RamKrishna Raja
Jul 5, 2012

OPINION: Big-name brands cannot ignore Kickstarter trend

Kickstarter lets everyday folks attract real money to fund their ideas—if their ideas light the public imagination. Why should brands worry about that? RamKrishna Raja, managing director of digital at IPG Mediabrands in Thailand, explains.

OPINION: Big-name brands cannot ignore Kickstarter trend

The past month has been mighty exciting for everyone in digital.

Apple said a big Schwarzenegger-style hasta la vista to Google maps. Samsung launched its Galaxy S3, which is kicking iPhone’s ass these days. Microsoft ‘Surfaced’ its tablet in the hope of one day kicking iPad’s ass! Google showed off its new maps, Glasses and the Nexus tablet, Facebook irked a whole bunch of its users by auto-migrating their emails, our industry met in the south of France for its annual self-congratulation festival (rightfully so), and yes, Unilever is in the process of choosing a media partner. What a month!

None of the above was unexpected. But, when Seth Godin resorted to Kickstarter to fund his new book, it sure was unexpected. You would imagine someone as famous as him would have no trouble convincing a publisher right? Well, apparently not!

It might not be obvious, but Seth’s Kickstarter request is a wakeup call for any brand that is still slumbering in the 20th-century myth of market share and SOV. The Davids are the new Goliaths, and the Goliaths better wake up.

Kickstarter lets ‘people’ pitch ideas to ‘people’ and get endorsed in the form of hard cash—not just ‘likes’. All you need is a great idea that the audiences endorse, and the money, banks and VCs come to you.

Seth wanted $40,000 and has raised more than $261,000 so far. Yep, it may be because of Seth’s celebrity and track record, but there are also several cases on that platform where regular Joes like you and me have come up with amazing ideas and secured more than expected funding. I would highly recommend you all to browse through the site to get an idea of all the cool ideas floating around.

However, imagine for a moment that someone puts up a plea like Seth's that goes something like "Please help me show [insert name of your favorite FMCG major] that it's possible to create a more healthy shampoo for kids that is better than [insert name of your FMCG company's top-selling kid shampoo] with a show of support on Kickstarter."

Guess you guys get the idea. I can foresee regular products being pitched to people that improve on everything from suntan lotions to shampoos to TVs to trampolines. That is, if an existing product does not meet a need/gripe.

Ideas and products are not the monopolies of big brands any more. Fast-forward to 10 years from now, the barriers for a frustrated mom launching a new diaper that gives P&G a run for its money would be as insignificant as the barriers to launching a great blog and pulling traffic away from big-name publishers are today (I think Arianna is smiling right now).

What can brands learn? You are not as powerful as you think you are, and it is becoming easier by the click for someone to challenge you in your own game. The most important investment you will make in the coming years is not in how to effectively disseminate your message but how to create a supremely robust, inward-flowing, listening/participating mechanism that brings your audiences inside your brand’s decision-making processes. One that helps you respond to gaps, needs, sentiments, changes, gripes expressed and what is expected from you.

In the event you don’t respond to satisfy the need gap, the peril is not of just losing a customer but being challenged by a better product that poses a direct threat to your share of market—not just your share of voice.

So dear big-name FMCG, I know that you are scrambling to choose your media partner very soon. My humble and sincere request from the world’s largest Facebook city is just these words: Choose someone who can help you listen as smartly as they can help you tell. 

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