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Shape Flexer – How Crowdfunding Should Work

After reporting about the campaign fiasco with the Apricoat, today I would like to point out an amazing crowdfunding campaign. This example shows perfectly why crowdfunding, despite all the risks, is something exciting and really fun to be part of. Rather than focusing on the product itself (which is amazing btw.) I would like to point out why this campaign was so fantastic and why it became successful. It is all about a hat, a sunhat to be precise. Outside of the United States not really an everyday product and if in Europe (lets leave UK with their festive hat fashion out) someone is wearing such a hat, it attracts weird looks. The campaign started out slow and after the first days it was not even sure, if the funding goal will be reached. The campaign got featured by Backerclub and gained slowly some momentum and went then totally off the roof. Lets dig in and see what made this campaign so special.

The world needs this hat – so how to go on with it?

The creator of the Shape Flexer hat, lets call him Damien, as that is his name, is a real outdoor hero. He always took a hat with him on his journeys to be protected from the sun. But after buying hat after hat because of quality issues, feature issues and simply not getting what he wanted or needed, he started to create his own hat. It should be flexible, so he can put it even on his pockets of his pants. It should be stable and not break down in wind or rain. It should be breathable to give some airflow to the head in hot sunshine. The brim should be wide enough to protect also his shoulders from the damaging UV light of the sun. It should be washable to look always fresh. It should have a crown which opens up to give some more air to the head. If you look around shops, you cant really find all this features in one single hat. After making it reality and building a great prototype, testing it out in the field, Damien felt, that the world needs this hat. But how to go on with it? Why not crowdfund it? So he decided to start his Kickstarter campaign. Usually nowadays campaigns are driven by 3rd party marketing companies which fill up your social media feeds with ads for the soon starting crowdfunding campaign.

Damien took a different approach. He grabbed some of his friends and produced a funny video presentation as campaign opener. You could see that this was not a professional video which gave the whole thing charme and made me curious. Damien set the goal to be one of those few campaigns which really deliver a great product and the product should reach the backers in time. Well..he couldnt know back then how dreadful dealing with Chinese manufactures would be. But more later. So the campaign started off slow which is in general a bad sign. If you want to be successful with your campaign, it should attract backers right from the start to give a certain momentum. If a lot of backers get on in the beginning, it should attract other backers to hop in as well. The Shape Flexer was different because there was no momentum. The momentum started later on when backers stumbled over the campaign and read through the updates and comments. They felt, this guy (we still call him Damien as that is his name) was honest, sincere and dedicated to his product and to his backers.

The campaign had personality and character

During the campaign, Damien set his focus on answering each and every comment, he provided regular updates and the way he delivered this updates got better and better. When the campaign was moving up, funding goals reached he introduced new colors as stretch goals. As he was on a tight schedule he did not realize that this new color options might ruin his timeframe but when the first hiccups occured, and this hiccup was “delay”, he did exactly that one things of which many creator are afraid of. He was shooting out the message open, honest and with all necessary explanations why the delay is unavoidable. I have no clue why other creators struggle with this, why they keep backers in the dark by shutting down communication completely until they solve the issue or why they are dishonest to their backers (the investors). It never did any good. Damien was straight up and honest. You could feel while reading his updates, how upset he was himself and his apologies seemed to be completely sincere. Most of his backers backed already several projects and were anyway expecting delays, but they were not used to it, how Damien explained the situations he ran into.

Because it was not the only delay. His Chinese manufacturer was not doing a good job, so he jumped on the plane and made his way to China to overlook production and doing the quality control himself. This was necessary as a whole production run was basically useless, so another delay was necessary. Even from China, Damien kept communicating with his backers with updates, photos and by email. As the circle of backers grew so much, he abondaned the comment section, but he said upfront why. Many creators put pieces of updates in the comments and especially in active comment sections, infos will get lost. He focused on updates (even from China – other creators just state “I am off to China to overlook production, so wont be responding for several weeks”) and played with open cards. Communication is the key for creators to keep backers happy and engaged with the campaign. Besides of bringing production on the go, every creator should focus on this. Damien even got complains that his updates were too long. So in every update he started then to give first a short summary and then going into detail. Who was not in the mood to read the whole story, could just get all the information in the first few sentences.

But why is it so hard to communicate?

This is really a great question and honestly I have no idea. My personal guess is that while a campaign is active and in the funding process, creators are hiring marketing people to help them out, spread the word etc. Also they are responsable for replying in the comments section of the campaign. When the funding is done, those marketing companies are fired as the creator got what he wanted. The creator is simply not caring about his investors anymore, he received the money and will get his product through production. Short sight is nowadays unfortunately very common as quick success is the only goal they have. Customer loyality seems to be something, which creators have less and less in mind. They seem to think that one quick success is enough to make the company a big player. In case of Apricoat for example, I believe that 95% of the backers will NOT back a new project again. In case of Damien, his updates were so extensive and packed with stories and facts, that some backers were complaining that the updates have been too long, so he provided first a short summary with the most important facts and for everyone who was interested in reading on got the full picture of the situation.

Delivery delayed, but the wait was worth

Although as in most campaigns, the delivery was delayed. As fact that annoyed Damien the most as he was so badly wanted to belong to the small circle of creators who delivered in time. But after receiving the hats, I can say that the wait was worth it. The quality of the hat feels really sturdy and good. Some backers were complaining about the weight and the size of the brim. On the other hand Damien was providing the measurements of the hats early in the campaign. The size of the Shape Flexer is exactly as he said oit would be and I can not wait to finally try it out…unfortunately the weather is right now here in the UK still very cold and I prefer right now a nice cosy wool beanie. But summer will come eventually, especially with summer vacation. It will protect my head and shoulders from the sun, bye bye sunburn forever.

Crowdfunding can still be fun

The example of Damien and his Shape Flexer proves, that Crowdfunding in its raw form is still alive and can be very successful. There is no need for marketing agencies which are only interested in Dollars, Pound or Euros. From now on I will look out for smaller campaign and make sure they dont spend much money on marketing. Crowdfunding should be about the new product itself and funds used to bring it to life or improve it, but not get into the bags of marketing experts.

If you like to have this amazing sunhat, head over to the brand new website and get yourself one!

Thank you for reading!

Joe

 

 

 

 

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