In just six weeks, fitness direct marketer OYO Fitness – short for On Your Own Fitness – raised over $659,000 on Kickstarter, making it the second most successful fitness product in the history of the crowdfunding site. The success is a testimony to the product’s innovation and certainly the campaign itself, but it also speaks to the evolution of Kickstarter in general. Back in 2011, co-author Rick Petry (who, in the spirit of full disclosure also consults for the company) wrote a column in Electronic Retailer magazine entitled, “The New Mothers of Invention.” As he observed way back then, the site was used more commonly to fund endeavors “on the margins of commerciality – say a band’s new album or an unfinished documentary film...” In fact, at that time, Kickstarter specifically spelled out on its site that it was not intended for “As Seen On TV Products” owing, presumably, to their unabashed commerciality. How times have changed. Today Kickstarter has morphed into a marketplace and the ultimate consumer testing ground where the public gets to vote with their wallet as to whether or not they want to back and provide part of the economic engine that helps bring cool and innovative new products and product concepts to market.
For anyone not already familiar with Kickstarter, the way it works is this: projects are uploaded to the site and those willing to help fund the project, called backers, are offered different levels of rewards that increase in perceived value depending upon specific financial commitments. The project owner targets a campaign goal in the form of a dollar amount that they wish to reach during a finite period of time. If the number is reached and/or exceeded, then—hallelujah--the project is funded. If not, the thumbs down amid the Darwinist public arena means the project will receive no Kickstarter funding and must seek other means with which to keep the proverbial dream alive.Enter OYO Fitness, the brainchild of inventor Paul Francis, a Kansas City, MO-based entrepreneur, rancher, and pilot. Francis had developed and trademarked a technology called SpiraFlex that was used by astronauts in the International Space Station to help strength train and stave off the rapid muscle atrophy that occurs in zero gravity conditions. NASA funded a 16-week study that showed that SpiraFlex matched free weights in terms of improvements in strength and muscular hypertrophy. Based on that out-of-this-world success, the technology was licensed to direct marketing stalwart Nautilus, Inc. who incorporated the innovation into their Bowflex Revolution home gym. Francis, recognizing that many consumers would likely enjoy a more compact device, developed the DoubleFlex, a handheld portable gym. The DoubleFlex allows individuals to workout on-the-go using SpiraFlex technology that trains opposing muscle groups with a single movement. After introducing the initial iteration of the product to the market, Francis made improvements that include a longer cable extension and more resistance; hence the DoubleFlex Black was born.
With Kickstarter, Francis’ aim was to raise $30,000 to help pay for tooling and manufacturing of the new product. By Day 3, the project was 50 percent funded and in less than a week, the initial milestone was achieved. By the end of the campaign, nearly two-thirds of a million dollars had been raised. What were the keys to success and what can other marketers learn from this case study that might help them achieve similar results? There were three main components: a great product, a great story, and great partners. Let’s briefly examine each of these:
- Product: The DoubleFlex Black looks like nothing else on the market. It features an elegant design, can be used for many different exercises to attain a full-body workout, and fits in your back pocket. The SpiraFlex technology, which uses lightweight discs that snap into place to create various levels of resistance, is nimble, thus a broad range of consumers can benefit from it, regardless of their level of fitness. Like products designed by the likes of Apple, Google, and IBM, it is aspirational and not a “me too” product that is following in the footsteps of another manufacturer.
- Story: OYO Fitness has a quintessentially American story to tell. Born in the heartland, it is the story of an inventor who identified a need – in this case, the desire for astronauts to remain fit in weightless conditions -- and then, using his smarts and tenacity, developed an original and effective concept. The social proof in the form of NASA’s use of the technology and Nautilus’ willingness to license it, helps create credibility. This acts as powerful social proof, especially in a category where many consumers have purchased products, only to be disappointed by the results.
- Partners: An entire cottage industry of Kickstarter marketing specialists has sprung up, and OYO Fitness employed three: Backercamp, Gold Mountain Media, and Command Partners (now a part of Enventys Partners). Starting with a longer engagement period with Backercamp, and then by staggering the other vendors over the course of the campaign, OYO saw the collective efforts if these crowdfunding specialists drive significant traffic and conversion to the site. They helped manage extensive remarketing campaigns that allowed OYO to touch interested prospects multiple times, and to conduct look-a-like campaigns with an audience that shared similar demographic characteristics with the backers. The campaign used exhaustive variable testing against messaging to determine which ads were most effective and the campaign relied heavily on social media, with a strong focus on Facebook. To keep audiences intrigued, various rewards were unlocked once specific fundraising goals were achieved to encourage backers to share and promote the offering.
As a result of these three primary qualities, the campaign raised $659,175 from 4,206 backers and attained the lofty distinction of being in the top 1 percent of all products crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Admittedly, with an average sale of $137, there is probably less price sensitivity amid Kickstarter backers who exhibit the characteristics of classic pioneering consumers (that is, the earliest of all adopters), so it remains to be seen how this success might manifest itself in other channels. Nonetheless, with such impressive results, the DoubleFlex Black’s success on Kickstarter is a powerful indication of marketplace need and consumer demand. As the company seeks worldwide distribution partners, they have a whale of a tale to support their cause. The lesson here? Marketers who have a product that mirrors the rarified attributes of OYO’s innovation, might just want to let crowdfunding muscle in on their future marketing plans.
Colleen Ferrier is a seasoned direct marketing expert who specializes in guiding integrated direct-to-consumer campaigns with an acute focus on ROI. Her broad experience has included management oversight of marketing, operations, media, and international distribution. The campaigns she has been instrumental in helping lead to success across her 15+ year career include Pillow Pets, Little Giant Ladder, Dream Lites, and Stompeez. Ferrier has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Augusta University, Georgia.
Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO/DoubleFlex. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.