5 Things Survivor Taught Me About Crowdfunding

8 October 2015 | 14 Comments

survivor-recapI love the television show Survivor. I’ve been a huge fan since the first season, and now, in Season 31, I still look forward to watching new episodes every Wednesday night.

A few things have happened this season on Survivor that immediately made me think of crowdfunding, so I thought I’d share them here. These will make sense even if you don’t watch the show, and if you do watch the show, there are no spoilers for this week’s episode that weren’t already shown in last week’s preview.

  1. Fans Create Longevity: This is Survivor’s 31st season, yet it’s still in the top 20 shows on television. It’s been incredibly consistent in the ratings over the years in large part due to the loyalty of their fans and their eagerness to get other people to watch the show too. The key, as Filip Wiltgren writes in a must-read article, is that the way to create and maintain fans is to “consistently give them what they need.” Figure out what your fans need and then give it to them time and time again. That’s how you successfully fund your first campaign and your last campaign.
  2. Make Your Backers Feel Safe: There is a moment in last week’s episode where someone hears members of her alliance talking about her behind her back. She’s distraught, and she goes off by herself for a while. A member of the opposing alliance goes to sit with her (out of compassion, not strategy). He makes her feel safe. Afterwards, there is no question in her mind as to whom she’s loyal. I see this vulnerability in backers all the time. Every backer who has supported at 20+ projects has been burned at least once. They bring those doubts to your project, and it’s your job to make them feel safe by communicating well, inspiring confidence through the way you present yourself and your project, and putting unbiased third-party reviews on your project page.
  3. Your First Contact with Bloggers Should Not Be You Asking Them to Do Something for You: On last week’s episode, two people are scrambling to find a new alliance at the last minute, and they approach a member of the majority alliance. They ask him to switch sides. Bewildered, he says that this is the first time they’ve ever talked to him at all–why would he even consider their offer? “Absolutely not,” he says. This is a crucial lesson, as I see it all the time from other creators (and I hear about it from bloggers). The first time you approach a member of the media should not be you asking them to share your project. Instead, nurture relationships with the media for a long time and then offer them something of value (a review copy, interview, guest post, etc) without ever asking them to share your project. If they want to share it, they will.
  4. Be True to Your Vision but Go with the Flow: At the beginning of this week’s episode, the two tribes were randomly mixed up and divided into 3 tribes, throwing off the best-laid plans of all contestants. Those who survive are those who are nimble and can pivot in their strategy, which is crucial on Kickstarter. When you launch a project, you’re going to be inundated with new ideas from backers. Some of those ideas might make or break your project. So while it’s really important to have a plan in place and a clear vision, your project’s success may hinge on your willingness to implement the best of those backer ideas.
  5. Be Human: Last week, one of the contestants on Survivor realized that he had spent the first few days of the new season scrambling for alliances and honing strategies…but he didn’t connect with anyone on a personal level. He forgot the importance of genuine connections. On Kickstarter, people aren’t just backing a product–they’re backing YOU. So show your face on your profile image. Be a real person in the comments. For a great example of this, read a few of the Gloomhaven updates. Isaac writes them like he’s talking to you in person over a beer. It’s awesome, and it makes a huge difference to all the people (they’re individual people, not credit cards with Kickstarter profiles) who connect to your project.

What’s something from your favorite TV show that applies to crowdfunders?

Also read: This recent interview with EQ about crowdfunding, including an important lesson I learned from my grandmother.

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14 Comments on “5 Things Survivor Taught Me About Crowdfunding

  1. Great post! I don’t watch Survivor, but the lessons are all spot on. I also try to “be human” in what I write. There are a lot of lawyers out there who write from a place high above the plebs on the ground, but I definitely don’t roll like that. At least I try not to!

  2. I don’t know why more gamers don’t love Survivor. It’s like watching a really long, high stakes game of the Resistance play out. Two questions Jamey:
    1) When can we expect the announcement of the Kickstarter for the Stonemaier Survivor themed boardgames? ( And here I thought I was excited for Scythe! )
    2) Who is your favorite player this season/of all time?

    1. Great questions, Paul! I’ve been wanting to publish a large-group social game for a while. I can’t say the first one will be survival themed (I highly doubt we could get the Survivor license), but we’ll see!

      As for my favorite player this season, I’m still feeling it out. I really like over a dozen of this season’s contestants, which is very rare. As for favorite all-time, I wouldn’t say I like him the best, but Russell was certainly one of the most entertaining, cunning contestants ever. Remember when he found a hidden immunity idol without reading a clue? He was the first player to ever do that. Then he did it again! As great as he was, he simply didn’t have the social game to ever win it.

    2. …Personally, I prefer stuff like The Mole…

      Also, there’s an interesting trend with reality television. There are two big Competitive Reality shows that are purely Competitive Reality, Big Brother and Survivor. In countries where Survivor came first, Survivor is the most successful reality television show. In countries where Big Brother came first, Big Brother is the most successful reality television show. (The US is a bit of an exception in that they reformatted Big Brother between S1 and S2 to be closer to Survivor In A House to help it survive, I think it’s the only country where both have been decently successful as such but I’d need to look that up)

      Both shows have valid approaches to the competitive reality concept, but both have wildly different approaches and seemingly defined the public’s preferences to that genre by which happened in that country first.

  3. Man, this reminds me that someone still needs to make a good Survivor board game. Something like City of Horror but without the zombies and with some sort of jury system to determine the winner at the end.

    And I’m happy you enjoy my updates, Jamey!

  4. When I first read this article’s title, I thought “This is going to be really contrived.” But as I read on, I found that this is a great synthesis of your ideas from previous posts (build relationships with bloggers and being human, especially). Good luck with your upcoming campaign!

  5. I think Doctor Who teaches #1 a little better than Survivor – 31 seasons over 15 years vs 35 and a feature length episode over 52 years. How did it get revived after 16 years off air aside that feature length film? In part because a fan of the show got kind of big at the time and was asked by the BBC to come write some stuff for them. To which his response “As long as you let me make a new series of Doctor Who.”

    Actually, Doctor Who also gives the lesson of “Even if conventional wisdom says this doesn’t work, it’s worth trying anyway” – The revival did two things that were considered dead in 2003 when it was commissioned; Conventional wisdom said that no-one watches television as a family any more, Doctor Who in the UK is very much considered family viewing. Conventional wisdom said that sci-fi as a genre in the UK is of niche interest, while Doctor Who . Conventional wisdom also, incidentally, said that both of those go double if the show has the words ‘Doctor’ and ‘Who’ in the title… Doctor Who, meanwhile, got a ridiculously high premier in 2005, almost double the figure that the BBC1 controller of the time said was her wildest dreams for the premier. Projects where crowdfunding illustrated this? Brail dice, a little thing that will help make gaming more accessible to a portion of the community who may want to game but doesn’t seem to be on the market successfully funded.

    Doctor Who also might teach that sometimes it’s better to go it alone even if it requires crowdfunding than going with someone else? The aforementioned feature length episode from 1996 actually got ratings good enough that the BBC wanted to make more, but their production partners for that, who had the rights tied up in some sort of licensing deal to get that feature length made, Fox, due to horrific scheduling, weren’t happy with the figures, so that attempt at reviving the show failed. Speaking of, I think the BBC1 controller had to get BBC Films to stop trying to find a production partner for raising money for a series of Doctor Who films in order to do an in house series, after BBC Films had apparently been trying to

    Speaking of that period without television series, maybe maintaining a community? During the so called wilderness years, original novels and were being released, first by Virgin Books, then by BBC Books, and then a series of licensed audio dramas started to be made staring the original cast. Many of this staple of writers went on to write for the series after release, though how much impact they had on the success is… Debatable. Kept it alive in the minds of fans of the show and gained a few new fans during (e.g. myself), but… 10k or so, maybe, across all expanded universe media (There was a magazine with a comic strip, too) isn’t really the same as the 10m or so who sometimes tune in on BBC1, so… Who knows how much impact that made, but then without that stuff maybe it wouldn’t have gotten made again in 2005.

    Doctor Who also teaches the value of a good filing system, which is a useful lesson for all aspects of life. So many episodes lost due to the BBC’s lack of one in the 60s and early 70s (To be fair, most companies did this sort of thing – Film is expensive to store, and valuable enough that reusing was often useful, and back in the 60s and 70s, there wasn’t much reason for storing stuff that was no longer selling abroad.)… But on the flip side, it also teaches to never give up hope – Some of those episodes were found, and recovered, a couple of years ago.

  6. Love Survivor, too! I also enjoy watching the Amazing Race. Amazing Race teams many times forget to read all the rules and are often not observant . I think it is good for Kickstarter creators and backers to do their homework and plan as much as they can for each Kickstarter. This will help the creators and the backers be successful. Some other applications would be to expect the unexpected and to try and make the best decision possible (BUT make a decision). Many teams lose because they can never make a decision and stick with it. Looking forward to Scythe next week! :-)

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