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A ‘Too Polished’ Kickstarter Video Is No Substitute For Connecting With Fans

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Kickstarter has become a powerful tool for artists and creators to take their future in their own hands and succeed or fail by their own merits. While a Kickstarter based business is not a guaranteed success, it is one of the many powerful tools for that purpose we highlight here on Techdirt. Much like any other business model, running a successful Kickstarter campaign takes a lot of work and a lot of speculation about what your potential fans and backers expect. With all this in mind, it is great when people, who attempt a Kickstarter, share their experiences, whether good or bad.

Over at Gamasutra, one such creator, Ryan Payton, shares his experience running the recently successful Kickstarter campaign for Republique. As Ryan explains this Kickstarter was not an easy success.

I was driving across Seattle’s 520 bridge on a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the third day of our Kickstarter campaign, dazed and confused, and momentarily considered hitting the red “abort mission” button on our whole Kickstarter. Fifty-five hours into our campaign and we had only gathered 11 percent of our funding goal.

It was this moment that he realized that he needed to figure out why it was not going as smoothly as he expected. While he lists a number of reasons for why the campaign was struggling and what he did to turn it around and eventually succeed, it was his first discussion point that took me by surprise. One of the reasons he felt his campaign was not succeeding was that many people thought the campaign was “too polished.”

A week into our campaign, we were surprised to see dozens of comments online from people saying: “Look at that game, look at how expensive their video looks… They don’t need our money.” Meanwhile, our company bank account was getting dangerously low.

As I sought out reasons as to why our campaign wasn’t resonating, I realized that people were put off by how polished everything looked. This was disappointing because, yes, in fact, we worked extremely hard to make everything as professional as possible.

This has been one critique of Kickstarter we have seen come up from time to time. If potential backers feel that the person asking for money doesn’t really need it, they will complain and withhold their money. This is an unfortunate attitude for people to take because it really doesn’t matter who you are and if you “need the money.” What matters is that you are using the campaign to connect with fans and get the money needed to succeed where you need to.

Initially, I was frustrated at the “too polished” complaints, especially when I remembered the late nights and weekends Craig Cerhit put into our video content. I often thought about the rich guys on Kickstarter intentionally making rough-looking webcam videos to appeal to peoples’ charitable instincts and subsequently pull in six or seven figures in pledges.

Based on what I have read about running a successful campaign, having a quality campaign video is one of the primary ways to reach your goal. Even Kickstarter tells people that having a good video is helpfulin making a project successful. If your video is utter crap, people will lose interest. But is there really such a thing as having a too polished video turn off fans? Honestly, there is no reason why it should be an issue. Having a high quality video shows off the love you have for your project. That is the important thing to convey to the public and especially to build a report with them. Something that Ryan learned as the clock was running down on the campaign as his team prepared both a new video and a Livestream event on the last day.

Instead of focusing the team on Kickstarter success or failure, we decided to host a Livestream party for the final three hours of the campaign and just have fun regardless if we hit our funding goal. Too distracted to work on the game, the team started prepping food and activities for a big online thank you party for the community. At the time, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of $355,000 towards our game. We wanted to thank them, even if we failed and didn’t receive the money.

What transpired what something I was dreading the entire month: dozens of articles with headlines like “République May Miss Kickstarter Goal.” While I was anxious about that negative press, it was calling renewed attention to our campaign, which we smartly prepared for: we uploaded an entirely new debut pitch video that reviewed all of the news from the past 30 days (PC & Mac announce, David Hayter & Jennifer Hale), showed new gameplay footage, and addressed all the feedback we got from the community. We slapped a “New Video!” sticker on the top of our page, welcomed all the new and returning visitors, and crossed our fingers that this time they would pledge.

What happened in that last day was an amazing turn around for Ryan and his team. They managed to complete the goal of $500,000 and then some. An excellent ending for what looks to be a great game.

So what exactly turned this campaign around? Ryan and his team did a whole lot of prep work prior to launching but all that prep work did little toward the final goal. What Ryan learned and highlighted in his other points was the importance of engagement with the community in order to connect.

The final three-hour Livestream was the best idea we ever had. We don’t know if the 4,500 views sparked increased pledges, and we didn’t care — it was all about connecting and celebrating with the thousands of dedicated backers and enjoying the victory together. By the time the clock struck zero, we were at $555,512 and hugging each other.

I don’t really know how many different ways we can say it. “If people like you and your work, they’ll pay.” CwF+RtB. Being Open, Human and Awesome. And many more iterations on the same theme. The fact remains, this concept is integral to success.

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