Thursday, April 25, 2013

Modern Times Beer's Use of Kickstarter

I have been following the development of Modern Times Beer for quite some time now.  The brewery, which will be opening in San Diego later this year, is the brain child of Jacob McKean.  Jacob was involved in marketing beer for Stone Brewing Company and decided to strike out on his own.  I first heard of the venture because he reached out to Michael Tonsmeire to help with recipe development (Lug Wrench readers will recognize Michael's name, as we have exchanged beer with him before and are huge fans of his blog).  This collaboration has been featured extensively on the Mad Fermentationist blog, mentioned on the Basic Brewing Radio podcast, interviewed on the BeerSmith's podcast, and others.  But, what I have found most amazing about Modern Times recently is their use of Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a relatively new method to fund creative projects that was launched in 2009.  The basic idea is that a person wishing to develop a project creates a Kickstarter account.  The resulting Kickstarter campaign page details what the person/company wishes to accomplish and also sets a very specific monetary goal and a fund raising deadline.  The Kickstarter campaign then begins to crowd-source funding for the project to help meet the goal.  People can give whatever amount of money to the project they wish and the person/company usually promises to give away incentives or prizes for different giving levels to help encourage participation.  If the Kickstarter campaign is successful and receives enough funding by the deadline, the money is awarded to the person/company, after Kickstarter takes a five percent fee to maintain the website and service.  If the campaign is not successful, all money is returned to the donors.  It is all or nothing.

As of this writing, the Modern Times campaign has been the most successful funding of a brewing yet on Kickstarter.  The purpose of the campaign is to raise money to help outfit the Modern Times tasting room, purchase wine and spirit barrels, and buy lab equipment.  The brewery set a $40,000 goal for the campaign and it has blown by it.  They are currently working on a stretch goal of $65,000, which will fund a solar water heating system for the brewery.

Public response to the campaign has been amazing to watch.  I think this has a lot to do with Jacob, who has experience marketing beer and a solid understanding of the market he is reaching.  He has created a number of prize packages that are unique and rather hipster (interesting t-shirts, brewer playing cards, brew sessions, etc.).  The success is also due to the campaign trying to raise money for a specific, and very public, part of the brewery - the tasting room.  I think that people identify with the tasting room and can see their money extending their enjoyment of visiting the brewery.  Yes, the brewery will still open without your donation, but it will be much cooler for you if you donate.  Finally, I think there is a snowball factor going on.  Jacob has highly publicized how they were approaching the Kickstarter record and even organized a donation to a local charity when they passed the record.

What can other breweries learn from Modern Times' success with Kickstarter?  First, do not try to finance your entire brewery through Kickstarter.  Instead, use it to augment something that the public can directly relate to, such as a tasting room.  This will encourage participation.  Second, ensure there are a number of interesting prizes for all donation levels.  If there is something interesting, even for the lower levels, the campaign will get more people who were on the fence about donating   Finally, understand that one of the biggest benefits about a Kickstarter campaign is getting the public to invest themselves in your project.  Set a reasonable goal and its success will be an excellent source of interest in the brewery for years to come.

Let us know if you have ever started or contributed to a Kickstarter campaign and how it worked out.  We would love to hear from you.



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