5 Kickstarter projects that can teach us about great storytelling

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
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We’ve heard a lot in recent memory about the concept of storytelling, as well as the incredible success of the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. I think these two things are connected. In fact, I know they are. As a lurker and sometimes-backer of many Kickstarter projects, I can tell you why some campaigns are wildly successful and why others fizzle.

The answer is: The story.

Storytelling is, essentially, branding. It’s about telling or curating or collecting stories that identify and position a company or product. What you stand for, why you stand for it, and who you stand with. This is more than just what your product does.

Even if you’re not assigning someone to oversee the storytelling process, everything about your brand is telling some sort of story by its mere existence. From the packaging of a physical product, to the types of images that are used in your ad campaigns. Each of these factors — and a host of others — say something about your brand. They position you in the mind of the consumer. They tell a story.

The beautiful thing about Kickstarter is that it gives people a platform where they’re required to squeeze every bit of their story into a one-page ad, essentially. In fact, it’s more than an ad — it’s a plea. The entire premise of Kickstarter is built on trust and relationships (although your money is safe, they tell us.) If I’m looking at your project page, you have 1-2 minutes to convince me to trust you and put my money behind your vision. This is the ultimate test of the power of your story.

If I can watch a two-minute video about your brand and be compelled to believe in what you believe — to stand behind you — probably without even knowing exactly what I’ll get in return (if anything), then your story is great. Each day thousands of projects — stories — come to fruition through Kickstarter. It’s fertile ground for great storytelling, and there’s a lot to learn.

To take it a step further, many of the projects that are funded through Kickstarter are stories in and of themselves. Artistic works, films, music, and books are all funded and produced by people over the Internet. We’re hungry for stories in all types of media.

I want to share some of my favorite Kickstarter projects that can teach us more about the art of telling great stories.

UnderRepped Clothing

A simple company model with a novel idea. This clothing brand’s video tells their story (not just the order of events, but the look and feel and vision that you get from watching the video and hearing the music) in a unique way and their campaign gave backers a role in shaping the next step of their story.


Fearless Beauty

An artist who I’m a big fan of, F. Stokes, had his debut album funded via Kickstarter. Fearless Beauty, “defines my existence. The genesis. The pain. The celebration.”


Ice Cream Travel Guide

We can all relate to Jennifer’s love of ice cream. Note how she connects ice cream not to the taste, but to a deeper level of its role in shaping your life and defining your experiences. Ice cream is more than just a desert, it’s a story creator.


a house made of salt

Even as someone who isn’t particularly interested in dance, this is a moving and amazing story. There are so many relate-able, human elements and levels from the actual creation, to the inspiration, and the deeper meaning of the actual performance.


The Goon

How do you raise $440,000 from complete strangers on the Internet? You tell a great story. Not just the story of the movie — in fact, they barely even tell you what the movie is even about — but, there’s a story in this video about what their brand is like, who they are, and what they stand for. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s engaging. Perfect.


Keep in mind that while Kickstarter videos tell stories almost entirely about the brand itself, storytelling doesn’t only have to be about the history of your company. Storytelling is about stories — about whoever or whatever — that engage people and connect with them on the most basic human level.

What are some other really great Kickstarter projects?

About me

My name is Tyler Hakes. I'm a digital strategist in Des Moines. I write and tweet about marketing, strategy, media, and technology.

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