Who Gives a Crap? 5 things we can learn from a successful crowdfunding campaign

Crowdfunding is a great way for start-ups to raise capital. However, convincing people of your business idea is challenging...

17 Apr 2019 2074 Views

Written by Jana Tigges

The world we live in has become increasingly interconnected (Van Dijk, 2012). The technological development of the Web 2.0 has enabled the rise of social media and digital platforms such as eBay, Alibaba, Amazon or Kickstarter that connect buyers, sellers, firms, and the crowd (Kannan and Li, 2017). Consequently, the internet offers new opportunities for companies and people who want to start their own business. If you are looking for ways to raise capital for your business idea, crowdfunding is a great way to reach a large number of potential investors (Agrawal, 2018).

What is crowdfunding?
Image 1: What is crowdfunding?
(Source: Google, n.d.)

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a way of raising money from the public in order to fund a project or a business idea proposed by someone via the Internet (Ordanini et al., 2011; Thorpe, 2018). Raising money through crowdfunding has gained popularity across various industries such as music, fashion, or finance (Ordanini et al., 2011). In general, the crowdfunding industry is expected to grow and offers huge potential as a new means of attracting investment (Statista, 2018). Due to the enormous growth of the crowdfunding network, successful platforms have emerged which function as intermediaries that connect entrepreneurs and the crowd (Ordanini et al., 2011; Van Dijk, 2012). Depending on your start-up and product idea, you need to identify the right platform for your business and goals (Kim, 2018).

Top 10 crowdfunding platforms of 2018
Image 2: Top 10 crowdfunding platforms of 2018
(Source: Own illustration based on Kim, 2018)

Which crowdfunding platform is right for you?

Today, the most popular crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter funds innovative business ideas and creative works (Kim, 2018). If you seek money for your non-profit organization or own projects without any return, this platform might not be the right choice for you (Kim, 2018). Another important factor to consider is, that you are not allowed to keep the money if your campaign has not reached its funding goal (Kim, 2018). Going head-to head with Kickstarter, Indiegogo expands its pole position by offering a flexible funding that lets you keep the money regardless of reaching your intended goal (Kim, 2018). Moreover, this platform not only funds tech & innovation or creative works but also community projects (Indiegogo, 2018a). An interesting fact about Indiegogo is the platform’s marketplace, where you can buy funded products, providing you an additional source of income that helps your business grow (Kim, 2018). Another popular crowdfunding platform called Patreon is based on a subscription model and connects creative ventures or artists who are looking for ongoing financial support (Kim, 2018). Having mentioned the three biggest players in the field, there are also several other platforms with different purposes. For instance, Crowdrise funds socially-conscious profit ventures while PledgeMusic targets musicians who need capital for a new album or tour and RocketHub is mostly used by start-ups looking for venture capital (Kim, 2018).

Who Gives a Crap?

In 2012, the start-up Who Gives a Crap launched one of the most successful crowd-funding campaigns of the year on Indiegogo (Coloribus n.d.). Worldwide media coverage in 177 publications and over 2.5 million impressions on social media helped the company to raise $50,000 in only two days (Coloribus n.d.).

Crowdfunding campaign of Who Gives a Crap
Image 3: Crowdfunding campaign of Who Gives a Crap
(Source: Indiegogo, 2018b)

Who Gives a Crap was founded by three friends with the intention to improve the sanitary conditions in developing countries (Who Gives a Crap, 2018a). The company produces sustainable toilet paper and gives half of its profit to sanitation projects (Who Gives a Crap, 2018b). The founders invested all their money into product development, leaving no cash for the first production order (Coloribus n.d.). With support from agencies and suppliers, the challenge was to create a crowdfunding campaign that would attract a lot of media attention and generate $50,000 for the first bulk order (Coloribus n.d.). So, how did the start-up actually do it? Check out their crowdfunding campaign.

5 tips to make sure that people give a crap

1. Solve a real problem

Who Gives a Crap didn’t reinvent the wheel. The start-up offers a simple product everyone needs and leverages its purpose to help solving a real problem – the sanitary conditions in developing countries. There are many great start-ups out there wanting to conquer the world with their business idea. It’s easy to develop a product that might fulfill a specific need or desire (Kaylene, 2017). However, it is even more powerful, if your product solves a genuine problem that could really make a difference in people’s life (Kaylene, 2017). If your product tackles a real issue, people are more willing to support your campaign and business idea (Kaylene, 2017).

2. Get personal

Talking about our daily business on the toilet is a sensitive topic. Who Gives a Crap tackled this issue by using humor to break the ice and catch people’s attention. The star of the campaign, founder Simon Griffiths pitches his idea while sitting on a toilet sharing a very personal moment with the crowd. While taking off your pants seems almost too straightforward, it fits perfectly with the product’s overall purpose. Also, it allows Griffiths to create a very intimate moment in which the audience can sympathize with him and relate to the struggle of not having toilet paper when needed. Now, I’m not saying that you should sit on a toilet for 50 hours to promote your product. However, you might want to think of other ways to create an intimate moment and get personal when communicating your message to investors (Agrawal, 2018). Opening up to the crowd makes you approachable and people are more likely to trust and belief in you (Agrawal, 2018).

3. State your purpose and benefit of your product

Who Gives a Crap offers toilet paper with a clear mission (Clendaniel, 2012). When the three founders learnt about the devastating sanitary conditions in developing countries they decided to launch a business that would improve access to clean water and sanitation (Who gives a crap, 2018a). Framing this rather serious issue in an entertaining way, the contradiction almost hits you when Griffiths talks about the hard facts: 2.4 billion people do not have access to toilets (Indiegogo, 2018b). This surprising turning point clarifies the founder’s purpose and makes you understand why your donation is important. While the purpose of ethical toilet paper might be obvious, you should also try to identify your drivers of motivation, why your business idea matters and how it benefits your customers (Entrepreneur, 2017). Also, you need to make clear in which ways you use the money from the crowd and show people that you have a legitimate business plan (Curtis, 2013).

4. Eliminate people’s fear

The founders of Who Gives a Crap knew they had a convincing business idea (Woods, n.d.). However, they anticipated people’s fear and proactively answered questions that would immediately jump into mind while watching the video (Woods, n.d.). For instance, people tend to think that sustainable products are expensive (Woods, n.d.). Anticipating the fear of a high price, the company emphasized that its eco-friendly toilet paper costs as much as name brand competitors (Woods, n.d.). The major difference is that the business donates half of its profit to sanitation projects in developing countries (Who Gives a Crap, 2018b). Also, people believe that recycled toilet paper might be thin and of poor quality (Woods, n.d.). Griffiths tackled this fear by explaining that the company’s toilet paper is softer and thicker than usual recycled toilet paper (Woods, n.d.). Even if your product does not support a social cause, you should try to identify potential fears associated with your business idea and address them in your crowdfunding campaign (Woods, n.d.).

5. Leverage scarcity

The internet is a face-paced environment. Given the fact that Who Gives a Crap had no paid media budget, the idea was to attach the crowdfunding campaign with a live stream event that would create a lot of media attention (Coloribus n.d.). Creating a sense of urgency, Griffiths insisted to sit on a toilet until the money for the first bulk order was raised (Coloribus n.d.). The CEO interacted live from the toilet, sharing photos on Twitter and thanking donors personally with handwritten notes on the start-up’s toilet paper (Coloribus n.d.). While a live stream event might not be the right choice for everyone, you want to think of other ways that create a sense of urgency in order to keep up with the face-paced environment of the internet. Also, taking advantage of the power and reach of social media will boost the performance of your crowdfunding campaign (Borst, 2017).

Convincing people of your business idea is challenging. However, making sure that your product solves a real problem is the first step into the right direction. Who Gives a Crap managed to create a successful crowdfunding campaign and got their first production going. Today, the company continues to grow and has expanded its offering beyond toilet paper (Who Gives a Crap, 2018b). As far as I am concerned, I give a crap about toilet paper now. What about you?


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Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.