Lucas McNelly on Sunday, Oct. 7th
First, a pitch video:
I really like this pitch video. It moves quickly (only 2:18 long). It’s funny. It has a guy with a pretty awesome mustache. And it gets the point across.
The campaign is a Staff Pick, which according to a study by Ethan Mollick, means that 89% of the time it’ll hit the goal. It even got to that magic number of 20% relatively quickly.
And yet, it’s struggling to even hit the half-way point with a week left. What gives?
I reached out to Stephen Dypiangco (the one without the mustache) over email to ask him some questions.
McNelly: Thus far, how’s the campaign comparing to your expectations?
Dypiangco: You know, I think it’s natural to go into a Kickstarter hoping that your project will somehow catch fire, easily reach its goal and keep climbing way past your original target. That was definitely in the back of my mind from the start. But I also knew that if our project didn’t blow up like that, we’d have to have a strong enough Kickstarter presentation to hit our ambitious $50K goal anyway. On our first day, we started off really strong thanks to a backer who came in at the $2500 level within the first couple of hours. That made us think that maybe we did have a project that could really take off. But by the time we hit about 10 days left in the campaign, we realized that we weren’t going to blow up and that we just had roll up our sleeves and work even harder.
First, campaigns almost never go way over goal. According to Mollick, it’s about 1 in 9 that double their goal, and those odds are much longer in the film category.
You can see exactly what Dypiangco describes on the Kicktraq page. There’s the spike with the first backer and then it kind of levels off. Peaks and valleys. The lower days, in terms of dollars, come on the weekends, which is what you’d expect. In terms of weekdays, Mondays have overall been the weakest days, but the campaign launched on a Tuesday, so that’s going to affect that.
You’ll see I annotated the Kicktraq chart a little. The red “M” stands for Monday (so you can see how the week breaks down) and the red “U” stands for a day they posted an update.
What does it mean, exactly? Nothing jumps out at me, but I figure the context is helpful. You could make an argument that the strongest parts of the campaign seem to cluster around the updates that are closer together (i.e. updates 1 & 2 and updates 4 & 5), but that could just be a natural result of the Kickstarter trough. It’s hard to say for sure. I suspect it’s a little of both. Could they do more updates? Definitely. But the updates, while not frequent, contain a lot of information. So it’s not like they aren’t keeping their backers in the loop.
McNelly: What sort of prep and research did you do?
Dypiangco: I had done a fair amount of research reading articles over a year ago, when I was strongly considering launching a Kickstarter for a different project. So I had that base of understanding to draw from. When I began prepping this time, I mostly looked at the top funded projects on Kickstarter. I examined everything from their pitch videos and rewards to their project descriptions and use of graphics. Spending a lot of time studying successful projects was very helpful.
The fact that more people don’t do this is rather shocking (and frustrating). You wouldn’t make a movie without watching a bunch of movies. I mean, you could, but it would probably be terrible. One thing you want to keep in mind when you’re researching something like a web series is to see what other web series have done.
There’s 2 rules of thumb with a web series: 1) They’ll usually bring in a lower $$/Backer, and 2) Season 2 will do better than Season 1, for obvious reasons.
McNelly: What would you say the campaign is doing well?
Dypiangco: Some of the best work we’ve done happened before we even launched. That includes spending a lot of time on the pitch video, the entire Kickstarter page, building a base of supporters starting a year in advance and bringing in talented and experienced members to the team. Since we’ve launched, we’ve done a good job keeping momentum going by releasing new video updates, telling our story through photos and graphics and doing fun live stream telethons throughout.
So the telethons are being done on Dypiangco’s YouTube Channel and as of this writing, they’ve done 9 of them (that I can find). Here’s one:
Google Plus, which was kind of turning into a ghost town, has had the Hangout feature for a while, but the ability to broadcast them has been limited to big name brands until very recently (like, a month ago or so ago). Places like Film Courage are using them to churn out video interviews at a rather astonishing pace and crowdfunding campaigns like this one are starting to use them to connect with their audience over the course of the campaign.
There’s a ton to like about them. They’re immediate and they allow a certain level of intimacy and honesty that a pre-packaged video just doesn’t. I’ve always kind of thought of a crowdfunding campaign as a Jerry Lewis telethon, you just have to keep people talking about the campaign, no matter what, and the Google Plus Hangouts make that a LOT easier. And the YouTube archive makes it possible for people to watch it at their convenience.
McNelly: What would you say the campaign could do better?
Dypiangco: We could probably do a better job of directly asking people for money and explaining how Kickstarter works. It’s probably safe to say that lots of people out there don’t fully understand that if we don’t hit the goal in time, we don’t get the money. We could also be using our cast members better to drum up excitement for the project.
Cast members are really valuable for a project like this. One of the real benefits of casting the film before you launch the campaign is that you can pull from all of those different audience circles. It casts a wider net, as more people actively have a vested interest in the campaign’s success.
As for explaining the all-or-nothing aspect of Kickstarter, this is the point in the campaign where that narrative becomes the dominant one. The rally, which this campaign is certainly capable of, becomes largely fueled by that fear.
At 6 days left, Kicktraq put the high end of the projection at $27,792, which just isn’t realistic in the least. The first image below is a screengrab of Friday’s projection. The second is the embedded chart, which should update over the final week. Hell, I’ll even go out on a limb and put in my own prediction and say it ends up in the $54K-$59K range.
McNelly: You have a lot of Facebook activity, but it isn’t really translating to backers at a normal rate (Your $$/”Likes” is about half of what you’d expect). Why do you think that is?
Dypiangco: That’s a great point, which I hadn’t realized. I suppose it is because we haven’t been hitting people over the head with the actual Kickstarter link and telling them to pledge straight up. We’ve mostly been talking about the campaign instead of urging them to support us. At least that’s my guess. But thanks for bringing that up! We’ll be changing our messaging on FB from here on out thanks to you.
Really quick, we’ll look at the metrics (as of Friday Oct 4th, 2:48ET):
The first number is pretty much in line with what you’d expect from a web series. The others are not, so Dypiangco’s messaging explanation makes a lot of sense. What works in their favor here is that eyeballs don’t seem to be the problem here (they’ll need more obviously). What they need to do is turn those eyeballs into backers.
They’ve got 1 week left to get people off the fence.
McNelly: What do you guys have planned for the final week’s push?
Dypiangco: We’ve got 3 very cool videos coming out. Two with our Awesome Asian Bad Guys, Al Leong and Yuji Okumoto. We also have 3 telethons lined up. One with our executive producer and highly esteemed blogger, Phil Yu aka Angry Asian Man. Another telethon will feature our leading lady, Tamlyn Tomita from Karate Kid 2, Joy Luck Club & Glee. We’ll also continue reaching out to family and friends to help us out.
Can they do it? Here’s hoping.
Extra Credit: One campaign we’re tracking is this one, which seems to have disaster written all over it. Red flags galore. It’s even stranger when you look at this….Yeah, don’t do this…The campaign for Harry Zehenny’s Silent is using a time-honored technique to stand out….See, now I want a martini….Exhibit A in the value of Kicktraq….Miguel Duran is raising funds for Chutes.
Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn’t lived anywhere in a long time.