Co.Design

The Scientifically Proven Way To Get Your Kickstarter Project Funded

A study of more than 45,000 projects shows language plays a key role in success.

Kickstarter, the crowdsourced funding platform, is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either your project reaches its funding goal, and you get to work developing your product, or it doesn't and you go home with nothing. So what's the best way to ensure your passion project makes it past the finish line? Pay attention to your pitch.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology culled the 20,391 most common phrases that appeared in the text of 45,000 Kickstarters to try to decipher what makes the difference between the wild success of a project like the Pebble smart watch, and an abject, nameless failure. Their results "indicate a fundamental force which drives the 'crowd' to fund crowd-projects: language." In other words, the words you use to describe your project matter, even in very subtle ways.

Some takeaways: Phrases that indicated that backers would receive something in return for their donation had a tendency to get funded. This should be pretty obvious. Gifts: We like them! So phrases like "pledged will," "also receive two" and "mention your"--all indicators of some kind of reward--tended to show up in projects that were funded. A surprisingly good predictor of funding success? The phrase "good karma and." Words like "encouragement," "given the chance" and "as people" worked, but offering to dress up as something as a reward (example: "a skype date with us dressed up as celebrities") did not. Nor did overusing phrases that hint at desperation, like "need one" or "provide us."

The researchers believe that these type of findings could be built into the design of a crowdfunding site. They suggest a help center that could guide new users:

The page lists words, phrases and language-style guides for project pitches: those which are associated with successful funding and those which are not. Moreover, perhaps while a project creator types her project pitch on the funding website, the site alerts her whenever the words and phrases shift toward negative predictors. It could perhaps also provide her with alternative language to increase the chances of success.

However, these particular results should be taken with just a pinch of salt. A few odd phrases showed up in the top predictors list, including the word "cats." The researchers write: "we had no clear explanation for the occurrence of cats—except for the commonly accepted wisdom that the Internet loves them." If you were ever in doubt, the key to success, on Kickstarter and elsewhere, is kitties. Now, it's once that funding rolls in that the real challenge starts.

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6 Comments

  • It would be great if a reference to the original research were included, like the title of the journal the research was published in, or some other way for those who want more detailed info to follow up.

  • Paritosh Sharma

    Putting "METHOD" to the Crowdfunding "MADNESS": project creators and backers must be with each other for a much longer time, have a much closer relationship, BEFORE the backers part off with their hard earned money!

    This is precisely what "hashtaag" does!

    Crowd Helping Before Funding : leverage backers wisdom to overcome business risks + engage backers to make them your paying customers/ raise funds

    I would love you to check out https://hashtaag.com and see how this adds value to your subject on crowd funding!

  • This guide on how to hack kickstarter is brilliant in its detail and precision: www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2012/12/18/hacking-kickstarter-how-to-raise-100000-in-10-days-includes-successful-templates-e-mails-etc/

  • Marcus Goodyear

    Are we looking at correlation or causality here? Some of this makes sense and suggests causality (at least until ever Kickstarter campaign begins "pledgers will receive a handsome 27 x 16.5 poster...)

    I seriously doubt that including the word "cats" was a cause for these campaigns to achieve their funding, unless that word was somehow an indication that the campaign was more acceptably "fun"?

  • Simon Cohen

    So weird. I've now backed three kickstarter projects and the only language that mattered to me was the words used to describe the products being pitched. With the Pebble, I needed to understand the concept, the capabilities, the timelines and dependencies. Oh, and price - that's a big one. I'm only going to fund projects that give me access to the product in question. So if I don't see enough value, I'm not funding. The recent Pocket Drone project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/airdroids/the-pocket-drone-your-personal-flying-robot?ref=live looks amazing, but the unit cost for getting a drone was simply too high for me. Whereas the 3Doodler and GameStick were very well priced for the items in question.