Marketing Bootcamp

The Potato Salad Kickstarter and the Art of Getting Discovered

Most people would agree there’s nothing all that spectacular about potato salad. As a common side dish, it doesn’t stand out against the majority of other foods. This is especially true online. Just try to go viral with a potato salad recipe and let us know how you’re doing after three months. You probably won’t get very far.

So how did a man from Columbus, Ohio, generate more than $55,000 to fund a project to make a successful batch of potato salad?

The answer could transform your business.

Related: 6 Potato Salad-Tested Crowdfunding Tricks That Work

It All Started With a Joke

Back in September, a man who had never made a potato salad set up a Kickstarter to fund his first effort. Kickstarter, for those who are unfamiliar, is a website that helps raise public donations to back creative projects. While anyone is free to submit a project to Kickstarter, the idea of asking for money to create an easy side dish is, as you could imagine, uncommon.

Brown admits that the idea, informally referred to as PotatoStock on Kickstarter, arose while joking around with a group of friends. It was supposed to be a fun, temporary relief from a long day of work. We were able to steal a few minutes with Brown, who told us that the idea came to him after toying around with several ideas, mostly centered around potato-themed jokes.  

So that’s what Brown did. He didn’t even have to do much more work, as the project quickly snowballed from his original goal of raising $10 into something he and his group of friends never thought imaginable. In fact, it generated a total of $55,492 from 6,911 backers on Kickstarter.

Related: 4 Kickstarter Campaigns You Won't Believe Actually Succeeded

“I didn't do much to promote it,” said Brown. “I told six friends that I was working on it and shared the preview link with them. As soon as it was live, I posted to Facebook, as I didn’t use Twitter at the time. That’s all I did.” CNET called Brown just two hours after the project went live.

What your business can learn from PotatoStock.

It’s often said that in rock and roll all you need to do is take three simple chords and make them sound new again. The same can be said for your service or product.

The key, as author Seth Godin explains in his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, is to find a way to stand out from all of the other businesses in your industry. You want to be like a purple cow in the middle of a field of monochrome Holsteins.

Brown’s idea stood out like a purple cow amongst all of the other businesses competing for the attention of financial donors because it was so outrageously simple yet never done before on that platform. Since he started with a reasonable goal of just $10, it encouraged people to contribute.  

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t abandon your traditional marketing/PR strategies for going viral if you choose to do something out of the ordinary.

If you need some advice in this area, check out Google’s YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands, which provides step by step instructions for building an online audience. This playbook will help you bolster your brand image across multiple digital advertising platforms, including social media, online video, blogs and more.

Get the potato rolling.

While it began as a fun escape after work, PotatoStock was ultimately able to generate over $18,000 for their fund at the Columbus Foundation. The first gifts will go to CD 102.5 For the Kids and Local Matters. Brown’s advice to entrepreneurs: “Make a thing that appeals to you. I started Base Two when I was tired of having a boss. I did the potato salad Kickstarter as a temporary escape from a boring day of client work. I would suggest that people find the thing they'd rather be doing and do that.”  

Spend some time boiling your idea down to its basic elements. Think of an idea that nobody else has tried in your space and do something so far out of the ordinary that people take notice. Then, watch as your idea starts rolling into reality.

Related: Why 2014 Was the Year of the Story