Anatomy of a Viral Kickstarter: Mastering the Campaign

October 09, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

The second part in a series on how to create a successfully funded Kickstarter from someone who did just that.

Want to run a successful Kickstarter campaign? Learn how to become fully funded.

Last week, we talked about the process leading up to a Kickstarter campaign. This week we're discusing how to make sure your campaign is as successful as possible. 

Once Travis Peterson had a working prototype of the Joker Card in his hands, it was time to focus on the details of his Kickstarter campaign. Engineers have a tendency to rely on the success of their product without recognizing that it's the public's perception of the product that matters. Peterson knew that in order to raise his initial funding request, he'd have to make his page look as professional as possible while keeping overhead to a minimum.



Utilize Your Network

If ever there were a time to ask for your family's help, it's getting your Kickstarter off the ground. In this way, Travis was in luck: his sister is an exceptional photographer and his brother Nick, who co-founded the idea, is a great film director. He recruited both of them to donate their talents, but if you're planning on starting your own campaign and don't happen to be related to a director and photographer, there are still ways to make your campaign look as appealing as possible. For instance, there's no reason you can't take great pictures with a smartphone and editing software, and it never hurts to have a gorgeous friend model with your product. Consider swapping products or services in exchange for video or editing work. Also, get creative: there are sites like fiverr that will make logos and help with content for $5. Utilize AllAboutCircuit's forum for help from other engineers. Whatever you do, don't dump money into a Kickstarter before it's successfully funded.

Pictures from the Joker Greeting Card's press kit.

Prepare for Publicity

When BuzzFeed and other websites approached him, Travis had a press kit with dozens of high-resolution images ready to go. That's important: it makes it easier for sites to write faster articles and it allows makers to control the look of their product off-site. If you're launching a Kickstarter campaign, assume that it will attract attention, and make a press kit beforehand. 


Stay True to Your Brand

Because Travis's neverending musical greeting card is a joke, his video reflected the same humorous tone. However, because the video itself was funny, backers had no qualms about sharing it--that meant free marketing. Keep in mind that the video is always listed at the top of your campaign, so it's important to invest time and energy to make it good. Well-done humor can also make or break a campaign. Marketers already know this, which is the reason that boring companies like Geico use humor to attract customers. There's no reason engineers can't create humorous marketing materials to ensure the success of their product.

Know your audience, too. As the director, Nick, kept telling Travis, "A lot of people won't understand our video, but our core audience will." That core audience has a sense of humor.


While studying business, Travis became familiar with the paradox of choice, or the theory that too much choice negatively affects the customer experience. There was initially only one card, and the overarching theme of Travis's campaign was simplicity. 

Kickstarter offers stretch goals, which are added features that will be incorporated into the product or bonus gifts for backers if additional monetary goals in the campaign are met. Travis chose not to use them: "At the end of the day, they weren't additive...If you're going to have a campaign selling a product, sell the product, don't try to sell other things on top of it."

It's a reason the product doesn't have a tie-in app or complicate its initial goal, which is being a fun, easy gift.  "Fewer features add more value," says Travis. "It's what Apple says, and I tend to agree with it."

It's a trap engineers can easily fall into and is commonly known as feature creep. It can complicate a product so much that no one wants to use it. The moral is: keep your product simple and your campaign easy to understand. 

Kickstarter's Staff Pick endorsement boosted the campaign.


The most impactful marketing strategy turned out to be Kickstarter's own endorsement. Getting the green "Staff Pick" badge landed the Joker Card on the front page of the site and attracted more backers than non-endorsed projects. Even though Kickstarter has internal marketing options, Travis chose not to use them. Campaign publishers can make an even greater impact--for free--by doing their own marketing work: contacting blog owners, sending out samples of products, and using Facebook and Twitter to generate buzz. There's no risk with those options, whereas paid marketing strategies can quickly drain money from a campaign without guaranteeing more backers.

The project also benefitted from cross-promotion, which Travis didn't even know existed until 7 days into his campaign. Another successful campaign with over 2,000 backers approached Travis and asked if he'd back their campaign in exchange for his promotion. When each campaign sent out email updates, the other's campaign would appear at the bottom as related and recommended campaigns. "This cross promotion didn’t make us successful but it helped a lot along the way to keep us towards the top of the charts and allow for other organic purchases," says Travis.


The Pay Off

The details--high-quality photos, a great video, and a commitment to simplicity--paid off in a big way. Travis sent an initial goal of $7,500: he made over $90,000. His product was featured on CNET, Buzzfeed, and a host of other blogs.  He now has a successful company and loyal customers and is preparing for another Kickstarter to launch more cards.

Of course, with that kind of success came significant logistical challenges, but that's up in our next article.