A recent study by two researchers at Georgia Tech looked at the language of Kickstarter campaigns and found that the words and phrases used went a long way in determining whether the project got well-funded or not. By examining what worked and what didn’t, we can get a little guidance for our own marketing campaigns. The study, titled The Language that Gets People to Give: Phrases that Predict Success on Kickstarter, was conducted by Tanushree Mitra and Eric Gilbert of their School of Interactive Computing.
Here are some phrases that determined money-raising success (with their percentage over the base rate):
project will be (18.48); difference for (5.60); has pledged (5.42); pledged will (4.01); pledged and (3.98); we can afford (2.94); their creative (2.71); given the chance (2.69); mention your (2.69); inspired me (2.57); project will allow (2.56); accessible to the (2.52)
And here are some that determined money-raising failure:
pledged (-7.12); dressed up (-4.64); not been able (-4.02); trusting (-3.91); all the good (-3.89); school that (-3.75); kids of all (-3.55); of the leading (-3.53); an honorable mention (-3.17); panel of (-3.17); is time for (-3.14); even a dollar (-3.10); easy and (-2.97); later I (-2.96).
Let’s look at some takeaways from this:
1. Sound authoritative. If people are spending money with you, they want it spent well. “The project will be” connotes confidence and key information.
2. Offer reciprocity. “…’mention your’, ‘also receive two,’ ‘we can afford,’ and ‘pledged will’ are among the top 100 positive predictors.” But people didn’t like “dressed up”—wasn’t tangible enough.
3. Provide social proof. The phrase “has pledged” shows that. “We see traces of social proof in the language of funded projects,” the researchers wrote, “often signaling the attention the project has already received.”
4. Be positive. Kind of obvious but sometimes we might think that being up front about our struggle is a good thing. Probably not. “…phrases which exude negativism (not been able), or lack assurance (later I, hope to get) are predictors of not funded.”
5. Personalize when possible. The phrase “used in a” did well; the examples they give are “send us a photo of yourself to be used in a collage” and “your vocal will be used in a similar way.” These attempt to involve people personally in your project/webinar/conference etc.
6. Indicate scarcity/give a deadline. The phrase “given the chance” did well because of this—“you will be given the chance to purchase our small batch pieces before the public domain.” The researchers wrote that “…exclusivity is often harnessed while making offers, leading to higher chances of acceptance.”
7. Appeal to a sense of community. The phrase “to build this” did well in this context—”…a large portion of our community has come together to build this.” The researchers call this social identity.
8. Try to be liked. “People are more likely to comply with a person or product if they like them,” the researchers wrote. The phrase “project will be” succeeded in this context: “…with your help, this project will be a success, and you’ll be able to enjoy our movie at a festival near you!” Conclusion: “People use similarities to create bonds, which are later leveraged to garner support.”
9. Be confident but don’t grovel. The phrases “secure the,” “gain a” and “guarantee a” all did well but “provide us,” “even a dollar” and “need one” did not.
10. Test new phrases. “December of” has done well in Kickstarter appeals but that may be because of tax reasons. “Another perplexing finding,” the researchers wrote, “was the occurrence of phrases like Christina (2.51) and cats (2.64) in our top predictors.” They guess that Christina Aguilera may be popular and the Internet may just like cats. “Good karma” also did well. I think we all want that.
Again the full paper can be downloaded here.
To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.
Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.