Kickstarter Lesson #122: The 5 Love Languages of Crowdfunding

7 October 2014 | 14 Comments

Recently I was interviewed on a podcast called The Gaming Careers Podcast. The host, Stephen, asked me a great question that I’ve never considered in regards to Kickstarter and crowdfunding:

On your personal blog you offer advice to managers about the 5 love languages. How could this apply to the Kickstarter space?

The interviewer had really done his research! The love languages are a concept that I’ve written about several times on my personal blog (here and here), but never here on this Kickstarter blog. But I’m glad Stephen made the connection, because the love languages are all about improving relationships, and so is Kickstarter.

Here’s the basic concept of the love languages, a term originally coined and developed by Dr. Gary Chapman: We each feel loved and valued when people do different types of things for us. Because of that, our assumption is that other people feel loved through those same things, but that assumption is rarely correct.

For example, you might feel loved and valued when a friend gives you a gift on your birthday. So on that friend’s birthday, you give them a gift. However, that friend actually doesn’t care much about gifts at all. They much more highly value quality time with you–they would feel more loved if you took them out to lunch for their birthday.

The key is that once we get to know the love languages of the people we care about instead of imposing our love languages onto them, we can have much stronger relationships with them.

Here’s a list of all 5 love languages with some real-life examples of how you can act on them:

  1. Words of Affirmation (giving your wife a compliment or telling your child that you’re proud of them)
  2. Acts of Service (taking out the trash for your husband even though it’s his chore or running an errand for your mother so she doesn’t have to)
  3. Receiving Gifts (giving a present to a friend or making something special for your grandmother)
  4. Quality Time (taking your boyfriend out to his favorite restaurant or going on lunch run with coworker)
  5. Physical Touch (giving your wife a shoulder massage or hugging a friend)

Everyone experiences these love languages in different ways, and it’s important to be aware of your own love languages as well as those of the people around you. There are quizzes you can take to determine your love languages, but really the easiest way to do it is to rank them, thinking of concrete examples of what you value and how you feel loved. Then have your spouse or best friend do the same. You might be surprised by what you learn about them.

But the really cool thing that I realized today while discussing the topic with Stephen is that the love languages apply to Kickstarter backers too! Let’s look at the list from that perspective:

  1. Words of Affirmation: This can involve thanking backers as a whole for building the project with you, or recognizing individual backers for their efforts.
  2. Acts of Service: What can you do for your backers to make their lives easier? Part of this is structuring the project in a way that saves them the most inconvenience, like EU-friendly shipping. And part of this could mean that you dedicate a little bit of time to help your backers in unique ways, like looking over their project page if they decide to be a creator someday.
  3. Receiving Gifts: Some backers get really excited about all the stretch goal goodies. They might feel a little like gifts to the backers because they’re getting that extra stuff without having to pay extra.
  4. Quality Time: Some backers really want to interact with you, particularly in the comments, but sometimes over e-mail too. They want to feel your presence during the project, whether it’s to answer questions about the project or just to talk about random stuff.
  5. Physical Touch: For some backers, they really want to meet you and hang out. You can do this at conventions, but you can also bridge the digital gap by showing your face on the project video, photos, and other videos you post during the project. It’s not quite the same as reaching through the computer and giving a backer a hug, but it’s a suitable (and slightly less imposing) alternative.

The key to all this is that each backer feels valued (and yes, loved) in different ways, and it’s your job as the project creator to offer those love languages to your backers even if they’re different than the way you feel valued when you back a project. There is no set template for each backer–everyone is different, and everyone experiences the full range of the love language spectrum in different ways.


I’m sure there are lots of ways to explore this concept, so if you’re a fan of the love language and want to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Also, if you’re new to the love languages, I hope you take a minute to explore the concept, especially with your spouse. It’s a very practical concept to apply to any relationship.

PS. For the record, my top love language is “acts of service.” When someone does something to save me time (my most precious resource), that makes me feel valued and loved. In a way, the converse is true too: When someone abuses my time, it has the opposite effect. So perhaps it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the love languages for their adverse effects too.

You can listen to the podcast I mentioned at the beginning here.

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14 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #122: The 5 Love Languages of Crowdfunding

  1. i think you score pretty highly across the board for this stuff.

    but critically you also back it up with trying to put out the best possible product for us.

    i like the fact that you get in front of the video as well to mix it up – your enthusiasm comes across.

    i love eating in restaurants where I can “see” the kitchen and that’s why backing your projects is such a no brainer

    1. Thanks Barry–that’s very kind of you to say. I really, really like the example of seeing the kitchen from your seat at the restaurant. It’s fun to see what the cooks are doing, but it’s also important that the food tastes good when it arrives at your table. :)

  2. I am all about Quality Time and Acts of Service. Jamey, you have done so many acts of service for your backers, I’m surprised you don’t see them that way! Your charity auctions are pure service and do a great deal to advance the board game community outside our hobby. Your blog, for crying out loud! Kickstarter Lessons for free, for everyone! This also overlaps with quality time and physical touch – you aren’t here at my kitchen table right now (that’s good, my jammies…. LOL) but you always share what you’re thinking with us, including when you’ve been wrong or confused.

    You are also ace at affirmation, thanking backers as close to personally as possible — I had a hunch you were awesome from the Viticulture project page without knowing anything about you, but your clearly personal thank-you email to me clinched it, and I STILL HAVE IT in my inbox. :-)

    And gifts? I see your positivity, even when things are difficult, and your sharing of good news with genuine cheer both as gifts. So many people are so grouchy, and so ungrateful. The amazing stretch goals are also a gift, but beyond that, your consideration of people’s feedback, especially hard feedback like that for the card art for Euphoria, was really a gift. So many project creators would have shrugged their shoulders and that campaign could have gone sideways those few days; instead, you were humble, you refocused, and you came up with a wonderful, creative solution that addressed most of the concerns. I think you might have actually picked up some backers too, thanks to the controversy, instead of losing a bunch as you could have.

    These are all things you’ve done that have built an incredibly loyal tribe. I mentioned Euphoria at my FLGS last week, and people lit up. “That game is great!” “They did Viticulture, right? My wife loves that game and it’s one of the few she’ll play.” — best of all, though, “That Jamey guy is so nice and I like the way he runs Kickstarter campaigns. Does he have a new one now? I should back it.” I was really sorry to NOT have a new campaign to share with that person, though I confirmed that he’d backed Treasure Chest. Creators who blame, make excuses, and who don’t engage do NOT earn the positive reaction that you consistently get. I did not have my Stonemaier Ambassador t-shirt on, either. :-)

    1. Julia: I very much appreciate that about acts of service. When I was writing the post, I was thinking about individual acts of service, but you make a great point that there isn’t really a limitation to an act of service as long as you’re trying to help people.

      I also really like the idea of positivity as a gift. Just making someone feel good or smile is absolutely a gift–I feel that way when a creator (or any person) provokes that type of reaction in me.

      Thank you for your kind words of affirmation about Stonemaier Games. Reading your comment was a great way for me to start my day! :)

  3. The Physical Touch section is my biggest failure in Kickstarter. I’ve always been told I look intimidating or scary. It’s given me a very “best if not seen” approach to marketing so I don’t get on my videos or add pictures of myself. I made a video once blogging abut a current game design and a person told me I looked like someone they wouldn’t want to meet in an alley lol. I don’t take offense, I know how I look, but to those of us with a less than “marketable” appearance, how would you suggest this work?

    On my last Kickstarter I started putting my orange fluffy cat in pictures. That personalized it a bit more and he’s cuter than an ogre game designer lol.

    1. Christian: That’s an interesting self-observation about your physical presence. I actually like the cat approach, but that’s probably because I’m partial to orange cats. For everyone else, I think you can make your presence felt in other ways during the campaign through the comments and other online forums. This overlaps with “quality time,” but I think the effect is similar.

    2. Christian, I think I met you last year at BGG.Con; you look familiar. In any case, I thought I’d throw in that I’m glad you’re not another Boring White Guy(tm). I am one of those people that really appreciates seeing the real folks behind the campaign, even if they are goofy, ugly, or incredibly camera shy, or even all three. So yeah, the interwebz love kittehs, but I think you can’t hide behind the marmalade forever. LOL

  4. The way to look at a project, a more human way.
    Thanks to it you come across more as a person looking for help with funding the dream.
    Money should be a secondary factor, at least this is how a creator should show themselves as.

    I am not a fan of projects where on every corner the creator reminds you to pledge or I need your money etc. This simply goes without saying. After all you did the project for the very reason so better spend your time telling me what the project is about :)

    Great comments from Steve certainly put the 5 points in practical examples, I always like that.
    All the Best.

    1. Konrad: I like that point about projects that are inwardly focused (this is my dream, I need your money, here’s how you pledge) vs projects that are outwardly focused (here’s the product I’m creating, here’s how you find out if it’s any good, here’s how you can contribute your feedback, etc). The latter is much more appealing to me as a creator and a backer.

  5. Great Post Jamey!

    I think there definitely could be some connective tissue between the 5 love languages and Kickstarter projects themselves.

    It strikes me that it would be possible to offer rewards that cater to these different needs, that wouldn’t affect the cost of production but could generate a lot of extra pledges (maybe). Might be interesting to test the idea.

    Here are some quick thoughts on Love Language Pledge Levels:

    Words of Affirmation- Put together a list of milestones you went through to launch your kickstarter, and make it available as a pdf download at a pledge level. When people complete milestones on their own projects, applaud them in your comments section to drive engagement and enthusiasm.

    Acts of Service- Offer to help coach them on their project when it comes out (limited number to prevent scaling problems)

    Receiving Gifts- I think is what the normal reward structure is about. Not much change here.

    Quality Time- Do a Google + hangout for the final hour countdown for everyone at X level. they could share crossing the finish line with you.

    Physical Touch- For High End Backers- Offer to fly out to deliver and play the game with the backer.

    Its food for thought… Perhaps the answer to production/scope creep with complicated shipping requirements is some creative uses of 5 Love Language Tiers… hmm…

    1. Steve: This is great! These are strikingly similar to my original Viticulture project reward levels (maybe I was channeling the love languages without realizing it). I wouldn’t do several of them in the future for logistical reasons, but I like the spirit of the idea!

  6. Wonderful article. Never thought about applying this to interacting with social networking. My family and I traveled for 14 years as a band and we also held love language banquets using drama skits to teach/demonstrate each of the five love languages. This has made a huge diffence in the lives of our family. I think you made some very astute observations. Acts of service is my wife’s primary. Mine is physical touch. Surprising how opposites attract and how often we found this to be true. One of the points about love is…it is a choice . We choose to love even when we don’t feel like it. I do this dishes…then guess who is the most sexy guy on planet earth? Yup two thumbs pointing at this guy! Ha. Jamey I must say I have been so impressed with the quality, thoughtfulness and sincerity in which you handle yourself, your projects and backers. Very well done sir. Looking forward to our treasure chests. Thank you again for the insights and sharing your expertise. Kevin Burkhardsmeier

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