Kickstarter Lesson #133: The Psychological Benefits of Launching and Ending a Campaign Within the Same Month

4 January 2015 | 19 Comments

imagesI’ve written a few posts about timing and length of projects (links at the bottom of this post), but I read something in the NY Times yesterday that made me look at crowdfunding projects in a new way.

The article is about setting personal resolutions and how timing has an impact on the success rate of achieving those resolutions. It cites some studies showing that people are more likely to start and finish their goals if they were in the same month or year.

Here’s the paragraph that stood out to me for project creators:

The researchers also found that people were “more likely to start working on a task whose deadline is in the current month than in the next month,” even though the number of days to finish the task was the same, Ms. Tu said.

The idea is that this week, this month, or this year feel like the present, while next week, next month, or next year feel like the future. We’re human, so we’re much more concerned with the present than the future–that is, we’re willing to act on our current needs and desires more often than those that seem far away in the future.

This is just a crazy theory, but I wonder if the same applies to Kickstarter. If a backer happens upon a current project in, say, the month of January, but the project doesn’t end until February, is there a part of their subconscious that says, “This isn’t an immediate concern–I’ll wait until later”?

I would suspect that’s the case. I’m specifically referring to our subconscious mind–that’s what the NY Times article is all about. It supersedes logic. But if launching and ending your project within the same month helps backers see the project as a decision to make now instead of later, that’s good for both of you (especially if you give backers a fun, engaging experience).

UPDATE: In the comments, Isaac pointed out something really interesting. This same theory could also apply to the year in which you estimate delivery for your rewards. If the project starts in 2015 but you won’t deliver in 2016, that might be perceived as too far in the future.

What do you think? Is there a small part of you that is more likely to put off a decision if it doesn’t need to be made until next month?

If you are a tabletop game creator, please help yourself and others by marking your estimated launch and end dates on this Google Doc.

Also read:

Kickstarter Lesson #9: Timing and Length

Kickstarter Lesson #109: Seasonal Timing

Kickstarter Lesson #84: Coordinating Staggered Launch and End Dates

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19 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #133: The Psychological Benefits of Launching and Ending a Campaign Within the Same Month

  1. Hi Jamey!

    I just finished my first campaign, and have a few results that might be useful. I ran the Knot Dice campaign from April 2-30, thinking that the same-month immediacy might push backers to back earlier. However, this being my first campaign, I don’t know that I have much meaningful data to report on.

    There was a big push at the beginning of the campaign, but I think that’s pretty commonplace if you’ve spent the time to develop a following for your company or your product. There was also a push at the very end of the campaign, and 3.94% of my backers total came from that 48-hour reminder email (who presumably did not care about the same-month ending). Knowing that the beginning and end of a campaign are generally when the most backers join, this may not tell you much.

    I also have a delivery date in early 2016 (because of the demanding manufacturing requirements and my desire to not disappoint anyone by promising holidays and possibly not delivering). I know that a lot of people responded negatively to that – not necessarily in a bad way, they were generally kind-hearted about it when the said anything directly to me, but I suspect that a number of people didn’t back at all because of the delivery date next year.

    Summary: I think it probably is useful to be able to deliver in the same year as the campaign. But I’m not sure that having the campaign end in the same month has much of an effect. I suspect that the 21-day campaign creates more of a feel of immediacy than just ending the same month – though 21-days within the same month might do it.

    At the same time, remember that first-time creators need that extra time to get reviews published and try to create a little more buzz during a campaign, so the full 30-days can be more useful to them.

    1. Matthew: Thanks so much for sharing your post-project perspective! I agree with you about the year (though despite that, like you, I’ve scheduled my recent treasure chest project for January delivery, as it was looking like December, and I’m not shipping in December again).

      I agree with what you’ve said about project length. I generally recommend 30-35 days for a creator’s first campaign, 21-25 days for the second campaign, and closer to 18-22 days for all subsequent campaigns. Those numbers are flexible based on time of month and other factors, but it’s a rough template to go by.

  2. On the other hand…

    If I see a project that funds this month, I have to pay for it this month. So I gotta find the money this month. I might have already spent my disposable income for the month, so it might not even be an option (especially for more expensive campaigns).

    If a project lasts over 30 days, you guarantee that everyone gets at least one pay day between launch and funding. Assuming they see the project near to launch. At that point, it becomes the first thing allocated out of next month’s pay check.

    So that deferring can actually have a beneficial effect.

      1. I thought the same. You might hit the chance of a payday even twice. if you start on 1th and end on 5th next month.
        Even if you didn’t back at the start of the campaign or missed it. You still have the same payday boost at the end of the campaign.
        As we know most backers back at the beginning and the end of the campaign. Combining them both with the payday push is probably good.

        As a psychologist I think it might feel a little bit better if something finishes in the same month, but I think people on kickstarter already got used to the fact that it can take a long time till the product is finally shipped.
        The other thing is, on kickstarter it says X days remaining, it doesn’t point to: ending this month, it just says X days. I don’t think that the automatic response of “nice it finishes this month” triggers if we have to calculate first if it really finishes this month.

        I do think the payday push on a beginning or an ending of a kickstarter has a much bigger impact than the “finish in the same month” effect.

  3. Definitely agree with the immediacy created by having a project complete within the same month. But could this also hint at why the projects have the dropoff at 21 and 35 days? The 21 days probably says more about getting into a project *now* (less than three weeks is very tangible), while the 35 days is within a month from now (still *now* but just a little bit out there). The mental calculations you go through when figuring out whether to back or not help you feel whether it’s soon or you’re going to wait. If it’s within 35 days, you can feel that it’s in the same month, so it’s happening soon. Anything after that and you’re just not able to visualize it.

    Unless it’s a product/project that immediately draws me in, I almost never back project that goes past a month…

  4. Very true observation. We indeed tend to put things for later.
    Certainly it can impact the creator though I do not see how it would influence a backer’s decision in anyway or at least such is not my perspective.

    I think for a regular backer the time is not an issue as such as your decision is a one off pay or not.

    Sure there are other aspects as add-ons etc which may keep you wondering if you should add more. Though in most of the cases I trust it is a one off decision & if nothing critical takes place (be it even money shortage) you will not withdraw your pledge.

    On second thought I tend to star a project more often than I back one. Though more likely it is that my consciousness wins the argument with the subconsciousness with the argument: “mate where will you store those games not to mention find time to play ’em”.

    All the Best & Keep on writing :)

  5. I suspect it doesn’t apply to Kickstarter, due to (of all things) font size.

    Looking at a Kickstarter page it says in huge letters in black on blue “20 days to go” and then in much smaller letters in dark blue on light blue “This project will only be funded if at least $X is pledged by Day, Mon XX 20XX X:00 PM +00:00.”

    My guess is that most people don’t notice the month that a project will end in and if asked could tell you roughly how many days there are to go but would need to do some quick mental arithmetic with that number and today’s date to tell you if it was this month.

  6. Thanks for your comments! Campaign length is somewhat tied to this theory. I’ve seen some data that shows the per-day funding amounts dropping precipitously for campaigns that last longer than 21 days (there’s another big drop after 35 days). Shorter campaigns offer less time to build community but more urgency.

  7. I agree this is an interesting question, and something I haven’t thought of with regards to KS. My personal thoughts from a buyer’s perspective are that perhaps my subconscious might tell me that “next month” translates to “I have time” and there isn’t a hurry to back this project. Although, I typically don’t think about the month the project ends when I back it, rather, I tend to look more at the number of days until it ends. So in my mind, if the project is ending in 21 days I don’t calculate in my head that it will be this month or next month, I just think 21 days. I’d be curious to see if anyone else thinks solely in terms of # of days left instead of the month ending.

  8. Kickstarters I have really been waiting on or am highly interested in, the length of the campaign does not impact my investment decision. But, I do find that KS projects I am on the edge about with shorter lengths seem to garner my attention more often than longer lengths. I feel I have to make a decision quicker and thus I look into the project more seriously. I don’t get as excited about longer campaigns, especially ones that end two months later because of their start and end dates. Sadly, I have marked a few of those longer KS campaigns to check back on later then lost interest when I got the 48 hour notification or missed out because I was unable to get back to the campaign in time (traveling or offline for an extended period). Some of those I regret having not invested in.

    So I can see where keeping a campaign within a month keeps it on the subconscious mind of people, but does that outweigh the word of mouth advertising and viral marketing of longer campaigns? Does the shorter length encourage first visit investments of the same magnitude as return investments in a longer campaign?

    1. You raise some interesting questions T.R., I’d be curious to find some statistical data for this. I recall there was a sweet spot for campaign length and success rates, I think somewhere in the ballpark of around 25 – 30 days had higher success rates? Jamey, I’m sure you’ve got some data on this somewhere so correct me if I’m wrong here. It might be tricky to tie in the marketing/advertising lengths with KS campaign lengths and decipher meaningful information out of it, because there are so many other variables such as; type of advertising/effectiveness, where the advertising is done, and the length of the advertising campaign. Although, I’d love to find out somehow if more time for advertising/marketing outweighs the urgency to back the shorter KS campaigns.

  9. I imagine this concept also applies to the KS creator. I think it’s easier to say, “June is going to really bite… But if I can make it through June, that’s all I need.” Whereas if it spreads out to two months, you are going to feel like you have two entire months drowning in a sea of KS campaign, even though they are time-wise the same.

  10. That’s an interesting view, as always, Jamey.
    However, I am bot sure if it applies to the KS backers, since they are already backing for something they will receive many months afterwards, so they are already have a wide perspective on the timing of the project.
    We could elaborate on the matter if we could count somehow the percentage of the backers who backed the project on their first visit on its page vs others so visited many times before deciding to back.

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