Have you heard about Pebble?
In case you haven’t, Pebble is the Smartwatch company which is currently disrupting the (smart-) watch industry. Yep, they are competing directly with Apple.
But they started doing this three years ago. 12 days ago they launched a crowdfunding campaign for their latest model – the Pebble Time. In just 48 hours, the Pebble Time broke Kickstarter records – reaching 10 million in pledges in less than 48 hours. Today the campaign has reached more than 17 million. With 18 days to go.
That’s 17 million in sales before a single unit has even been shipped. It’s kind of pre-orders on steroids.
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Now, Kickstarter might sound like a strange platform for a company that doesn’t have any monetary problems and which has already a very successful predecessor of this next model in the market. At first sight there are a lot of disadvantages to the platform: Kickstarter campaigns take time to prepare, the crowdfunding site takes a cut of the raised funds, you need special deals for backers, and you only have thirty days to reach your goals. With over one million sold units of their original product (the Pebble) and at least a couple of a hundred thousand of the improved Pebble Steel, the question whether it wouldn’t have been more profitable to simply launch the new watch on their own is legitimate.
But there is more to the story.
How Pebble Was First Launched
3 years ago, Pebble wasn’t the successful company that it is today. Quite the contrary. Pebble was 5 dudes with an idea and the will to destroy obstacles and succeed. They went through the yCombinator acceleration program and even got some initial funding – but had nowhere near enough to create the world’s first real Smartwatch. So they went for Kickstarter.
They shipped their product in late 2012 and even today, almost 3 years later, many still claim that the original Pebble (and the Pebble Steel) is the best Smartwatch in the market.
The Situation Today for Pebble
While Pebble is in many ways still a leader of the newly created industry, they now face serious competition. AppleWatch is just around the corner, Samsung, Motorola and others are launching Smartwatches almost daily based on Google’s Android for Wearables Technology. Pebble as a company is facing a showdown with the biggest Techgiants – and despite their success they are still David in a battle with not just one but dozens of Goliaths.
So Pebble went for being smart. They made a marketing decision, not a business decision. They went for the community.
Why They Went for the Kickstarter Community… Again
When launching a product with the help of Kickstarter it also means that you are borrowing a community that is not your own. You market your product to the Kickstarter community, you sell your product to the Kickstarter community. You succeed by the will of the Kickstarter community.
That is what Pebble did three years ago. And after their success they went on to build their own community. And don’t get me wrong, they succeeded with it. But they also found that part of their success with their first product was that they had the backing of the Kickstarter community. So now, when being in a Faceoff situation with some of the most brilliant marketing departments of the world – they went for smart – not just with their watch. They played the Kickstarter card… again.
Going for the Kickstarter community allows them to play a community they understand – that they already knew how to play. At the same time it allows them to prove their relevance in a heavily fought for market. It gives them social proof, it let’s them launch before the actual launch, it makes it pretty clear to anyone that Apple is behind on Smartwatches (behind Pebble, that is)…
And of course, the Pebble of 2015 is not the Pebble of 2012. They’ve learned their marketing lessons, every single sentence on their Kickstarter page has been carefully crafted – they know exactly what they are doing. They know the game well. Want an example? “It turns out that the smartest interface for a watch… is time.”
So while you might believe that the people at Pebble are still newcomers to the tech industry and that their move to Kickstarter was only a natural move for a company that is so new – I am pretty sure, that Pebble made a very conscious decision about how they are going to launch and why. That it looks natural from the outside is what makes it brilliant.
The decision for a Kickstarter campaign for Pebble – is probably the smartest marketing decision of 2015… yet. I am eager to see what 2015 will bring in marketing in the days to come, but Pebble made a big start.