Raising $20MM - Five things we learned producing Pebble's latest Kickstarter Video
This past January, the team at Pebble reached out to us. They were getting to launch a secret project - a new digital smartwatch called The Pebble Time. But that wasn't all. They had a bold release strategy up their sleeves. They planned to bring this new watch to market with the help of Kickstarter, and they wanted us to develop and produce their campaign video. Launching a product on Kickstarter isn't bold in itself. It's almost a given these days. Of course, Pebble knew that - they are the original Kickstarter poster child. Their first campaign in 2012 raised over $10,000,000 - the first to ever break eight figures - and was a huge, unprecedented success. Coming back to Kickstarter was where their boldness would come in. Could a company with over a 100 employees and millions in sales be able to go back to the crowdfunding well? They believed they could - and so did we.
We knew this campaign would be huge. We also knew that this campaign would be subject to immense attention and scrutiny, and would have to be as big, if not bigger, than their first campaign. Thankfully, the team at Pebble had created an incredible product. All we needed to do was create a visual story to highlight the product and remind people why Pebble is so special. Ultimately, we developed a concept that we shot in 2 days at and near Pebble's Palo Alto offices. It launched on Kickstarter a few weeks later. And as of this moment, they are a couple of hours from wrapping up the most funded project in Kickstarter history and the first ever to break $20,000,000. That's double their previous effort - so it's fair to say the video and Pebble's excellent campaign was a success.
Creating the video and working with the brilliant team at Pebble was both a learning experience and an opportunity to prove some hypothesis about crowdfunding videos. Here are five things we learned from the experience that we think would be valuable for any crowdfunding campaign creator to know.
1) Be You. Crowdfunding is about building trust as much as anything else. If it's your campaign, be in front of it. Be proud - tell your story, share your passion. In the Pebble video Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, is our narrator. We shot the video as if he was giving you a private tour of the office and showing off his new product. We wanted it to feel one-on-one with him. We also echoed his personality in the video. He's friendly, funny and engaging. He also a great relationship with this team. We let those traits come alive in the video and it helped not only sell the product, but sell the people behind that. Ultimately, that's the most important easily overlooked aspect of crowdfunding. People aren't just backing a project. They are backing the people who make that project. Nike doesn't need to show their faces and behind the scenes personalities, but crowdfunders do. The video is the best place to bring that element in - so don't shy away from opening up about yourself and your story in the video.
2) Show, Don't Tell. This is an old creative writing adage, and it rings true in crowdfunding videos too. Put your product to work in your video - and do it early. Don't wait more than 20 seconds to bring the product up. Don't have a fully working prototype yet? That's fine, but figure out how to show it in action anyway. We weren't working with production models of the watch in the video, but we were able to ensure we had working versions and ample opportunity to put them to use. Pebble did a good deal of research on how Pebble owners use - and want to use - their smart watches. We made sure to show people using the watches like that. Don't hide behind napkin sketches or speeches about functionality. If you can't show the product in service yet - wait to launch your campaign until you can.
This idea doesn't apply just to product videos. Our friend Emily Best of Seed & Spark, a film crowdfunding platform, had some great advice along these same lines. If you're shooting a horror movie, then make your video feel like a horror movie. It's easy to forget this and just feel like you need to list out your rewards and campaign concept. Bring the tone of your project directly into your video and show your backers that you know what your project stands for in their lives.
3) Collaborate and Test. Build out a team of people to help you on the video. Pebble was unique in that they had a marketing team and many people available to work and contribute to the video. That doesn't mean you can't do it to. Making any form of video is a collaboration anyway, so embrace it. The more people involved, the more people who can help you refine your message. And when you hit milestones - finishing the script, having a first cut of the film, etc - show off your work to others. Even people outside of our team. Take that feedback to heart and let it guide you as you finish the video.
4) Keep Your Message Simple and Stick To It. Start with everything you want to tell people about your project. Then start focusing in on the four or five most important things. Then pick one or two that you want people to remember. Build your messaging around those most important concepts. Make sure that those messages are in-line with what your target consumers actually want (see #3). And then, at every stage of the process from development to scripting to editing - check back with people to make sure that key messaging is coming through. It's easy to lose focus in a campaign video. Stick to your guns and people will evaluate you based on what you want them to.
5) Polish and Production Value Is Important But Not That Important. Again, Pebble had resources to produce a high quality video. Most campaigns won't have that luxury, and you know what, it doesn't matter all that much. All that really matters is that you are producing a video in line with expectations. Are you asking for a million dollars? Your video better look like you know how to spend a million. Don't skimp. However, if you are a couple of recent college grads creating a small project and raising $25,000 for it - you have the leeway to produce a humbler video. Give it everything you can -there is something to be said for presentation and the idea of fake-it-til-you-make-it. Just don't get discouraged when you can't afford to go all out. Creativity, product quality and authenticity are much more important to your success. Even in the Pebble video, we made a conscience decision to keep the concept simple. We wanted to have polish, but to not look like a TV ad. That felt right in line with Pebble's stature and the expectations of the Kickstarter community.
We'll leave you with this. Your video is what people are going to see when they visit your page. You have just a few seconds to hook them and hopefully get them to back your project. You can't assume they'll watch your whole video, and they probably won't read your page. So make sure you're putting energy and creativity into the video. Share the passion you have for your project and often times that's enough to get everything else in the video going in the right direction.