Kickstarter Lesson #216: The Leeroy Jenkins Approach to Marketing

9 February 2017 | 33 Comments

One of my all-time favorite YouTube videos features a group of World of Warcraft avatars standing around outside a dungeon as they meticulously plan their strategy. Itching with impatience, one of the avatars breaks away from the group and runs into the dungeon, yelling, “Leeroy Jenkins!”

After a few moments of dismay, the group follows Leeroy into the dungeon and attempts to salvage the mission, but it’s hopeless. I mention this here because this is one of those blog entries where I write about what not to do. As amusing as Leeroy Jenkins is, his dungeon-raiding strategy isn’t very effective.

The Leeroy Jenkins approach to marketing is to self-promote your product (your Kickstarter campaign) in places where it is completely out of context. Here are some classic examples (again, these are not recommended):

  • Join a Facebook group specific to a certain topic (e.g., Viticulture) and post a link to your project (e.g., not Viticulture).
  • Pledge to support an active Kickstarter campaign and post a link to your project in the comments.
  • Post a link to your project in the comments of a blog or YouTube video without any connection to the topic of conversation.

The thing is, Leeroy Jenkins marketers’ hearts are in the right place. They’re passionate about their project and want to share it with others. But this guerrilla marketing strategy has the opposite of the intended effect–instead of drawing people into the project, it aggressively pushes them away.

I like to participate in Facebook groups, Kickstarter campaigns, blogs, and YouTube channels simply because I enjoy talking about that content. It’s a soft, relationship-driven approach to marketing. I’d rather form a bond with someone about a game we love than to shove my project in their face.

Here are some productive ways to build your crowd and share your project:

How do you feel about the Leeroy Jenkins approach to marketing?


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33 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #216: The Leeroy Jenkins Approach to Marketing

  1. That’s a great idea. I’ve mentioned to Kickstarter that a customized “daily digest” e-mail would be helpful for people. They could aggregated data as you said to suggest more projects, kind of like what Amazon does. Currently Kickstarter’s suggestions are based on the people you follow and your friends, but that could definitely be expanded.

    As for Scythe, I’m curious–do you visit BoardGameGeek? I take responsibility as a creator to get the word out about my projects to people outside of our immediate reach, hence why we invested in BGG ads. For people who don’t use BGG, it’s hard to reach people if they aren’t looking. :)

    1. Jamey, I am on BGG, though at the time I’m not sure that I was aware of the hotness (which I’m sure it was on). I also don’t recall seeing any ads for scythe. I think that I had heard of scythe while the kickstarter was going, but I didn’t hear anything that made me want to check it out further. (That is what I meant to say above) To be honest, Scythe didn’t sound like my kind of game from a quick description.

      The only reason that I started looking into it was because I started listening to the Dukes of Dice podcast. Alex, whose views tend to align with mine, kept raving about Scythe when it didn’t sound like his kind of game either. (Long story short I now own a Collectors edition, so no hard feelings)

      Not that you can solve my problems, but I just wish that Kickstarter (and BGG for that matter) made it easier to find people who like similar games and games that similar people like.

      1. John: Thanks for your response. That makes sense. I like this: “I just wish that Kickstarter (and BGG for that matter) made it easier to find people who like similar games and games that similar people like.”

  2. Personally, I wish that Kickstarter segregated promotion of other projects into a separate tab or something like that. As others have mentioned, I like finding new products of interest and since we are backing the same game on kickstarter, there is a pretty good chance that we have mutual interests. If there were a separate tab then people who want to see it can and those who don’t can avoid it without it clogging up the comments.

    It would also be really nice to see a people who backed this project also backed list. More than someone saying that a project is good, I want to see how many people are willing to throw money at it.

    Jamey, I’m also curious about your thoughts on creators promoting other projects. I frequently get updates saying that I should check out some other projects. Do you view it okay for creators to do this, but not for individual users, or is it kind of tacky in both cases?

      1. I have looked at what other people back, but there is a difficulty that I don’t really know the people on kickstarter, so I don’t necessarily want just one person’s opinion. Aggregating across all of the backers though who tell me a lot.

        I guess, for example, I missed out on scythe because I didn’t hear about it. If I had been able to see or if kickstarter had sent me an email saying 2000 people who backed projects that you backed also backed scythe, I would have noticed.

    1. I agree that it would be nice if Kickstarter had a way of aggregating projects that other backers backed. Showing random pictures of backers on their Community page isn’t really that useful to me, but if that page instead showed active projects that backers of the current project also backed in order of most number of backers, that would be a useful way to find other projects that might interest me.

      I do every once and a while randomly click on a backer who makes a comment to see what other projects that person has backed. But so far I haven’t found out about any projects that interested me from that.

      I submitted this suggestion to Kickstarter, so we’ll see if they end up doing something like this.

  3. I often wonder how many people take this approach because they think it is clever, missing the negativity of their actions.

    I often find myself wondering what clever, new thing can I do to raise awareness to people who many not know of my games. Then I always come back to the same old answer, just be a part of the community and contribute to stuff I want to contribute too and build relationships.

    It’s amazing how well the natural approach can work if you believe in it enough and don’t start panicking.

  4. I’ve seen this on a few projects I’ve backed lately. Someone swoops in and cuts & pastes a message they’ve already posted to several projects. I consider it spam and I would never back a project promoted that way. I actually feel a little insulted when someone invades a conversation space with a message like that. Maybe I wouldn’t judge that approach so harshly if it wasn’t always cut & paste, though. ;)

    Besides, I’d rather ask the platform (blog, KS project) owner if he’d like to mention my project somewhere instead of spamming it around. That’s what I did with my book. :)

  5. I agree that just randomly spamming a link to a product does more harm than good. I remember during the Scythe campaign someone posting a link to a campaign involving shoes.

    On the other hand, I’ve found out about a lot of great campaigns and products from backers of one project sharing other projects that they liked. That’s actually how I found out about Stonemaier Games. I was reading the comments of the Myth: Journeyman Kickstarter campaign, and someone posted a link to the Three New Treasure Chests campaign. Ironically, I ended up not backing the Myth campaign, but I did back the Treasure Chests one.

    Since Joe Pilkus commented in this thread, I’ll share another example related to him. I was reading a Scythe thread on BoardGameGeek where the original poster was asking about the possibility of playing it co-op, and mentioning that it was hard to find a good co-op 4x game ( ). Joe mentioned a game he was involved with, Tau Ceti. I had heard of Tau Ceti, but hadn’t looked at it closely enough to realize that it supported a co-op mode. I too was looking for a 4x cooperative game, and so I decided to check it out.

    I’m glad Joe mentioned Tau Ceti in that thread because after taking a closer look at the game, I decided to pre-order it. (I was too late to back it on Kickstarter.)

    1. Joe: I think that’s a great example of the difference between organic sharing in a conversation and the drive-by Leeroy Jenkins approach. Like you, I’ve learned about a ton of other games by talking about them with people on threads that originated with a completely different topic.

      1. I think the key difference is whether the person sharing is more concerned with their interests or yours. The type of interaction you describe at the end of your article demonstrates a desire to give something to others rather than get something from them.

  6. I agree with Sean. Feels like spam. Though as Morton pointed out, it did work for Leroy. I’d love to see some hard data on how successful or not this approach is. Personally, I do not usually click on random links. But I’ll be admit as someone who is gearing up for a kickstarter campaign- (sorry couldn’t resist. haha), It’s a marketing approach I’ve entertained like others on this blogpost. It’s easy and, in theory, gets the word out in more places. However, I now see the Leeroy Jenkins approach as a poor attempt at fishing: throw out some bait everywhere and hope you catch something, instead of taking the time to learn how and where to fish.

    Learning to listen, engage, and participate in other’s projects or interests is precious time away from my project….from my baby. A difficult thing for some designers or creatives to do. What you taught me, Jamey, (through your blog and my personal experience with you) is being invested in others and their projects gives back more in terms of knowledge, resources, community, and relationships than I could ever get from a surface level approach such as the Leeroy Jenkins model. I care about Stonemaier Games and I feel Stonemaier Games cares about me and my project Kingdoms Lawn Game.

    1. Denny: I actually think your comment is a good example of soft sharing. You mentioned your game in a casual way that adds to the conversation and gives context (opposed to the Leeroy Jenkins approach, which would have been for your comment to just say, “Hey, you should check out!”)

      1. Thanks Jamey…that means a lot coming from you. I took some time during my lunch break today to see if i could find some hard data on how effective this approach of leaving your link is. I didn’t find much. The problem I had was what to search. When I searched “guerrilla marketing” I got mostly articles about strategies to market in the real world not online. When I searched “spam”, I got articles about how to deal with spam. Could this topic be a new frontier for data collection? Any thoughts people?

  7. On the other hand all it took Leeroy Jenkins was doing 5 seconds of PR and here years later he’s still famous. I think that it might be the most effective 5 seconds of PR in the history of gaming :-)

    Being infamous is also a kind of being famous, right? :-)

  8. Jamey,

    I ABSOLUTELY love that video…maybe it’s my 30+ years playing RPGs (despite not really liking WoW). Anyway, like Sean, I too am guilty of having done that early on when I ran my first Kickstarter…”Oh you’re talking about ways to keep your cards in an orderly fashion…well, let me tell you about me…”

    anyway, I’m now sensitized to my error and I’m like a reformed smoker (not that I’ve ever smoked, but you get the simile) and I’ll be the first to point out, diplomatically, to those who post information about their own projects in the Comments section of other projects…clearly a no-no. Thus, I do not believe that the Leroy Jenkins approach will work well for anyone.


  9. Ha! That is a classic Video! Leeroy Jenkins became an instant joke among my best friends when one of us went rogue in anything we did (from gaming to girls). Well done hooking me into this post.
    Your insight is right on. The Leeroy marketing strategy ends up feeling inauthentic and sketchy. The interconnectedness of this industry allows for a much better networking approach that you describe in your other posts. It creates more of a “pull” rather than a Leeroy “push.” And no one likes a pushy Leeroy.

  10. In my mind, I make the mental connection that a designer that takes the Leeroy Jenkins approach to marketing probably also took the Leeroy Jenkins approach to designing a game. If someone just puts their game out there in advertising, I’m assuming they likely took the same shoot-from-the-hip approach to designing it without doing the proper research or playtesting.

    Even if their game was near flawlessly designed, I’d never know it. I’d be unlikely to do further research on their game to see if there actually was a decent game hiding behind the poor marketing, as other games would seem to be more worth my time.

    I’m sure you get this all the time as a now well-established designer too, Jamey: the Leeroy Jenkins design pitch ;)

  11. I love how you classified it, however I view it as spam. Its like an unwanted email or pop-up ad.

    I tried something like this on reddit a few times, to try and get feedback on my product, working with the mods, but even with it being related to the board game sub, they felt it was under self promotion.

    I also tried to create accessory entries on BGG, and got shut down as well, not able to create a company entry, accessory or post pictures, even appealing the decisions.

    Sometimes even with good intentions, and being topical/related, the Leeroy Jenkins method doesn’t work.

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