By Clare Ellis
The age of the super short video is here – arguably it arrived when YouTube moved into our airstream a few years ago and took over. Since then, it has flourished on everything from educational sites to dating sites to web TV. Among the few things preventing video producers and scriptwriters from completely edging out copywriters and editors in the media and marketing business is that high-quality video segments are still pretty expensive to produce. (And okay, words are still important.) But over at Kickstarter, king of the crowd-funding sites, thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs are proving that even the low-budget video short can be successful.
Last week the two-year-old company had its biggest day ever when two $1M projects were funded. Amidst all the celebrating and fuss, the short video had its moment as well: almost everyone who has studied what makes a successful campaign notes that the video pitch is the make-or-break element. Given how many food businesses and farms are turning to crowd-funding sites for cash it seems worth investigating what works.
Achieving perfect video pitch
Here’s what a state-of-the-art Kickstarter video looks like right now (based on looking at food-related campaigns that have exceeded their fundraising goals within the past six months): it runs about two minutes long, includes a snappy introduction from the project lead; identifies the problem; spells out a vision for fixing that problem; explains what the money will do; and wraps it all up with a plea for support. (Note: An alarming number of project leaders couple their pleas with a promise to “hug you” if they ever “see you on the street” – let’s assume that’s not what makes the difference.) Oh, and everyone says that making the videos take much longer than you ever imagined possible.
Create a good story: This video spins a sweet story about how all three brew masters behind Bemidji Brewing met on the path to achieving their dream – to start a brewery. The story is cleverly told, mostly through illustration, and you end up really caring about these people. The cartoon-like effect is sweet and funny – and almost impossible to execute without professional support. But it pays off – they met their goal and no doubt earned some future customers, too.
Goal: $15k Amount raised: $17,528
Use high-quality photos: This barn-raising effort for Peaceful Belly, an organic farm near Boise, shows what you can do with limited resources. The video pitch is little more than a slide show with a gentle soundtrack. The vision for the new barn is sketched out on a napkin. Still it succeeds in putting together a good story thanks to a series of beautiful down-on-the-farm shots coupled with a shot of the appealing husband-wife team at the center of this effort.
Goal: $25k Amount raised: $28,350.
Bring in the pros (if you can!): One of the longer films at 5 minutes, Farmstead Meatsmith‘s plea for help in putting together instructional webisodes about butchering is also one of the more cinematic. It goes off script periodically – food politics plays a big role in this film. But it delivers, mainly because the people who made the film knew what they were doing. In fact, the guys behind this come from FarmRun, one of many media companies that have sprung up to help people put together Kickstarter campaigns. Making a video, after all, is hard work.
Goal: $10k Amount raised: $11,299
Humor sells: Okay, talk about ambitious – here’s a guy who makes a case for why his Afghan Pepper Company can end the war in Afghanistan. His audacity, believe it or not, is part of what makes this video so appealing. He believes in his product but he’s funny, direct, and doesn’t take himself too seriously either. This video is basically a vehicle for the company founder and works because he’s so likeable – and will probably make you laugh. Seems like a good guy – sure, I’ll throw him $25!
Goal: $25k Amount received: $27,344.
Keep your message simple (okay, and a built-in network and a solid reward plan helps, too): This is the most ambitious food-related fund-raising project we could find – that’s why it’s included here and not, honestly, because the video is fabulous. There are no artful techniques in play, there’s no inspirational storytelling. Still, the message is clear: These hydroponic window farms let you grow food indoors and your money can make it happen. Enough said. I’m guessing the campaign’s huge success also had something to do with the 22k-strong Windowfarms movement (who knew there was a “Windowfarms movement”!) and an appealing reward: Windowfarms gave away a kit to everyone who pledged $99 or more, and attracted 564 backers.
Goal: $50k Amount raised: $257,307!
Advertising agencies have long recognized the power of the video short – they call it an ad. And last week at the Grammys there was one that created quite a stir. Forget Adele. What swept the awards presentation was the Chipotle Mexican Grill ad called “Back to the Start” (pictured above). It featured a small farmer moving to a soul-sucking factory farm model – and then quickly switching back. The reaction “blew up Twitter,” says Media Bistro. People tweeted that they “loved it,” “hate factory farming!,” and “it made me cry.” Even before the Grammy awards the ad drew 4.5M views on YouTube. (It’s now hovering at 5.25M.) Maybe people are finally ready to hear the message about the dark side of our hamburger-crazy food system – and wouldn’t that be great. Regardless, it was another chance to wonder at the selling power of a well put together video short.
-Clare Ellis, Media Chief, Good Food Media Group
To find local food in your area, check out Pick-A-Pepper.com
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