Kickstarter Series: Part 1 of 2 – Kickstarter: It’s Old and New

When Kickstarter describes itself (see here) , the first thing on the list is this: “1. Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.”

It is new… mostly. It’s a disruptive, democratizing platform to allow anyone the chance to literally kickstart their project, or perhaps to kick it to the next level. That said, a lot of what makes Kickstarter work are the strategies and tools of the previous generation of marketing and development.

Money TreeIn the past, most products (creative or otherwise) usually went through a period of testing and research before anything would be released to the public. Kickstarter’s model demands that the creators instead develop their product as quickly as possible, and present it to public as something nearly fully formed, needing only their assistance to come into life. This creates market validation in a new way; you are receiving your audience response to the semi-final product, instead of speculation and testing beforehand.

Now, some of the most successful Kickstarter projects are ones that applied old-school strengths to their project. They brought an established audience with them to the project. Or they applied strong marketing campaign strategies to this un-traditional funding platform.

  • The Planet Money T-Shirt Kickstarter This was developed by a group of people that brought a sizeable audience to their campaign. The project was devised as part of a co-production and investigation by NPR and the podcast This American Life; many of those listeners went on to become funders.
  • The Pebble Watch This is one of the most successful items ever funded on Kickstarter, receiving 10,266% of what their original request was. Although their product was itself a disruptive technology (a ‘smart watch’ that pairs with Apple or Android devices), their campaign included cleanly designed images to explain their product, a compelling video, and communicating a clear understanding of both the product and it’s uses to the prospective audience. This required a certain level of invesment from those leading the project.

What we can see here is that although Kickstarter is a disruptive platform as it relates to creating content and product, its success still comes from selling itself using familiar techniques and strengths. The highlights of the disruption are a remix of the older tools, re-appropriating and utilizing those pieces that are still useful.

Interestingly, later on in Kickstarter’s self-description, they state: “5. Creative works were funded this way for centuries.” They continue to outline this model, stating how creatives from earlier centuries would rely on smaller patrons, subscribers, who would often get an early version, a first look, or a special edition of the content. Sound familiar?

Our next article will deal with some of the challenges Kickstarter projects face, that are unique to that platform.


Disclosure: This post was co-written with Jason Mehmel. Ideas contained were discussed collaboratively; and Brian F. Singh had the final review/edit.

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