In the last ten years, three of the biggest trends in marketing have been: social media marketing, content marketing, and crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter. In 2012, these three trends converged in one place: The Oatmeal’s “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” on IndieGoGo. When the property that Nikola Tesla, the father of alternating current, went up for sale, a large retailer tried to buy it. The IndieGoGo campaign was launched to save the property and turn it into a museum. As a result of a viral content campaign wherein comedic comic strips supporting the museum were distributed via social media, Matthew Inman, the creator of the Oatmeal, was able to raise over $1.3 million to build a museum dedicated to the 19th century inventor.
What Lessons Can Marketers Learn from the Campaign’s Success?
1. Ignite Your Followers’ Passions. Tesla is a (relatively) unsung hero of American history. There is a relatively large subculture who believe that Tesla has not been properly acknowledged for his accomplishments, like the creation of alternating current. By tapping into this passionate network, and speaking directly to them, Inman was able to build massive buzz for his project.
2. Make Awesome Content. Matthew Inman’s “The Oatmeal” is one of the most popular webcomics on the Internet, and for good reason. Inman’s insightful, comedic comics provide observations on his own life, science, and the world around him. This is exactly the sort of engaging, genuine content that marketers should aspire to make. By turning his content’s focus towards the creation of a Tesla Museum, Inman was able to create more buzz for the project.
3. Incentivize Participation. So often on social media, brands ask for participation without giving anything in return. “Enter our video contest for a chance to win!” “Use our hashtag and share what you like about us!” Okay, but what’s in it for the person participating? One of the cool things about Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and other crowd-funding sites is they reward participation. Pledge $5, and get a small prize. Pledge $10 and get a slightly larger prize. This is far more rewarding and engaging for a participant than “a chance to win” or “the joy of sharing content.” It gives them a sense of ownership over the project.