5 Marketing Secrets Reading Rainbow Used to Secure $1M+ in 11 Hours

By Susan PaytonSmall BusinessAllBusiness.com

In case you missed the hullabaloo (and it happened quickly, so you might have), Reading Rainbow, that childhood favorite program from the 1980s, proved to be Kickstarter’s new darling recently when it raised more than its $1 million goal on the crowdfunding site … in less than 12 hours.

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Following suit to a few other well-known Kickstarter campaigns like the Veronica Marsand Zach Braff’s movie project, Reading Rainbow leveraged the power of its fans to raise money for its cause. In this case, the cause is to provide access to books and Reading Rainbow programming to all American children. The cause itself is noteworthy, but the people who funded the project (myself included) would have donated, no matter what the aim.

Here’s what Reading Rainbow knows about marketing that you should, too.

1. Build Your Fan Base Long Before You Need Them

Okay, to be fair, the show’s producers way back in 1983 didn’t have a clue that they would be trying to raise $1 million from fans more than 30 years later. But still, the majority of people who funded the project, judging from the comments, were kids like me who grew up watching the show. So there was no education needed, no introduction necessary. Reading Rainbow pulled from its existing fan base rather than trying to create one out of thin air.

2. Use a Well-Known Spokesperson

I’ve never seen an episode of “Star Trek,” so to me, the host of Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton, is the show. I have so many memories watching him explore the world and taking me on journeys through books. The second I saw him in a Facebook post, I was ready to get involved. And if you are a Trekkie, that only helps his case.

3. Get Fans Involved

The most successful Kickstarter campaigns I’ve seen keep fans and donors updated constantly. Whether that’s a sneak peek, behind-the-scenes video of a movie in production, or just a personal note from that celebrity spokesperson, it makes a difference to people who want to feel like part of something bigger. Burton showed his vulnerability once the project hit its goal of $1 million as he spoke to his audience with tears in his eyes. We were all touched.

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4. Leverage the Power of Social

Kickstarter campaigns make it simple to share on social sites. In fact, Facebook is where I found out about the campaign. After pledging my modest donation, I tagged all of my friends and encouraged them to donate as well. The campaign spread so quickly, it became one of the fastest-funded $1 million projects on Kickstarter. And the 67,000+ media mentions didn’t hurt, either.

5. Roll with the Times

When I went to YouTube to find an old episode of Reading Rainbow to show my 9-year-old, I found a newer episode where Burton read from an iPad. The campaign centers around its online resources, which naturally will appeal to today’s children more than paper books would. Imagine what companies like Kodak would be like if only they’d adapted to changing technology like this!

Whether you’re trying to raise money on Kickstarter or simply find new customers, these are lessons worth emulating.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts for the software industry. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and has blogged for several sites, including The Marketing Eggspert Blog, as well as CorpNetSmall Business TrendsChamber of Commerce, andScheduleBase. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.