Without a doubt, one of the most wide-open aspects of building a Kickstarter campaign is putting together the video that sits at the top of the page. In all of my research when planning each of our three campaigns for Code 45, I couldn’t find any real consensus on what the template for a well-made Kickstarter video should look like, what content should be included, or even how long it should be.
There were a few underlying themes that made sense to me. Keeping things short was often suggested, with the goal of 3 minutes or less repeated by a number of creators as the optimal attention span potential backers were willing to devote to your video. Helping people get to know Joe, Angela, and myself as more than just headshots and bio descriptions on the page was another common goal of most video creators, and one we were fully on-board with.
And yet, as I watched video after video from successful campaigns trying to figure out what the secret sauce actually was I kept encountering were wildly different takes on the concept. Some were rambling, 10 minute opuses where the creators sat side-by-side and had impromptu conversations about the book, life, and seemingly everything else, while others were action-packed animated spectaculars with pulsing soundtracks and production values that wouldn’t look out of place on Adult Swim.
Then there was also my own secret about Kickstarter videos: I don’t watch them. Never. Not once. When I’m deciding whether or not to back a campaign, I base my choice on the strength of the art that is presented, the perceived quality of the Kickstarter page itself, the effort that the creators have put in to showcasing their craft, and the clarity and professionalism with which the book is described. The only videos I have ever watched on Kickstarter were during my research periods for my own campaign.
Why make a video if I don’t personally find them useful? The short answer is because I’m not trying to selling my book to myself—I’m looking to make the strongest connection possible to the widest number of potential backers, and almost every successful Kickstarter campaign features one.
More to the point, however, I came to discover that video was a great way to humanize the Code 45 campaign. Letting people put a face to the writer, designer, and artist behind the book helps to establish trust between us as creators and backers willing to take a risk on our project, especially since this was our first Kickstarter campaign.
I’ve been fortunate to have a fair bit of experience on-camera while shooting car reviews and video interview podcasts for various clients over the years, and my editing skills are decent using basic software like Sony Vegas. The biggest challenge was the three of us living in different cities, which meant Joe and Angela shot their segments on their own and then sent them over to me. I used what they discussed as the skeleton for the main section of each video, adding an intro, a brief plot synopsis, and details about the campaign itself on my end.
Over top of the three of us speaking about Code 45 I made sure to add moving imagery from the pages of the book to help give the video a visual hook. Still, it was important too that viewers were able to look us in the eye and see our passion about Code 45, so I made sure we as creators were equally featured alongside the art. I also didn’t lean on any distracting soundtracks or visual effects gimmicks (other than fades and wipes to help cover my transitions from one shot to the next).
By the time we got to the third campaign I was able to use bits and piece of the original video’s audio over certain art segments, which helped save time in the editing process and also offered a through-line of connectivity even for people who were learning about Code 45 for the first time. I kept each video as close to 3 minutes as I could, although by the final Kickstarter we ended up going a little longer.
How did our three videos turn out? The first one saw 430 plays, and we had just under 250 backers. In our second campaign that number jumped to 522 plays and 427 backers, but by our final Kickstarter we had just 234 video plays from our 449 eventual backers.
What do those numbers tell me? I’m really not sure. I can hazard a guess that the second campaign had the most video views because that was the point where we transitioned from a friends-and-family support base to a majority of newcomers picking up the book. Strangely, however, it was also the campaign where the fewest number of video watchers (just over 20 percent) actually viewed the entire thing, compared with 27 percent and 30 percent for campaigns 1 and 3. Again, I don’t know exactly what that means in terms of how effective the videos truly were.
After having made three of these now, I’ve come to the conclusion that a successful Kickstarter video is one that best reflects your brand and your supporter base. Since we were just starting out, I kept things structured, allowing Joe and Angela to discuss the art, design, and inspiration in a more informal manner while I handled the nuts and bolts of conveying specific info about the campaign in a tight span of time.
I do think that there is a place for more conversational videos that speak directly to fans who want more of a peak behind the curtain of what their creators are up to, but that didn’t feel right for first-timers like us. I also didn’t want to devote major resources to a visually stunning video presentation that mimicked a movie trailer but didn’t really tell you much about why the three of us decided to make this book. In the end, making that human connection was the most important aspect of the video production, and with people like Joe and Angela on the team, it wasn’t hard to convey our passion.