Wednesdays without Will: Crowdfunding a Brand

By now most people have heard of (if not backed) a Kickstarter. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Kickstarter is one of the most high profile “crowdfunding” services that allow people to donate money to help fund a creative project such as a film, book, game or anything. But people don’t just contribute out of the good of their hearts; usually there are rewards based on how much money you contribute. Kickstarting a campaign requires some delicacy and tack. While the crowdfunding service has helped some projects get a successful jump start, other controversial campaigns have left producers sitting on their kickstands.

Our Space Kristin BellBack in March, Rob Thomas (not the one from the Goo-Goo Dolls), the creator of the TV series Veronica Mars, started a project to create a movie based on the show. They had run into difficulties funding the project through traditional Hollywood means and instead turned to produce it independently. Thomas enlisted the cast, including the series star, Kristin Bell, to promote the Kickstarter campaign. The public was quick to help out the beloved series, and the project skyrocketed to becoming the highest-funded movie on Kickstarter ever.

Not long after, Zach Braff launched his own Kickstarter to create a film that he would write and direct. The public reaction to this project was swift and negative. Criticisms of his project cited that, as a celebrity, he could fund the project himself and was instead jumping on a bandwagon the Veronica Mars team had started.

The public’s good will toward Braff based on his leading role in the cult favorite series Scrubs was waning after the series had continued past its logical endpoint and his own directorial debut was greeted with accusations of pretension. While the Veronica Mars team certainly featured celebrities with wealth comparable to Braff’s, their brand still held a lot of clout with the public, which allowed them to participate without upsetting anyone (not to mention, the work was hard-fought for in Hollywood for years).

Our Space James FrancoWhich brings us to James Franco. The actor/writer/Renaissance Man launched his own crowdfunding campaign recently. Franco’s situation is arguably worse than Braff’s considering his comatose Oscar hosting experience and general narcissistic reputation. However, Franco considering his parodied persona in This is the End, Franco seems aware of these criticisms.

Franco’s campaign asks for a much more modest amount of money than any of the others, and, what’s more, the proceeds will go to charity. It looks like Franco anticipated how the public perceives his brand and chose to take action to rectify it.

The reaction to Franco’s campaign has been mixed, and the campaign has yet to reach its funding goal with only hours left (even Braff managed to reach 150% of his goal). Each of these celebrities should be vulnerable to the same criticisms, but their individual brand perceptions vary widely, prompting consumers to respond appropriately with their wallets. Awareness of how to move forward given a current brand is one thing, but it looks like it’ll take more than one act of selflessness to turn the tide.

Cover Photo Source: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid via Flickr
Image Source 1: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Image Source 2: Vanessa Lua via Wikimedia Commons

Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.