The Crowdfunding Formula x Bristly: The Most Funded Dog Campaign
One thing that makes TCF different is our dedicated approach to campaigns.
We are the biggest agency in terms of team members, and this allows us to dedicate a team of 15–18 people to each of our campaigns.
Thanks to this, each of our campaigns benefits from a very diverse approach. And getting traffic from a variety of sources that are hard to utilize, and thereby ignored or not used by a lot.
While this might be a hard and atypical challenge that few would take on, we love the results that we get after all these dedicated activities.
But when Petros Dertsakyan contacted me about creating a campaign for his product — a toothbrushing stick for dogs — I thought it must be a joke.
I had never owned a dog. And I was not familiar with the hassle of cleaning dogs’ teeth, or the consequences of not cleaning them properly
Petros was a dog dad of 5, one of which had passed away as a result of gum complications. And after this experience, he had made up his mind to solve the problem globally.
Bristly — branded at the time as Brite Bite — was the result of many experiments, trials and iterations. Made mostly from natural rubber mixed with some special ingredients, it was shaped according to a dog’s anatomy, and designed to satisfy their natural instincts — chewing.
And although we had never had a dog campaign, we liked this brushing stick and accepted the challenge.
This case study lays out exactly what we did to make Bristly the most funded dog campaign.
P.S. Later on we broke our own record with Wicked Ball.
Bristly was originally named Brite Bite.
This didn’t seem that strong to us, so we called out to our friends from the award-winning Backbone branding agency.
They renamed Brite Bite as Bristly and reinvented the company to be perfectly in line with the founder’s mission — Empawer.
They also completely changed the branding and created a cool logo to showcase the process itself — the illustrated dog happily chewing the Bristly brushing stick.
This perfectly captures the main idea behind the product, the interactive “do it yourself” approach of a dog toothbrush!
The packaging went on to win a bronze award in the prestigious worldwide Pentawards.
Typically, at TCF we focus on three main activities during the pre-launch process:
- Collecting email and chatbot subscribers.
- Creating a compelling video.
Gathering tailored PR and influencer databases.
Collecting Email and Chatbot Subscribers
We created a compelling landing page and drove troves of traffic via Facebook ads to collect email subscribers.
In the course of a few months, we collected about 12,000 email subscribers.
We used UpViral to prompt users with a popup to share the landing page after subscribing.
With this referral campaign, we gained an additional 1,100 organic subscribers.
But sometimes email isn’t enough. So we sent each of our subscribers an email urging them to subscribe to our chatbot as well.
Chatbots are a great extra channel to inform your subscribers of your launch and other notable moments. And they are the best cure in case Gmail decides to put you into your subscribers’ promotion or spam folders.
For some reason, Facebook is currently limiting the capabilities of chatbots, but back then it was huge.
And with this single email to our subscribers, we got around 4,000 people to join our bot.
We sprinkled in some extra social media marketing on Facebook, and collected another 3,000 chatbot subscribers as well.
With these combined efforts, this meant we were starting our dog campaign with over 21,000 leads, ready to back Bristly!
Creating a Compelling Video
A good video is one of the most important elements of any crowdfunding campaign.
For Bristly’s video, we partnered with our friends at the Doping Creative Agency, who worked closely with us on developing the concept, and then organized the entire production.
Coming up with a concept for a video can be hard. It needs to speak about the product and its benefits directly. Its target audience needs to immediately relate to it. It needs to be interesting, funny, and have drive. It needs to move them. And it needs to create desire in the viewer, and push them to buy.
For Bristly, we thought long and hard about what would check all of these boxes for pet owners. We wrote and rewrote. And then we found it.
Pet owners would like to know what bothers their pets directly from… their pets.
So we shot a video where dogs talk about their problems.
Cool concept! But nobody ever told us what it would take to shoot a video with dogs.
It took us days to try to convince the dog to look straight to the camera… and you can’t even imagine what it took to make them speak.
The efforts fully paid off though, and the video went viral, earning millions of views on Facebook.
Gathering tailored PR and influencer databases
PR is always hard.
And we knew from experience that the right way of doing it is to prepare 2–3 months before the launch of the dog campaign.
So we started to collect a really big database of journalists, who previously covered dog health, dog toothbrushes, and related topics.
This is important.
Before you start your outreach, you need to make sure that you have journalists and journals in your list from all niches related to your product. For example for Bristly the main niches were pet care, dog care, dog health and tooth care, parenting (journalists or media that also cover about pet parenting), lifestyle and more. Check out this article to get the full list of tools we use to get the contacts of the needed journalists, and a quick breakdown on how to use them.
One thing is of paramount importance to succeed in PR and get covered… and I am not speaking about money.
Samples and prototypes. You need to have enough samples to send them out to journalists and influencers.
Don’t start your campaign until you have them. Otherwise you risk getting nothing from these two super powerful channels — media and influencers.
Typically we send out between 30–50 samples.
It gives you the desired credibility, and triples your chances of getting coverage in the best media.
Thankfully, we had a lot of Bristly brushing stick samples, and we sent out hundreds to journalists and influencers.
With your samples and database of relevant journalists ready, you then need to start writing pitches.
With Bristly, we tried to make them as personalized as possible. We segmented them by niche, and wrote customizable pitches for each one. We congratulated them on previous articles, we showed them how their specific audiences would connect with this product.
Another strategy that we used for our dog campaign was translating pitches. For example, if we were pitching to a French journal we sent them a pitch in French.
For this, we took the countries where the most traffic was coming from — including France, Korea, Japan, Italy, and Spain — we researched related media outlets and journalists and started outreaching them.
Another strategy that worked very well was outreaching via Linkedin.
We connected with the targeted journalists before the launch, so that once we launched we could pitch them from a more friendly place.
The open rate is 40–60% higher on LinkedIn and the response rate can go up to 20–30%. Even if a journalist is not interested, they are more likely to let you know about this on LinkedIn than on email. This can be put down to the psychology of using social media. As the fact that you see that the sender can see the message has been opened automatically makes them more responsive.
Thanks to our direct outreach to journalists via email and LinkedIn, we got our Bristly brushing stick featured in almost 500 international media outlets, including MSN, Daily Motion, Mental Floss, Ask Men and many others.
Typically campaigners forget and ignore the power of social media marketing during their campaigns. And if they don’t, they do it inappropriately.
But when done correctly, SMM is an extremely powerful marketing channel.
This also makes it one of the hardest tasks. It’s not about posting a photo every day with a link to your campaign. It’s about educating, entertaining, persuading, interacting and giving value.
For a good SMM campaign, you need materials.
So we created 38 unique 1-minute videos, and 255 banners for social media.
There is an unwritten rule in SMM — you should use new social media features as soon as they are released. Because social media channels give those features a higher potential of appearing on users’ feeds.
And we used that short period to reap the benefits of new features and reach even more prospects.
While 3D posts might be old news now, but we were one of the first ones to experiment with it back then.
Where nobody was using them, our 3D posts made our Bristly dog toothbrush content stand out from all the other standard content.
We posted a lot of entertaining content and a lot of them ended up going viral.
We used a variety of analytical tools to find the coolest viral content on topics we were interested in. Then we created content for Bristly based on the best performing ones, and sometimes we even used existing viral content — giving credit to the original creators, of course.
One even got over 11 million views. Yeah, you heard that right.
No departments work alone, collaborating with each other to reach even greater heights.
So when the SMM videos started going viral, we activated our tailored chatbots under them.
Whoever commented on a video, automatically got subscribed to our chatbot. Completely organically, this earned us another 10k subscribers.
By now, you probably have some idea of what we did with the subscribers…
No, it wasn’t pushing an immediate direct sale.
It would have been too early for that. Instead, we warmed them up to then do our secret job.
The best way to boost your post engagement rate is to get your followers commenting and sharing.
With that in mind we created many engaging posts, like these:
We added some calls to action with the right visuals…
And — you guessed it — the comments came flowing in.
Another powerful tool in the SMM arsenal are storytelling educational posts. These increase your page’s engagement by giving your audience valuable content. And as we had to develop different types of content, we also created educational posts that could educate, inspire, and engage our lovely followers.
We found the magic elixir, and our followers were satisfied! And this got us the appreciation we were after in the form of likes, shares, and comments.
One of the incentives of following pages is getting relevant and valuable content.
Based on this user experience, we created a chain of different educational video content, based on Seth Casteel’s material.
We spoke about dog health, dog nutrition, dog care, and many other topics, that showed our expertise in this sphere.
An infographic is a strong form of educational content.
Based on our experience, these posts can be very engaging and shareable. So we consistently created many infographics related to dog topics, and our page followers really took to them. As a result, we got many shares, likes, comments, and a generally high engagement rate.
I like this type of educational content, and so did our followers. Because it’s informative and short, and highly actionable — so viewers get cool hacks in seconds that they can use immediately. So we created a bunch of “dog-hacks” that had a great effect on this dog toothbrush campaign.
Last but not least, we can’t forget funny content. This can be the most engaging content type if done right. And we did!
We created, found and reshared tons of funny content, and integrated it seamlessly into our content plan.
One of the main directions that worked perfectly for the Bristly dog campaign was Influencer Marketing.
We tested many different directions and strategies on it, and found the best-working medium was real influencer reviews.
We sent prototypes to the most relevant macro influencers so that they could test Bristly with their dogs and post honest reviews.
All in all, we managed to secure over 100 influencer reviews during the Live campaign!
Real reviews by influencers are one of the best ways to get a converting audience on your side. People trust the influencers they follow, especially when they not only post your own promotional video or photo materials, but create their own. Their followers responded lovingly to the reviews where their influencers and their pets used our product and spoke honestly about it.
Another strategy for influencer marketing that we used on this dog campaign was location-targeted influencer marketing.
For all the places where we were getting lots of sales and interest, we found relevant influencers and began a targeted outreach program. Not only did this mean that we had highly-relevant audiences based on the product, but also people who closely followed influencers they trusted from their area. This increased the chances that their audience would be interested and would convert. We even began translating content to the different languages, making our engagement skyrocket!
We organized flash sales and discounts with influencers once a week. By creating personalized perks for influencers and their audiences, and augmenting them with exclusive discounts, we sparked immediate curiosity in Bristly.. Our concerted efforts also provided a mass effect, as on any day, we had over 20 different influencer posts.
Using Our Fake Competitors
Throughout the whole dog campaign — as with many crowdfunding campaigns — we had an issue with copycats and scams. People saw the interest and success of Bristly, and would steal our content and post it as their own. “Selling” it for cheaper on scammy sites, but never planning on delivering.
But did this make us give up? No way!
We saw it as an opportunity!
We began scraping all the comments under the posts and sent these audiences direct messages, informing them that the product they were interested in was fake but that we could provide them with the real Bristly. We educated them about the product first, increasing their interest and gaining their trust — what other company engages its users like this?! — and then did the sales.
Not only did this work as a sales tactic, it also eventually brought us even more traffic as the audiences began spreading the word about fake products for us!
Instagram is wild! Who thought pets could run their online social media accounts?
Well, they can’t. But we can for them…
So — in pure crowdfunding for pets style — we created a bunch of fake dog influencers, and began recommending Bristly in the voice and mannerisms of each canine. It was comical, friendly, natural — and our audiences loved it!
Overall, we partnered with some of the best influencers on Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok. We managed to get much cheaper rates than those they initially offered, as well as tons of free posts.
This doesn’t really fit into a ‘department’ per se. Because it was an overarching activity that we pushed on all fronts.
To create brand awareness and drive a high volume of traffic, we created the #MyDogLikeMe Challenge on Instagram and Facebook. Here, we encouraged dog parents to post lookalike photos with their pets.
And SMM, PR, Influencer Marketing, Ads, Copy, Visuals… everyone took part in this massive viral challenge that took social media by storm!
We got many influencers involved too, sharing their audience posts and posting their own pictures, further snowballing this highly-shareable and imitable challenge.
And in just under a week, we had over 10,000 people participate in the challenge.
What did this mean for our dog campaign?
We not only had another viral platform to promote Bristly directly on, but also found ways to engage with this fun community. We sent thousands of tailored automated comments — under each #MyDogLikeMe post — sharing information about the product that had started it all, questions about their dogs, and information about teeth cleaning. This proved to be a great entry into engaging them in discussions.
Overall, the challenge had over 15K participants who posted their lookalike photos with their dogs.
Every now and again, we check back in with the challenge. And we’re surprised and happy to see that it’s still going! At the time of writing, there are nearly 35,000 posts on Instagram.
Facebook advertising is one of the most useful channels to drive convertible traffic to your landing page. And crowdfunding for pets was no different.
We ran targeted advertising campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Each presented its own challenges, but we managed to growth hack our way to advertising success!
Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to embed a Facebook pixel.
That can be a big challenge for advertisers as you are forced to rely on the Kickstarter dashboard and Google analytics to track your results.
To track our results from Kickstarter, we created referral tags:
We gave each ad a specific referral tag name, so that we would be able to track the results of each ad campaign through the Kickstarter dashboard.
We also added UTMs to the links so that we could track the results on Google Analytics.We also ran surveys to get to know our backers better. Surveys are a great way to understand why people are backing this dog campaign, what they like the most about a product, and more importantly, hear it in their own words.
After analyzing the results of these surveys, we found the common reasons people gave for backing Bristly, and used them to target similar audiences. We included problem/solution texts that addressed their specific concerns, wrote it in their own voices, and built stories that related the product to their interests.
Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo does give you the opportunity to embed your Facebook Pixel ID.
With this, we began tracking conversions directly from Facebook. We could analyze the Facebook ads and banners to see which ones were converting better. We would try different ad copy with different visuals to discover the best-performing ones, and try those on new audiences.
During the Indiegogo stage, we also benefited from Facebook’s retargeting options. By creating lookalikes and retargeting people who had visited the page but hadn’t converted, we essentially had a never-ending stream of traffic. And with the lessons learned through Facebook’s Analytics, with each passing day we got better at converting them.
Special perks and their appropriate design are another great opportunity on Indiegogo.
We designed a series of banners for different occasions — Black Friday, Christmas, New Year’s — and ran limited flash sales with extra discounts on those days. This increased the urgency in backers’ minds, leading to spikes in conversions.
The same is true of secret perks. Not usually visible on the landing page, these can only be accessed by special links. During our dog campaign, this allowed us to offer extra discounts to people who were on the fence, giving us more leeway in personalized ads offers.
As is always the case with special offers, we took care to exclude previous backers from these Facebook ads, so that they wouldn’t get upset that they had backed at an earlier price.
Lookalike audiences are one of the best sources to drive great traffic to your campaign. These are audiences that are of a similar demographic, live in the same areas, or have similar interests to your current backers. Facebook’s algorithms search their billions of users to give you audiences who are more likely to convert based on your current data — easy!
Once we had around 500 backers, we sent out a survey using Kickstarter’s dashboard.
There’s a small, often-missed button to send out a message:
And in this message we linked to a survey we created using Paperform. The innocent-looking survey — that also gave us a ton of useful insights that we used to create new ads — also had a Facebook Pixel embedded within it.
This allowed us to capture our existing backers’ Facebook ad profiles.
Then, all we had to do was create lookalike audiences based on them, subtract them from these new ad campaigns — so that current backers weren’t bombarded with repeat ads — and turn them on.
Where did all this get us?
As you can see, Bristly was a fully tailored dog campaign that we pushed forward on all fronts. Every department raised the bar in creativity and effort, and played an important role in the ultimate result of its success.
We hit the funding goal in under 24 hours, and went on to raise $1,000,739 on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And with 22,150 backers, this became the most-backed pet crowdfunding campaign ever! This was even recognized by Indiegogo — who named Bristly the 2nd best crowdfunding campaign of 2018 — and their partner Ingram Micro who awarded our dog campaign extra Flash Funding.
Our PR and Influencer Marketing got Bristly coverage in over 1,000 leading publications and top social media pages. Which had a multiplier effect that made Bristly one of the strongest and most well-known brands in the dog industry. Over the course of the campaign, more than 400 distributors reached out to us inquiring how they could sell our product.
All of this led to an increase in Bristly’s valuation by around 10, turning them into an established driving force in the pet community.