The potato salad Kickstarter is better than your crowdfunding campaign

Opinion

An individual recently Kickstarted a batch of potato salad and asked for $10 to complete the project. “Basically I'm just making potato salad,” the page stated. “I haven't decided what kind yet.”

The project has raised $8,222 dollars in funding, easily surpassing the latest stretch goal of $3,000.

Some are laughing, some are saying that Kickstarter has finally gone too far while others are dismayed that this project has become overfunded while other, more "deserving" projects struggle Why is the press talking about potato salad when better games and projects are withering on the vine?

Here’s the ugly truth: The potato salad Kickstarter is better than the vast majority of "serious" crowdfunding efforts.

Why people love potato salad

I’m not playing devil’s advocate; this is a great Kickstarter campaign. It’s original, goofy and satirical. The backers don't seem to be taking it seriously, as everyone who backs the project can feel like they're in on the fun.

The product being sold here is not potato salad, it’s the joke itself. The novelty and fun of turning a simple dish into a crowdfunding campaign is the draw. People will pay for a bit of novelty and a laugh, and let’s keep in mind that the highest backing tier is $50; no one is being "tricked" into giving up a ton of money.

The latest stretch goal is literally a party to celebrate the potato salad, which is even better: Everyone who backs the project feels like they’re helping others have a goofy, fun time.

Everyone who backs the project gets to feel like they’re in on the fun

The average backing amount is also about $6.70, which seems reasonable. This is what people are willing to pay for an amusing joke. I may back at the $10 level, just because I live near the project’s creator and wouldn’t mind going to a potato salad party.

But the product people are paying for is absurdity, fun and novelty. This individual put together a fun campaign, rolled with the unexpected success, and people are responding with a large amount of small backing amounts. It's a fun, simple story about people coming together over a love of potato salad of all things.

The more cynical attempts to cash in on this success are going to be groan-worthy, but for now it's easy to understand why this campaign is blowing up. Besides...

Most Kickstarters are terrible

I'm pitched a large number of Kickstarters for coverage every day. Sometimes it's from the creator of the campaign and other times it's from fans of the project that all write e-mails that sound exactly the same. The fans invariably state that they have nothing to do with the project, and they just think it's cool and right up our alley.

Some of the creators sound tired ahead of time. "I know you get many Kickstarter pitches just like this one," many of the e-mails begin, "But hear me out...."

The problem with almost every pitch, and most of the ones that avoid this structure are the Kickstarters that don't have to ask for coverage, is that there is an assumption that the act of Kickstarting something is itself newsworthy. The word "Kickstarter" or "crowdfunding" is in the subject line. The opening sentence asks for coverage of the Kickstarter. I once e-mailed someone back to say that I would consider covering the campaign if they could send over a level or something playable as a proof of concept.

"That's not fair!" the response stated. "By then it will be too late!"

Of course the potato salad Kickstarter is like catnip to writers, editors and crowdfunding enthusiasts: It feels effortless and fun. There's no marketing to it, no grand plan. Some dude just wants to make potato salad and now he's going to have a big party and invite people to help him make potato salad and then they're going to eat it.

Look at the wording of the last stretch goal: "I will rent out a party hall and invite the whole internet to the potato salad party (only $10 and above will be allowed in the kitchen)!" it states. "The internet loves potato salad! Let's show them that potato salad loves the internet!!"

The creator is laughing with us, not at us

That is a positive, inviting message. It brings you into the joke. The creator is laughing with us, not at us. If people take away one lesson from this joke it should be this: Share joy with people and they'll feel a connection to your game or product.

So many pitches and Kickstarter videos are droning monologues about why the developer or creator of the project had to turn to crowdfunding. It's a personal appeal about their situation, and it's hard to stress this simple fact too much: No one cares. Everyone knows making a game or writing a book is hard. What we want to know is why your game or project is unique, why it needs to exist, and why you're the best person to make that happen.

If you don't answer those three questions in an entertaining way, you're sunk. Everything else is noise.

I read one crowdfunding campaign that went on for multiple paragraphs about the number of books on the market, how hard it is to get people's attention, the author stressed the fact he was broke, and then asked for money. After five paragraphs there wasn't a single word about why this book was worth supporting. The first impression was that life was hard, the author needed money, and you should give them some.

This is the unspoken reason established names have a better time working in crowdfunding. It's not just an existing relationship with the press or a built-in audience — although these things help — the important thing is that these people are used to, and talented in, the act of asking for money.

Established industry folks can market a game and, more importantly in this case, they know how to present and market an idea. These are skills that don't come easily to most of us, and that reality becomes painfully apparent when part of your job is wading through a pile of pitches for coverage each day.

These are limitations that are delightfully skewered by the potato salad Kickstarter, a crowdfunding effort that clearly doesn't take itself seriously and is only becoming more fun as the backers roll in. It's one of the few campaigns that makes it sound like everyone is having a good time.

Don't get mad that this silly Kickstarter is kicking ass, ask yourself what you can learn from it. Don't discount novelty and fun when it comes to projects, as people value and will pay for both things. More importantly, don't pretend that your Kickstarter itself is news. Your project is news, Kickstarter is just how you're raising money.

At this point I'd rather fund potato salad than another project that thinks personal tales of the difficulties of the industry are an effective sales pitch, and the increasingly numbers of backers to this project lead me to believe I'm not alone.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

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