19 June 2014 | 15 Comments
Before I explain the correlation between pickles and Kickstarter, I’d like to ask you a yes or no question. If you’re a coffee drinker, do you prefer a dark, rich, hearty roast? Remember your answer–we’ll come back to that in a minute.
One of my favorite TED talks of all time is called “Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce.” It’s about 20 minutes long, and it’s absolutely riveting.
Gladwell spends most of the talk talking about the contributions made to brand management by psychophysicist named Dr. Howard Moskowitz. At heart, the talk–and Moskowitz’s mission–is about making people happy. I’m going to connect the lessons in this talk to something that’s really important to me: making Kickstarter backers happy.
There Is No Perfect Pickle
Years ago, before the shelves of grocery stores were stocked with 40 different varieties of everything, the vast majority of brands made exactly one version of each product. They would continually look for ways to improve the magic formula for each product–the perfect mustard, the perfect orange juice, and, of course, the perfect pickle.
Moskowitz changed all this by suggesting that there is no perfect pickle, only perfect pickles. That is, there is no good or bad, only different kinds of pickles that suit different kinds of people.
This is exactly why having a variety of reward levels on Kickstarter works so well for both creators and backers. By giving people a few options–options that you’ve honed and tested and budgeted for–you’re able to give each backer their uniquely perfect pickle.
Now, a few cautionary notes about this: In truth, each backer might have a perfect pickle that is different than any other backer. You can’t make 1000 different pickles for 1000 different people. Add-ons and multiple SKUs can really bog down shipping and fulfillment.
So what am I suggesting? I’m suggesting that you think outside of yourself when you conceive the reward levels. You know what you want, but try to put yourself in the shoes of 3-5 other people. What’s the ideal version of your product for them? Do they want the standard version or the deluxe version? Do they care about how fast they get the product? Do they want to be among an elite group of people who have a limited version, or is the mass-market version fine for them? Do they want it signed? Do they want a special box? Do they want their name or face incorporated into the produce somehow? Do they just want one copy or several copies?
Again, you don’t have to cater to every individual–your time and your budget are really important to consider. But by recognizing that there is no perfect pickle by offering multiple options for backers, you’re going to significantly increase the satisfaction and happiness of each individual backer.
How to Narrow 45 Varieties of Spaghetti Sauce Down to the 3 Best
So, given all those variations I mentioned above, how do you narrow the myriad of preferences down 3-7 reward levels?
This was a problem faced by Campbell Soup when they approached Moskowitz with their struggling line of Prego spaghetti sauce. At the time they had just one version of Prego: authentic, Italian spaghetti sauce. They asked Howard to apply what he had learned about pickles to their product–they wanted him to figure out a few varieties of spaghetti sauce that people liked most.
With the help of Campbell’s chefs, Moskowitz created 45 varieties of spaghetti sauce–way too many for the company to make. So he did a number of taste tests around the country in which he gave people 10 different bowls of pasta and sauce and asked them to rate them.
The results yielded that the vast majority of people fall into 3 groups: people who love plain sauce, people who love spicy sauce, and people who love extra chunky sauce. The addition of those sauces to the Prego product line yielded hundreds of millions in sales.
Now, there’s a very different way that Moskowitz could have conducted this study. He could have sent a survey to 1000 people asking them to tell him their favorite kind of spaghetti sauce. He could have made it a fill-in-the-blank question, or he could have listed all 45 options and let people check their top 5. But he didn’t.
What does that mean for Kickstarter creators? It means that you should spend a significant amount of time in advance of your campaign getting feedback about your product and your project page. Create lots of different reward levels for people to look at over time and offer their opinions, and whittle them down to the best reward levels before you launch.
The Best Type of Coffee
Creating those reward levels is important to do in advance of the project, but engaging backers during a campaign means that you should be open to their ideas and suggestions in some capacity. There’s a little secret to making this happen effectively, and it’s related to coffee.
If you’re like most people, your answer to the question at the beginning of this entry (“If you’re a coffee drinker, do you prefer a dark, rich, hearty roast?”) was yes. However, in truth, the vast majority of people prefer milk, weak, slightly sweet coffee. Why the disconnect?
The key is that we’re not all that good at explaining what we want without some sort of context. This is where you, the project creator, can help your backers out by having an artist on hand during the project to sketch some of the concepts that backers imagine. How you use this tool depends on your product, but people respond really well to visual cues. Quick sketches are very inexpensive and can make a huge difference when discussing various concepts with backers.
One of the concluding thoughts in Gladwell’s talk that really resonates with me is that when we pursue universals–when we decide that there is one best version of our product for everyone–we are doing ourselves and our backers a huge disservice. By embracing a diversity of concepts and variants, we’ll maximize happiness.
This may sound counterintuitive to one of the other key KS Lessons, Stay Focused or Lose Backers, but really it’s just a different way of saying the same thing. Focus on what you’re good at and what you’re trying to deliver to backers. That is, don’t add in t-shirts and mugs and framed art if your focus is on delivering a great game to backers. But within that focus, give backers a few options. Give each individual backer the chance to be truly happy with the pickle that’s right for them.