World’s Best Travel Jacket.
CNN Money called the Baubax Travel Jacket, “The Swiss Army Knife of travel wear.”
When launching a Kickstarter campaign, it is a great idea to reach out to the press. You can find bloggers and influencers who create content in the same area and also contact news outlets and send out press releases. Often a campaign can start out strong and end strong but dip down in the middle with much lower engagement. By planning strategically, you can get more press during that slower period to boost your campaign throughout the launch.
Having known names sharing your campaign builds trust and credibility.
“Look at any company website and you’ll see how such exposure is frequently used to validate a business.” Nico Prins, in Foundr
Baubax did this so well, just look at all the media attention.
Of course, Baubax saw a need in the market and went to a passionate audience of travelers by creating a product with killer features. They also filmed a great video that shows the jacket in use, alongside what travel is like without the jacket, creating a greater desire for their product. Who doesn’t want to get through the airport more easily!
The video also showcases the different styles that would be available, making travel not only a breeze but more fashionable. I have to say, as a traveler myself, I want one. Mission accomplished.
According to Blue Corona, “One minute of video is worth 1,800,000 words.” That is a lot of marketing power. An effectively executed video makes the campaign more engaging and shareable. It could even go viral.
Now that the jacket campaign has finished with over $9,000,000 pledged, they are still making use of the Kickstarter page by adding a button that takes viewers over to the website for version 2.
While a Kickstarter campaign page is great, you need a home base to keep backers engaged during and after your launch. Prepare your website and social media before you launch your campaign to make sure you are ready for visitors. You could also set up a special landing page to collect email addresses to stay in touch with your visitors and keep them updated on campaign and product progress.
- Get the media involved and excited
- Craft a video that shows life with and without your project (before and after)
- Keep updating your campaign page after the launch has ended
- Prepare your website and social media to get backers to your online feeds
Kickstarter Is Not Just For New Ideas and Businesses
Already established companies can win on Kickstarter too. Take Font Awesome, which used the platform to update their open source software. The Font Awesome team used Kickstarter to raise funds for the update, but kept a free version and offered early backers of $20 or more a Pro version. They encouraged backers to go Pro with a two column graph.
Offering a free version of a digital product is a great way to get customers who may not be ready to pay now, but may be willing to go all in later on.
Font Awesome Pro offered pledges up to $5,000. You never know, you may just capture the attention of a business or individual with a big budget that really wants to support you. They let backers choose final designs for their t-shirt and mug rewards.
Font Awesome also created some engaging stretch goals to add more features as they passed their funding goal. And every single one got funded.
- Consider a Free and Pro version or different licenses
- Offer a wide range in your rewards for different budgets
- Give early backers a better deal to create a time push
- Develop some fun stretch goals
Some issues that came up from the most successful Kickstarter campaigns after launching:
I wish I had known…
- how much time it would really take during launch.
- that I needed to be more organized.
- how to calculate costs better for rewards (factoring in shipping and minimum order requirements).
- a lower funding option, like $5, allows more people to get involved.
- to strategically plan the end of the campaign away from weekends and holidays.
- that Kickstarter funding counts as income. Taxes!
Basically, launch time can feel like this:
But the most successful Kickstarters know that the rewards of launching your creative passion product into the world make all the work worth it!
Wondering what happened to Brian’s Pizza Museum? Does it exist? Why yes, it does. And the museum looks great!
Ready to launch a campaign on Kickstarter? Let us know what you’ve got planned in the comments.