February 7, 2014

What Spaceships Can Teach Us About Brand Loyalty

Star Citizen

Pop quiz: What is the most successful crowd-funded campaign ever?

Pebble watch, you say?  Close, but not quite. Pebble is #2 at just over $10 million. An impressive sum, to be sure, but miles away from the #1 spot.

No friends, the most successful crowd-funded campaign ever is one that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s called Star Citizen, and it’s a video game about space ships.

You should care about Star Citizen for two reasons:

  1. Oh my god this game looks really cool, you guys.
  2. The game is likely a year and a half away from actually being released, and today, Roberts Space Industries will have raised $38 million in funding with no sign of slowing down.

That number is absurd.

But how was $38 million even possible?  Simple: Brand loyalty.

Star Citizen is the vision of a man named Chris Roberts. If you’re super nerdy (like me), and in your late 20s to mid 30s, then maybe you’ve heard of him. He made a bunch of video games in the 90s and created a really loyal fanbase. So loyal, in fact, that after taking a more than decade-long break from making games, he can raise this much money on little more than a promise and a handshake.

Fans were so enamored with the quality and scope of his previous projects that he was able to leverage the brand love into enough money to completely bypass traditional publishing altogether.

To all other brands: Don’t get too excited. I know that your fans love you and all that, but $38 million is not something you can plan for. However, there are lessons that we can learn from Star Citizen’s success:

  1. It’s all about quality.  If you put out an honest, quality product, whatever it may be, your customer base will love you for it.
  2. Transparency goes a long way. Star Citizen is providing its community and backers with regular, daily updates as to the progress of the game’s development. Creating this dialogue with their audience early on has given incentive for new people to pledge money, as well as helped assuage fears of early backers that maybe this project won’t get off the ground.
  3. You have to listen to your consumers. Throughout Star Citizen’s development, there have been many key aspects of the game that were altered, dropped, or added — all based on community feedback.

In our 2014 world of Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier and more effective than ever to know what your target audience is looking for. Listen to them, engage them, and if necessary, don’t be afraid to adapt to their needs.

Your customers might not be taking out a second credit card to hand you their money like they are to Chris Roberts, but that doesn’t mean that fostering brand loyalty won’t also pay you dividends in the end.

Also, throwing in a few spaceships here and there probably can’t hurt.