At the end of 2013, some friends and I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money we needed to make the Check Yo Ponytail movie, a passion project we’d been chipping away at for the past 2 years. We fought hard for a month and tried every kind of promotion and gimmick we could think of. In the end, we didn’t make our goal.
It was my first foray into crowd funding. Admittedly, I didn’t understand the process as well as I should have going in. I thought I did, but I didn’t. I’m not sure if you can really know until you get in there and figure it out. What I discovered along the way opened my eyes to the process.
The first major revelation I had is it’s not really promotion and marketing, it’s running a campaign. You might as well be running for Mayor. It’s about making a personal connection and giving people confidence that they should give you their hard earned money. Until you realize this point (or unless you have a strong, dedicated fanbase), it’s hard to get people engaged.
I run a business that is somewhat noteworthy (IHEARTCOMIX). People have heard of Check Yo Ponytail. A lot of the artists that had donated time and rewards certainly have a fan following. So we thought going in, this is gonna be good. We got this. It proved not to be the case! The campaign launched and fell upon deaf ears with little engagement.
It wasn’t until 3 weeks in that we finally began to figure out a formula that worked. Essentially 2 weeks before the campaign ended we started over. We made a new video, reformatted how we were reaching out to people, made it more personal and we saw traction. You can see the chart on the backend of Kickstarter. The day we changed our approach was the day we started making money. In the end it was too little too late, but… A-HAH!
So what was wrong? Looking back, there we 3 things we did wrong at the start that doomed our campaign:
It was a risky move to launch a campaign that ran over Thanksgiving and up to Christmas. It was the number one complaint I heard from people that wanted to contribute or maybe contribute more, but they just couldn’t afford it. I would highly recommend launching a campaign during a more neutral time. People are more giving during the holidays, but not to projects like these.
2.WE FAILED TO LAUNCH WITH ONE COHESIVE MESSAGE.
When we launched there was a trailer. There was a Kickstarter Video. There was a promo video. There were rewards. There was a whole essay on what the movie was about, but there was not one thing that had all of that in one place as an easily digestible piece of content. This was a gross misstep on our part and ultimately confused people about what the point of the project was.
A couple weeks in I called Pete from Anamanaguchi. They had recently run a successful Kickstarter campaign. I wanted tips to turn ours around. This was what he pointed out to me and hit me like a smack of bricks to the face. D’oh!
This meant basically scraping all the content we’d made before, but we did it. Immediately we saw the results.
3. WE MARKETED THE CAMPAIGN LIKE A SHOW/PRODUCT.
Like mentioned above, we started off with the totally wrong mind set. We tweeted, Instagrammed and blasted out like crazy, but it’s not the kind of thing people see a poster for a want to give money to.
We literally had to go door-to-door in the end. Texting people directly, Facebook Messaging people directly, Calling people on the phone, talking to them in person, etc. That final week I was basically in a tux every night out on the town asking friends and strangers to contribute in some way and that had more impact than 4 weeks of social media.
The number one thing I discovered along the way is that running a crowd funding campaign is an incredibly personal process. You have to be willing to expose yourself and put your ambitions on the line. Win or lose, everyone is a part of it either as a contributor or a spectator. I found the more I gave of myself, the more I got out of it.
While it was disappointing to not make the goal, I had a really good time figuring out the process. I got to spend more time with the project than I ever had and got to creatively figure out what the heart of it was. What the idea was for the film when the campaign began is not the same as it was when it ended. It naturally, like any creative project, took on a life of it’s own and what I was left with is way more inspiring to me than where we began. Whatever this project materializes into in the future, it will have been to the benefit of this failed campaign.
The process of the Kickstarter allowed myself and Team IHC to scratch several itches that we’d been wanting to scratch this past year. We proved to ourselves that we could create, larger, more in-depth content and organize productions on a more massive scale. It allowed us to mobilize and combine interests that we normally don’t get to take advantage of (comedy, internet memes, comic books, etc). Organizing and broadcasting the Telethon was one of the most satisfying experiences I’d had all year. And most of all, it lead us to the answer that we’ve been searching for: What comes next? More on that one some other time…
It was also REALLY COOL to see all the people that stepped up to support either with cash contributions, rewards, favors or time. So many really amazing people that I love, respect and admire donated something to help with the cause. So many great friends got behind the campaign and gave what they could. All that good will was so inspiring and encourages me to keep pushing despite the end result of this first try. In the end, it was the best X-Mas present I could have asked for.
Hopefully if you are thinking of doing one of these on your own, this helps. I highly recommend spending as much as you can with the campaign as you can before launching it. Show your friends, explore others’, ask for help. It’s an incredible amount of work and an exhausting process. Don’t be like me and have to do it over before it’s even begun J.