Conclusions from a Failed Kickstarter Campaign
However, there are many assumptions that we made that had we known before we started, we would not have attempted to fund our campaign through Kickstarter. We’ve gathered stats and other details that we hope will be helpful for anyone else thinking of attempting funding of their own campaign on Kickstarter.
Apart from Kickstarter, there are, of course, likely other secondary reasons why we could have done better, but my main objective today is to focus on what stats we have and the conclusions we might make from those.
I will place the details and stats first and follow-up with our conclusions based on the data we have at this moment.
For reference, here is a table of contents:
- The Kickstarter Model
- Our Backer Stats
- Our Relationship to Backers
- Referral Sources of Backers
- Backers by Gender
- Location of Backers
- Backers Professions
- Estimated Outreach
- Press Outreach
- Kickstarter and Gender
The Kickstarter Model
First of all and most importantly, I’d like to address the Kickstarter model itself. Searching around the internet, you can easily find many success stories. What you don’t find easily are the “failed” projects. Even Kickstarter itself pro-actively hides failed projects on its site and there was even a bit of controversy about this last year.
Even more unsettling however, is that Kickstarter’s website systematically hides active projects that it determines are not potential winners.
When we first started researching on how best to put together our campaign, we saw several other successful campaigns in the same category (notebooks). As it turns out, most of them were prominently featured by Kickstarter as a staff pick. When we investigated how the staff select featured campaigns and asked around, we found out that their criteria is arbitrary although the one common recommendation by both Kickstarter and others was that the video is an essential element to be successfully funded.
We didn’t have big financial resources to hire professional musicians and videographers to do our video. If so, we wouldn’t have tried to fund on Kickstarter in the first place! So, we decided to do it ourselves and go the creative route. One thing we noticed later is that the majority of the most successfully funded projects have a professionally made video. This is a setback for people like us who are turning to Kickstarter to raise funding we can’t obtain otherwise.
So, we decided to work on a 3.5 minute video as a project in itself and we worked for 6 months creating the videography, design, music, illustration, and everything else for it in-house. According to Kickstarter’s project stats, our video has received only 833 views to date and 29.77% of those views were completed (they watched the whole video).
In short, the Kickstarter staff feature is subjective and based on whether or not the staff either like your video or they think it has a chance of profitable success.
If your campaign doesn’t get featured by the staff, it’s 100% up to you to get it popular. How exactly you gain rank in popularity, I don’t know. But, I assume that it’s done via an algorithm based on amount of traffic your campaign and funding your campaign gets in a specific amount of time.
You might think shooting for ranking high in the main popular area on their site would be your best bet to get your campaign on Kickstarter, but ranking well there depends mostly on what type of campaign you have. Basically, you are up against all of the other currently funding campaigns on Kickstarter. That means if someone is raising money for their next big movie, tech product, or video game, you’re not going to get very far up on the list. I got tired of the indefinite scrolling down before I found our campaign, which isn’t a good sign that anyone else will have much patience to browse that way.
At one point, I was very concerned that I couldn’t find our campaign anywhere on their site and I wrote to Kickstarter for assistance. Here is what they replied:
Thanks for reaching out and congrats on launching your project on Kickstarter! You can see all projects in a particular category by clicking the “See more popular projects” under “Popular This Week”. As you keep scrolling down, more projects will continue to load until the very end of the category. When I continue to load projects, I was able to find yours listed.
So, what other ways are there to find a nice campaign on the Kickstarter site?
You’d think browsing by a particular category would make it easier to find a campaign you’re interested in, right? If you go to the design category, you will see that the main page is heavily featured on winners. There you have staff picks, the preview of the dreaded never-ending “popular” scroll, recently successfully funded, and most funded. The main focus is on “winners” and “potential winners” from what it appears.
So, if you can’t easily find a campaign by category, perhaps you could try by location? Hopefully you live a popular city although I have to admit that being listed in Seattle didn’t help us as much as we thought it would. We still got placed on the 4th or 5th scroll through, which we find unlikely that anyone had the patience to get to either.
Finally, you can hook in your social networks and get recommendations from your friends. You’ll likely be more interested in what your friends like, right? When I logged into my personal account, I saw below that Kickstarter featured one project ahead of our own that had 1 Facebook friend backing it. And ours was featured in the second slot and had 9 Facebook friends backing it. This implies that Kickstarter’s friend recommendation algorithm more heavily favors a highly funded project than one with a larger number of friend backers.
We did finally get featured first in the ending soon category in the last final minutes of our campaign. Unfortunately, that did not bring any additional backers.
Our conclusion from this: Kickstarter is primarily a business focused on profits. It determines what should be successful and their criteria is based on competition. If your project doesn’t fit into its criteria (which is not public knowledge), you need to have a plan of action to provide the funding sources yourself because Kickstarter will not help you. If Kickstarter decides that your project doesn’t look like a winner, it will be systematically dropped to the back of the line.
To add salt to the wound, even backers on Kickstarter themselves can adopt the same competitive stance. Several of our backers removed their pledges when it looked like our campaign wouldn’t be successful even though that would have no effect whether they would get charged or not.
Our Backer Stats
So, whether or not your campaign gets funded depends a lot on your personal contacts, having a sizable audience that might like the type of project you make, and your own access to resources. Our project ended up with 52 wonderful backers who pledged $2,478 of our $9,300 goal. Here’s how it sorted out.
Our Relationship to Backers
This chart is a breakdown of the percentage of backers that fit into each of these categories: Internet Contacts (friends on the internet, social media, etc.), Friends & Family (personal and close friends that we know in real life and family), Clients & Past Clients, and Unknown.
This chart is a breakdown of the percentage of total funds raised by each of these categories: Internet Contacts (friends on the internet, social media, etc.), Friends & Family (personal and close friends that we know in real life and family), Clients & Past Clients, and Unknown.
Backer Referral Sources
These are where our backers came from according to Kickstarter’s project stats.
Backer Breakdown by Gender
How many of our backers were female as compared to male.
Location of Backers
Where our backers are located. It is important to note here that Koldo is Spanish and Naomi lived in Spain for several years.
Backer Professions (if known)
This chart contains the types of general professions our backers have if we knew them personally in order to understand if their profession was related to their interest in our product. If not, we slotted them into “unknown”. “Other” is for all others where there was only 1 person in a particular profession. The “artists” group includes musicians, writers, movie directors, and photographers. Just one visual artist pledged on our campaign, but it was one of the most generous pledges of all.
Providing a close estimate of reach is near impossible. However, we factored in several different sources and criteria to provide a general estimation. Our sources included personal contacts, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, two of our own newsletters, and blog subscribers.
We further separated reach into two groups; direct and indirect. Direct are what we call people that we have fairly close contact with like friends and family, people that we talk to on social media, direct contacts via personal contact, and newsletter and blog subscribers.
Indirect reach are the number people who are included in our overall count, but may not have seen our campaign or been aware of it (some Twitter followers, people on Facebook we don’t talk to often or ever, etc.).
Finally, some people generously and often times repeatedly shared our campaign with their own contacts. We have no way of estimating how many total people these reached, so we haven’t included that in the estimated number (although if our own gratitude counted as a number, it would top 1 billion).
Estimated Direct Reach
Estimated Indirect Reach
Besides sharing and promoting our campaign with our own contacts, we contacted many press outlets including general media sites, magazines, and blogs. The sources that we wrote had to do with the nature of our product (stationery, lifestyle, decoration, design and creativity, and local press). This is perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects in terms of resources spent and return on investment since it was very time-consuming to compile the lists and write to them individually every day.
We contacted a total of 227 media sources via email and our campaign was featured by 4, 2 of which reached out to us directly because they liked our campaign. Many of them told us that they would not feature Kickstarter campaigns as a rule and we didn’t hear anything back at all from most.
Kickstarter and Gender
I did some further research on the most funded Kickstarter campaigns to date and came to some interesting conclusions about the success of the campaigns in terms of gender. I went through the 100 most backed projects to date and the 100 most funded projects to date on Kickstarter [source] and tried to determine who was the target audience for each campaign by gender. The criteria I used were:
- If the design was more heavily male or female focused in appearance (such as, black vs. a brighter color, hard lines vs. softer shapes, etc.)
- If it was likely that the audience would be more heavily male because of the nature of the project (in the case of certain types of tech products, video games, sports products, entertainment, and male accessories like wallets)
- If it was likely that the audience would be more heavily female because of the nature of the project (in the case of products oriented towards women’s fashion, home decor, stationery products, etc.)
- If the product seemed to be gender neutral (certain tech products and items for the home)
Of course, this is subjective based upon my own criteria and experience working in design, marketing, and branding. This doesn’t mean that some women don’t also like to play video games, for example. It’s just an assessment of the way each campaign appears to be skewed toward a particular gender.
Most Backed by Gender
These are the Kickstarter projects that have the highest total number of backers to date.
Most Funded by Gender
These are the Kickstarter projects that have the highest amount of funding to date.
Given our experience and based on the data, here are the conclusions that we have drawn about running a campaign on Kickstarter:
- Kickstarter is not a great middleman for patronage of an artistic or creative endeavor nor is it really a marketplace. It feels more like a competitive stock market than a place for individuals to support other people with shared values and a good idea.
- Don’t rely on Kickstarter to feature your campaign to get it funded, no matter how creative your product, campaign, or video is.
- If you have a campaign that’s oriented toward women, Kickstarter will likely prove more difficult for you. It may be worth researching alternative means to raise the funds you need.
- Make sure that the quantity of support from personal friends and family will reach at least 30% of your goal.
- Make sure you’ve carefully researched your own personal network and resources and be pretty sure you can get the majority of your funding that way.
- Determine the type of project or campaign and product you are making and carefully consider if there’s a potential audience for it via Kickstarter. Campaigns that feature tech products, movies, music, and video games have a much greater rate of success.
- If you don’t have a tech-type product or one that is easily featured on big sites like Mashable, understand that it will be difficult to get enough press to send a lot of traffic to Kickstarter.
- Get ready to have your project regularly rejected by press unless they already focus on Kickstarter projects or you have a few kind and generous souls that like and believe in your project.
- You’ll likely have mostly U.S. backers until Kickstarter positions itself better for other countries. Being in a good city may also help you.
If you’d like to download the pdf file with the charts as a reference, please feel free to do so here.
Questions, thoughts, something you noticed that we missed? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!