If you’re a reader of our daily and weekly newsletters or a regular visitor to PSNEurope.com, you’ll no doubt have heard about the Kickstarter campaign for Flare Audio’s Reference R2 in-ear headphones.
Launched on 5 May, it closed 28 days later, having raised £177,277 (€241,125) with 1260 backers – over 177 per cent of its initial goal of £100,000 – and established West Sussex-based Flare as a major player in the consumer headphone market.
So, how did a pro-audio manufacturer best known for sound reinforcement so successfully crowdfund its way into the booming headphone market (a phenomenon we’re officially dubbing the Canaissance) – and how can other companies learn from its experience? Flare’s customer relationship manager, Naomi Roberts, spills the beans…
Naomi Roberts: Thank you!
Were you always confident you'd pull it off?
I knew we had a great product, and we had some heavyweight endorsers on our Kickstarter video, so I was very confident in our offerings, but Kickstarter was new territory for us – we were entering a new marketplace with the consumer products, so in that respect it was a bit of an unknown.
I hoped that people would embrace what we were doing and see the zest and belief we have in what we do. When all the positive reviews started coming in there was a rush of backers; the video reviews were particularly helpful. I wasn’t content until I saw that we had reached the £100k mark, though – don’t count your chickens and all that!
Why £100,000? It seems a lot...
We thought we’d set our sights high! We had some really good advice and, having researched other Kickstarter campaigns, we found that if the target is set too low your project might not be valued quite as much. Kickstarter backers like to see a strong product and creativity or a new way of doing things in order to create real buzz and excitement.
With 11 days to go, the campaign had raised only £35,000 – then there was was a big surge in pledges towards the end, and the 100k mark was reached with three days to spare. Was that something you were expecting?
We hoped that it might happen, but we weren’t relying on it. It was a constant push. It seems to be the way that it goes for quite a lot of Kickstarter campaigns: people hold off pledging until they get all the information they are after. The reviews and endorsements helped massively as, after all, we are selling a product visually that people will be using aurally.
How did you get the word out there?
We found that we had to be very proactive from all angles – it was a multipronged mission! Social media was important, as were the endorsements and reviews. I think you need all those facets to appeal to everyone. People are tempted by different things, but I think most Kickstarter backers are very savvy and like to see in-depth technical reviews from people whose opinions they respect and value.
It’s also important that all questions and comments from potential backers are replied to, and that you dedicate time and courtesy to everyone. We are a very small but very enthusiastic team at Flare, and the Kickstarter backers seemed to like and appreciate the personal touch that we gave. We invited anyone who was local to us to come to our warehouse and try out the earphones – from this we ramped up our presence in forums with some really glowing and detailed reviews. We wanted to be very transparent in our approach and I think the backers valued this.
How did you get so many celebrity endorsers on board? How important were they to the overall success?
Well, I think if the whole approach was likened to a cake, the tech reviews were the sponge and the celebrity endorsers were the icing and cherry on top! It’s difficult to quantify just how important they were to the overall success, but they definitely bolstered the campaign and gave us an extra dimension.
Personally, I found I had to lose all self-effacement and just go for it. For example, we messaged Huey Morgan on Twitter and he was happy to try out the R2s and let us know his thoughts. He has since been showing them to his friends and colleagues because he likes them so much. Everyone we approached has been very amiable and, thankfully, all loved the earphones, so getting a quote from them wasn’t as hard a task as we might have thought. Jarvis [Cocker] has been a Flare fan for a few years now and so was keen to try out the earphones.
We were aware that, as individuals, they all have a great deal of integrity and didn’t have to give us quotes, so we were thrilled that they gave us such wonderful words.
Flare is now officially a successful consumer brand too. Are you moving away from pro audio?
No, definitely not! The consumer products are just another string to our bow – we are fortunate that the technology we have developed can be easily scaled, so consumer products was a natural next step for us and Kickstarter felt like the right platform as a means in attracting a new audience. I think I can speak for all of the team when I say that the whole experience has been very uplifting. The feedback and interaction from Kickstarter backers has been thoroughly heartening, and they embraced our different attitude and mindset. It was wholly refreshing.
Does crowdfunding only work for consumer products, or can you see pro-audio companies being successful on Kickstarter too?
I’m not sure… From our experience I’d say that you need to be able to offer Kickstarter ‘rewards’ at a number of different price brackets, which might be tricky for the pro-audio market. That said, I do think that our backstory in pro audio definitely helped us – I think it gave us some extra authority and standing in the consumer market.
Pro audio is a really exciting world to be involved with, but it’s a tough one. It was really interesting to put our first toe into the consumer market and to be so warmly received.
What advice would you give for any other audio companies interested in Kickstarter?
I’m no expert, but I’d say:
- Get a good, solid campaign together for something that you are passionate about. It will take up a lot of your time and you need to genuinely believe wholeheartedly in what you are promoting.
- Make sure you have a variety of reviews lined up.
- Work out your rewards and have a diverse range of price options.
- Dedicate yourself to it. It needs constant attention and encouragement: you can’t leave it to run itself.
- Give up on all social engagements for the length of the campaign!
- Plenty of coffee.