Kickstarter Lesson #109: Seasonal Timing

17 July 2014

I was wrong, and I have proof.

One of my first Kickstarter Lessons was called Timing and Length. In it, I wrote, “I don’t think the success of projects are tied to the time of the year at all.”

I later added a slight revision to that stance in this blog entry about shipping Euphoria, saying that while the timing of the project didn’t matter, the timing of delivering the project does. You want to avoid shipping during the busy holiday season in December if possible.

The latest addendum to my theory about timing is that you don’t want to launch on the same day as a very similar project. I set up a Google Doc to help board game creators avoid those types of unnecessary clashes.

However, I recently stumbled upon a project that completely debunked my theory about time of year. It turns out that seasonal timing can be really, really important for certain types of projects.

Let’s start with Exhibit A. It’s a project called The Coolest. Basically, it’s a portable cooler with a built-in blender, bluetooth speaker, interior LED light, and more. Its core price was $185. Here’s how the project did on Kickstarter:

2014-07-17_1054

 

Let’s move on to Exhibit B. It’s a project called The Coolest. Basically, it’s a portable cooler with a built-in blender, bluetooth speaker, interior LED light, and more. Its core price is $185. Here’s how the project is currently doing on Kickstarter:

2014-07-17_1046

Imagine my surprise when I saw how well The Coolest is currently doing on Kickstarter compared to how it did before. Surely there must be some major differences between the two, I thought. And it’s true that there are some differences. The funding goal was much lower on the second project, meaning that it could reach the goal faster and start gaining that magical overfunding momentum. And the second product is nicer than the original (though they’re still quite similar).

By far the biggest difference between the two was timing. The original project launched on November 26 and ended on December 26. Granted, that’s not a good time to run a Kickstarter campaign in general since many people are preoccupied with the holidays during that time. But we’re now looking at one of the top-funded projects ever on Kickstarter–surely it could fund at any time of year.

That’s exactly what it’s done with a summer launch. The Coolest relaunched on July 8, and a week later, it has already raised over $5 million. It makes sense–it’s summer (at least for the northern hemisphere), so coolers are on peoples’ minds right now. Coolers are the most relevant in the summer.

Still, I found it hard to attribute so much of this mega-projects success to seasonality. So I reached out to the project creator, Ryan Grepper, to see if he thought that the timing was a major factor in the success of the reboot. Despite being very busy with his campaign, Ryan kindly took the time to reply.

He confirmed that seasonality made a huge impact on the popularity of the summer campaign for the Coolest. His original strategy was to time the Kickstarter campaign so the product could be manufactured and delivered in time for the relevant season, but what he realized is that people aren’t really thinking about keeping things cool when they’re shoveling snow off their driveways.

Ryan summarizes his stance here:

If there’s a time of year that your product is most used, I’d suggest that’s the time of year to launch your product.

Simple as that. This is particularly true for products that solve a problem. The peak time people will be interested in solving a problem is when they’re currently frustrated by it.

I appreciate Ryan and the Coolest for helping me look at the impact of timing through a different lens, especially given that there’s data to back it up. It’s good to be wrong when I learn something new to share with my fellow project creators.

Can you think of other examples of Kickstarter projects that got timing right or wrong? Feel free to mention your project in the comments if you think it will be affected by seasonal timing.

41 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #109: Seasonal Timing

  1. Also note the length of “The Coolest” kickstarter — another violation of the “rules”. The BGG crowd is really, really obsessed with the middle “lull”, and perhaps it’s more true with board games than novelty.

    1. Dale: I’m not sure I understand your point. You think the length of The Coolest Kickstarter–50 days for a campaign that’s at $5 million plus after one week–is optimal?

  2. Thank you Jamey for this article. I agree the timing is the key.
    Other important factors I see are:
    * The goal of the 2nd project is a half of the money collected by the 1st one. This made it a ‘certain’ success, considering how many people wanted it in winter and now being summer and the product being ‘even better’. This got all the previous backers on board.
    * After the 1st fail the creator must have spent the 6 months well marketing the project or so it seems.
    * It has a cool factor & is rather a unique idea in itself thus the hype I think.

    Thanks again this was a positive shocker to see the results. My congrats to Ryan.

    1. Konrad: Absolutely, I think the lower funding goal helped. I mentioned in the post how getting that “magical momentum” can really help. And that’s true that rebooting a campaign after 6 months gives you lots of time to spread the word about it. This project stood out, though, because I’ve seen plenty of rebooted campaigns that funded, but none so drastically as this one (especially when so many other variables were unchanged)! :)

      1. Jamey: Indeed. I agree with your statement of the “magical momentum”. I just wanted to highlight the significance of the numbers why I think it was guaranteed to succeed though the current number is beyond my explanation particularly since the project is very new to me. Also it doesn’t work on me – for the lack of better words – cause I am too cool for a cooler :)
        Though as a KS campaign, in general, it has a lot to admire & learn from. I even gave it a star on KS, not to mention spreading the word :)

      2. Any chance of you getting back in touch with Ryan to ask when he will fulfil the Kickstarter orders. $500 down and 3 years waiting and it looks like my Cooler is never arriving in the UK.

    2. This. Ryan spent a ton of time after the first campaign reworking the marketing material to put together a more polished product, then used that established base from the first project to be a marketing engine for the 2nd. While I don’t doubt the season had some things to do with it, I think it’s more the huge marketing push and the creative rework of the pitch to lend itself to a more viral nature.

      The pre-publishing of the video weeks prior to the launch of the product had folks searching and salivating over an “unavailable” but awesome product. You’re seeing this technique used more and more. Remember the color matching pen that swept social media a couple months ago. Pretty much that.

      1. Adam: Thanks for sharing your insights. I do agree that the second campaign is more polished than the first. That’s an interesting point about sharing the video in advance. That’s a strategy I generally discourage, as you often only have one chance to capture a customer’s attention, so if it doesn’t translate into something tangible right away (a pledge, purchase, newsletter signup, Like, etc), you may not see them again. Though at the same time I think well-guided hype can really help a project launch.

  3. BTW Jamey: After writing this article I am sure you have been thinking about it as well, for sure I am thinking all the time about an answer to the following question:

    What is the best time for a board/card game then? :)

    1. Funnily enough, I think that’s where Jamey’s idea came from that the time of year — at least for board games — is irrelevant. I play games in winter during the holidays, and in summer when I’m off work, or enjoying good weather. There is no specific time of year that attracts gamers more.

      Well, I now do wonder if perhaps launching during convention season could be a plus as people have games on their mind, despite already having spent large sums on other games…

      1. Indeed stijnhommess.
        Though all this reading got me actually to doubt and think that there is in fact a good time even for a board game.
        Maybe convention, though I see where you are getting from, I wouldn’t see it this way, as when I am coming back from a convention buying new games is the last thing on my mind (since I already bought some). At least for me, coming back from one, as a player, I want to play more, as a designer, I want to create more :)
        Though maybe some time around the middle of a ‘school season’ & Thursday I think as everyone already has enough of learning and is looking for something for the weekend, so technically they are already in the mindset to get more entertainment.
        Another thing coming to my mind is launching your board game project when something of a similar theme is, for example, going into cinemas. Similarly in this case people want to have more of the same experience, particularly if the movie was good :)

        1. Konrad: That’s a good question about board games. I tend to agree with stijnhommess–I don’t think there’s a season that’s better for board games campaigns than others. Though I don’t have the data to back that up. Anecdotally, it seems that many of the biggest campaigns have happened during the summer. The fall seems like a good time as well due to the number of board game conventions during that time (though perhaps gamers are preoccupied with excited new releases during that time?) Winter seems good because people are inside more often. And I’ve seen plenty of campaigns do well in the spring–that’s a good time to have a campaign if you plan to delivery before Christmas.

      1. Exactly very well put Kicktraq.
        Where do you get such crowd from, preferable for free without moving a finger? I would happily acquire one for myself! :)
        I have to study more the pre-launch crowd building myself. Though first I am focusing on play-testing. I want to slowly close one chapter and move forward.

        Also thanks Kicktraq for sharing your knowledge on Ryan’s preparation.

        1. Happy to help!

          >> Where do you get such crowd from, preferable for
          >> free without moving a finger? I would happily acquire one for myself!

          Ha! If I could conjure this for people, I’d be a very very rich man. Alas, it’s not so easy I’m afraid ;).

  4. Thanks for this great content, Mr. Stegmaier. Even the comments are good food for thought.
    I would argue your second addendum, though. I believe ending at the same time is much more important than launching. You didn’t launch at the same time, but you sure did end right in the middle of a cluster. We had your chest, The Captain is Dead, Ophir, The Shadow Over Westminster, Dilemma, Penny Press, and Clash: The Dawn of Steam all ending within a day or so of each other. There were more, too. As a game-loving backer it was very frustrating – I just can’t afford to back all of these great projects when they all want my money at the same time.

    1. Derik: Absolutely, I 100% agree. That’s something I discuss in the blog entry about timing compared to similar projects. The Google Doc I created has two tabs: One for launch dates and one for ending dates, with the hopes that project creators will use that information to stagger both launch and end dates.

  5. Serious respect for starting an article “I was wrong, and I have proof.” The world needs more people evaluating and reevaluating in that way :)

  6. Nice article, Jamey. I think with this one it was a combination of timing and marketing as Kicktraq suggested, but the two can be highly related. Besides backers having coolers top of mind during the summer, journalists want content that’s relevant to the time of year as well. This is one of those feel-good stories that’s great for the summertime and it’s an easy story idea to pitch. I like Konrad’s comment about launching in parallel to movie release dates for board games, though I think that can be a real challenge unless you’re working on several ideas in parallel. Popular TV series are also good to look at. The takeaway is that the theme of your game may be very relevant to how you time its launch. You can try using Google Trends for stuff like this, but it takes a lot of thought to filter for relevance and to pick the right keywords. For example, search volume for “wine” peaks in November/December, but that’s the middle of Christmas season.

    1. Dennis: That’s a really great about about how journalists look for seasonal content as well–that’s brilliant. I could definitely see that having an impact on the Coolest and other seasonal projects.

  7. Hey Jamey, Thanks for the lessons. We’re sharing them amongst our friends and contacts! We’re about to send a project to KS for review. It’s for a children’s picture book. Do you think there’s any timing issues for writers and illustrators of picture books? We were thinking of launching mid-March 2015 as we can spend more time getting the project right and building our twitter and FB following. Plus we’ll have much more time to devote to it over the Easter ‘holiday’. We’re first timers although have helped other campaigns.
    Thanks for any help.
    @skymntmedia https://www.facebook.com/skymountainmedia

    1. Jamie: Interesting question. I would think for a children’s book project, the target audience are parents. So the only time of year I’d avoid would be the summer, when parents are preoccupied with having their kids home from school.

      1. Hi Jamey!
        We want to launch mid July a kids/family multiplication strategy card game. It has more than ten different way to play it and many other features that blend meaningful learning with math, specifically multiplication tables exercising, for the whole family.
        Please check the video link:

        https://youtu.be/CE5cr8A4uWg

        I would love to hear your insight about this other point of view on running the campaign during summer in which the parents that DO have their kids home from school could feel compelled to backing the project precisely because they can relate to having a game that not only entertains BUT also teaches…and what better time to “link” with it during summer when there is more time to try out something new.

        But then again, it could be really bad timing because everybody is away and not in “teaching/learning” mode…and this terrifies me.

        Thanks so much Jamey for having this blog! It’s priceless.

        Best!
        Matt from Holiplay Games

        1. Matt: That’s a really good question, and I like the various angles from which you’ve approached it. I’m not a parent, so it’s hard for me to offer that perspective, but you’re right that parents may not be thinking too much about school (or even be available) in the summer.

          That said, if you’ve built up a solid fanbase in advance, the timing won’t matter much. :)

  8. Thanks for the great article! It makes me wonder though, can seasonal timing also backfire in regards to expected delivery? Say for instance, you launch the Kickstarter in October, it might be an expectation that you can delivery the game in time for the holidays. Would backers turn away from not getting it delivered within that seasonal interest time frame?

    1. Alex: That’s a good question, and I think it touches upon why November and December launches have lower success rates. At that time of year, people are in the mindset of “if I pay money for a thing, I will get that thing right away.”

      1. If you don’t mind me asking, why do you think October Kickstarters have so much success then? Everything I have read says that’s one of the best months to launch in, but I’ve also seen a number of games with delivery dates set after the new year and still funded..

        1. Alex: Well, a few things: First, I think October doesn’t fall into the November/December trap because it’s early enough to avoid the holiday shopping mentality.

          Second, and perhaps more importantly, other than November and December, I really don’t think the launch month matters. Sure, you’ve probably seen some charts showing success rates by month, but it’s a marginal difference, and we’re talking about thousands and thousands of projects. If you have an appealing project, a well-constructed project, and a lot of people excited about it (along with all the other tips I mention on this blog), the month you launch really doesn’t matter. I would suggest focusing on other factors (like your own personal schedule and ability to be connected to your project) than the month itself.

          1. I can agree with that point. It was on my mind since I’m planning to launch my first project in September, and like you mention, I’d seen a lot of charts showing October as a prime month. My background is in video games which is fairly different, so I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of tabletop launches.

            Thanks for the quick responses! Everything you’ve mentioned in your blog has been an incredible help with planning!

  9. Hi Jamey

    You are absolutely right. Timing plays an important role for certain projects. I have another case in mind where creator can use timing to his/her benefit. If you are launching a campaign for a product which people can use as gift there is no better season than the holidays. Plan your campaign in such a way that your product is delivered just before the holidays. This will, in my opinion, create a huge pull as people are always in search for customized and unique gifts (what else can be more unique than the first ever product of a newly launched company).

    This is my assumption and I don’t have any reference project in mind. I have to test this idea on my coming KS campaign.

    I would love to know what do you think of that.

    1. Ahmed: It’s certainly worth testing out. From my experience, I have seen some people buy Christmas gifts via Kickstarter as early as March–I think they see a November/December delivery date on the rewards, and that helps them think of the holidays. That said, I think the vast majority of holiday purchases happen in November and December, which is far too late to both run and deliver on a campaign.

  10. Jamey,

    Three years down the track… Do you have any more thoughts? I’m really struggling trying to find a time to launch my board game. My project will essentially be finished by the end of November/Early December, but I cannot shrug off the feeling that it’s a horrible time to launch. The product won’t ship until February, and I feel like people have already spent their ‘Christmas money’ leading up to Xmas.

    Do you think it’s better off waiting until January?

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