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Kickstart your Video

Kickstart your Video

The Kickstarter crowdfunding phenomenon is not only a rich source of ideas and inspiration for design, technology and art but also for ways to most effectively sell a concept or product.

And the video component of these pitches has become more important as the platform has grown in popularity, to the extent that a promotional video which used to be an additional element of a project pitch- usually at the bottom, is now the very first thing you're presented with.

So I spent some time watching dozens of project videos- narrowed down to those in the design/technology categories to make it a bit more manageable and easier to compare. Boy there sure are a lot of products for iDevices! I started by watching the videos for the most successfully funded projects and then watched as many of the unsuccessful project videos as I could- ignoring recognisably lame ideas- and looked for trends as well as what worked and what didn't.

Obviously the success of a project is also- and mainly- related to how great or lame the idea is but here are 10 things we can learn about a good promotional video from watching Kickstarter:

1) The best videos generally all had the same 5 elements: brief introduction, problem, solution, explanation/demonstration, summary.

2) Most videos- successful or otherwise- made the most of the opportunity to present the passion of the inventor/designer/imagineer. No surprise there, emotion and passion is what video conveys better than any other medium.

3) The best videos told a story and had some character to them- but not at the expense of brevity of message. The young telegenic Argentinian couple who punctuated their presentation with PDA (public displays of affection) added an additional endearing quality to their pitch!

4) Duration didn't have as much impact as I thought it would. Some of the best videos were the longest but then they generally told an engaging story, and each element of the pitch was presented succinctly.

5) Many projects appeared to be suffering from the fact that their video took too long to get to the point. When I listed 'brief introduction' in point 1, I meant a simple "Hi, I'm Bob, the inventor of the Widget, to explain why I think it revolutionises…", not a 30-60 second explanation of why you're standing where you're standing and how happy you are to have the opportunity to…. snore. Click. It should be elevator pitch followed by staircase pitch.

6) If detailed construction or design information was required it worked best as a follow-up video. Videos that tried to include all the pitch information just overplayed their hand. The best use of the video is to present information that isn’t presented better any other way- basically emotion and movement.

7) Show/demonstrate the product/idea as soon as possible. By all means set the scene but your passion is only going to hold the audience's attention for so long. They want to see the thing in action- basically the video should be the next best thing to holding it in their hands (assuming it can be held in their hands). It's a well documented sales truism that getting customers to hold the product increases the chance of a sale- they can already feel what it will be like to have it. The most obvious example of this is Apple Stores.

8) Music is very important- or more importantly, the appropriate music. The pitch from a hip-hop cap designer who used baroque folk music as accompaniment to his webcam recording felt just as wrong as the designer of a hanging wardrobe for apartments who used thumping rock music throughout his. Basically, the music became a distraction and therefore a turnoff. If they couldn't get that right what sort of decision would they make with my investment?

9) Presenter eye contact. When the presenter/inventor spends half the timing looking at something off camera (OK, we know what it is- it's their script) they look distracted and frankly, slightly shifty. If they were doing that when talking to you in person would you trust them? Probably not.

10) The video looks as cheap as the idea. There’s a difference between being cheap and lacking basic production values- flattering lighting, clear audio, a clear look at the product, etc. Not everyone can afford a professional video production (hey, they’re looking for funding), but the most effective pitches looked like they’d spent as much time and care on this most important part of the pitch as they had on designing a winning product.

And yes, I even funded 1 project and bought 2 of the successfully-funded products while researching this article. All of which had strong, standalone video pitches.