How To Make A Crowdfunding Video That Works
By Neil St. Clair
This article was originally published on Forbes.com (November 27, 2014)
It seems as if every startup today is launching on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or some similar crowdfunding site. Kickstarter remains king of the funding platforms, reporting to have more than 192,000 launched projects backed by more than 7.48 million people.
At AW/CS, AlleyWire's in-house content agency, we've seen requests for crowdfunding content leap from one to two a month, to dozens in recent quarters. So if you’re thinking of creating a campaign, you’ll be entering crowded territory--yay, crowdfunding puns.
Having fun and being authentic are the best ways to find crowdfunding success.
How Do You Set Yourself Apart?
Kickstarter suggests that a video is one way to do it. They’ve seen projects with videos successfully funded at a much higher rate--50% with videos vs. 30% without against an overall average success rate of around 40%. And while Kickstarter School offers some good tips and tricks on producing video content, it’s lacking in specifics.
But the K-Start folks are absolutely right when they say: “You can spend days shooting and editing, or you can just knock it out with a couple of friends on a Saturday. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be you.”
But how do you make a you video? That’s the tricky part.
I won’t lie to you. Video is only part of the equation. The other parts include your own marketing efforts, rewards, and the project itself. But, the video is the first thing most people will see before they decide to back your project. And, depending on your brand, this may mean a video with high production values to engage and intrigue your audience.
In general, while you can take a cellphone vid with your buddies, that's better for getting your burrito craving backed with a goal of $8 (yes, that's a real Kickstarter project) as opposed to a more serious project like the Coolest Cooler with a goal of $50,000. Both raised well above their ask, the burrito at more than 13,000% beyond request, and the Coolest Cooler (the most-backed project of all time) at more than 26,000%. Each had a video distinctive in tone and quality to their project, but, had they been switched, I firmly believe they would not achieve their astronomical relative figures.
In short, before embarking on your project, it may make sense to work with a creative and content team to develop something distinctive. At the same time, being a do-it-yourselfer may be the way to go, it all depends on your brand and budget.
What Makes a Great Kickstarter Video?
Let's take a look at a few examples of recent campaign videos, including AlleyWire's own Kickstarter attempt. From this, we can establish a few archetypal do's and don'ts for you to follow.
Project: Premium Men’s Underwear
Funding: $291k+ pledged of $30k goal (900% above ask)
So what makes this video great? The production value is okay and the voice-over isn’t particularly inspiring, but underwear is cool and they adhered to a few time-honor video production traditions:
The length: It’s the right length — just a bit over two minutes.
The hook: It starts off with a great line: “Want to hear something wild? It starts in the underwear section of Macy’s…”
The story: It tells you a tale: “There’s this problem about underwear being made outside of America…we’re going to fix that.”
Funding: $80k+ pledged of $35k goal (129% above ask)
The production value is actually pretty good, and FitBark has a unique product and story. They also had some excellent media coverage to dovetail with the campaign.
The “be yourself” principle: These people aren’t actors, but they are dog lovers. And that’s what they showed…themselves. With dogs. Having fun.
The equipment: These guys put some time and money into equipment and editing. Having great equipment doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, but it doesn’t hurt. It can convey immediate legitimacy, so whatever equipment you use, know how to use it well.
The brand: FitBark did a really nice job of showing off the product and explaining the value proposition with visual elements. They had a simple shot of a dog playing next to a fitness-tracking screen shot, leaving you with an overall impression of the product.
Project: Bring Shuffleboard back to Brooklyn
Funding: $41,709 pledged of $20,200 goal (106% above ask)
The production value here isn't particularly high, but aside from a totally novel idea (I mean an older folks game being played by hipsters, how can you lose?) there are a few good takeaways here:
The "show don't tell" principle: Even if your product isn't fully formed, showing it in action, including artists' renderings is key. You'd be amazed how many people just show their face.
The rewards: Make sure the rewards are relevant, mentioned and clearly tie back to your project.
The writing: Write to your pictures. If we're seeing something, say it, and if you're saying something, let's see it. B-roll is key.
Project: 100 Startups 100 Days
Funding: Not funded. (As mentioned, video is only part of the equation, having the right project on the right platform is also mission-critical. Services on Kickstarter are harder than products).
Hopefully without too much hubris, I can say we did do a few things right. The video was completed during one day of shooting, and I’m pleased with our storytelling and production value.
The appeal: As part of your video's narrative, you need to give people a “Call to Action” and a real reason to help you. Don’t whine or complain. Just give a clear ask and explain the use of proceeds.
The recency effect: Not only do you want to say your project name multiple times throughout the video, but it should also be the thing you start and end with. People react often to the first or last thing they hear.
The music: You don’t always need fancy graphics, but music is a must. You can get a lot of free-licensed music (check to make sure it has a derivative, commercial license if you’re going the Creative Commons route and be cognizant of an attribution requirement), or you can create something custom.
We've covered a lot of ground here, so here are the main talking points:
1) Length: Keep it short. 1-2 minutes is standard.
2) Find a Hook: What will get people’s attention in the first few seconds?
3) Story: Make sure you have a good narrative.
4) Show Don’t Tell: Use the visual to drive the narrative.
5) Rewards: Show and talk about your swag.
6) Write to Pictures: If you’re saying it, show it.
7) Be Yourself: Be true to who you are…don’t act.
8) Equipment: Your equipment doesn’t matter, just use it well.
9) Brand: Tie your video message back to your brand.
10) Appeal: Make an appeal with a clear Call to Action.
11) Recency Effect: Repeat your message and make sure it’s the first and last thing folks hear.
12) Music: Use it.
Since these are all “dos,” the opposite are clearly “don’ts.” For example, don’t try to act funny if you’re not funny. Be yourself. Having fun and being authentic are the best ways to find crowdfunding success. Good luck in your campaign.
Neil St. Clair is a respected social entrepreneur, journalist, and philanthropist. He is currently CEO & Founder of social change consultancy, NES Impact as well as fear-focused venture studio, Notimor. An advocate for children and gender equity, he founded and chairs The NextMen Foundation. Follow him on IG @neilstclair