999Bottles has attracted the attention and support of hundreds of people from all over the world. One of our most vocal supporters is Jonathan Eric Defante, who was selected as a 2011 United Nations Citizen Ambassador for his change-inspiring video Changing the World, One Bottle at a Time. A native of The Philippines, Jonathan currently lives in Dubai. But not for long—he is planning to go to Guatemala and help build a classroom out of used plastic bottles.
We sat down with Jonathan last week to learn more about what inspired him to do the video and what lies ahead for him.
Tell us about yourself. How did you become a UN Citizen Ambassador? What did you do before and how has this honor changed your life?
I graduated in Mapua Institute of Technology back in Oct 2009, under the program of Electronics Engineering. I worked as a high-school teacher for about a year. I was 21 back then and in 2011 tried finding work here in Dubai. It was around August that I had the chance to stumble upon a website citing that it was World Humanitarian Day and then the UN had this contest for the Citizen Ambassador. I checked out couple of the previous videos and then I felt that I could do it as well. I had a whole week off before I started my new job as a sales associate in Virgin Megastore and so I used that time to create the video and deliver the idea into a 30-second pitch.
I got a call from New York early October informing me that I qualified to the Top 20 and then, the next day, that I was selected as one of the three Ambassadors, out of more than 500 entries worldwide. Limitless opportunities opened up for me — I’ve been introduced to many great and inspiring individuals and it gave me a chance to connect to people who share my vision and advocacy passion. It made me more responsible and led me to have this dream of helping communities and the environment at the same time.
We’re taking a moment to breathe and thank everyone for the remarkable support we’ve received for 999Bottles. We surpassed 10% of our funding goal in our first 3 days on Kickstarter! And with this milestone comes a bit of reflection on some lessons learned so far.
Marketing strategy #1: build community, early.
Start your marketing before you launch. We started a modest Facebook page a month before launching on Kickstarter. Not only was it a great way to gather early support and build some groundswell buzz, but it also gave us a sense of the issues that could come up.
We shared the process with our followers as we went along and looked for what resonated with people. It really helped us make decisions on how to conduct the launch. It also allowed us to tell the story of 999Bottles from the point of view of the people behind the project. We defined our motivation by sharing information on what plastic consumption does to the environment. We posted early prototypes of the product and packaging ideas to convey the reasons behind our design choices, and openly discussed our pricing considerations.
A side benefit of starting marketing early is that it allows you to identify and connect with influencers whose support you will need. In our case, Facebook and Twitter helped us connect with the UN Citizen Ambassador for 2011 Jonathan Eric Defante and artist Katharine Harvey.
Be everywhere. One channel it’s not enough. Over 66% of our donations come from external referrals such as, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, this blog, press, etc. It all helps drive pledges and you can track which sources drove the most. In our case, the top sources of backers were Search results, direct traffic, and posts on Uncrate, FastCo Design, and Huffington Post. The lesson is: no one channel is the answer. So take advantage of the multiple platforms and build a large digital footprint to increase your chances of driving your project toward your fundraising goal.
Ensure you can adapt to KS structure.
Kickstarter is set up for individuals rather than companies, even small studios like ours do not quite match the structure. So when we tried to set up the Amazon payments through one of our founders, Amazon Payments rejected our account because it did not match the KS account owner we had set up. It took us several days to figure out how to set it up correctly and a lot fo back-and-forward!
BTW, use KS support. One thing we’ve learned with every challenge we’ve faced is that KS has AWESOME customer support. They are quick to get back to you and very friendly and follow-up until the issue is resolved.
Be ready to provide answers and change plans, quickly.
Oui-Oui! International shipping!!! We really didn’t think we would have such international appeal with 999Bottles so we were caught off-guard with the demands to ship the bottle to every corner of the world. We quickly re-calculated and updated the costs, but then we found out we couldn’t change the pledge rewards once you go live. So make sure you plan for even the most unforeseen places in the world from the get-go!
Be ready to provide answers! Personal thank-yous, prompt replies — the KS community is a very active one and it’s pretty much a full-time job to stay on top of messages. Fortunately, the KS site has many ways to keep your community engaged. Do use Updates, FAQs or contact your backers directly. Just plan to have a dedicated time slot every day to tend to the community so you don’t fall behind.
Another little thing that came up was demand for an Android app. Our original plan included only an iPhone app, but now that we’re getting more and more questions about it we’re starting to think about how much money, resources, timing, would take us to do this. We’re trying to listen hard to the community to determine our path forward. We won’t be able to please everyone but besides raising capital, KS is a great market test for a product. So don’t dismiss the request you get even if they don’t fit your original vision.
And finally, track everything (not just bottles!)
I’m addicted to the KS dashboard (confession: I love tracking tools!) but I got this link from Selina Rodriguez our studio coordinator (she’s the beautiful lady with Ray Ban glasses in our glam picture!) and it saves a ton of math time to figure out projections and it’s updates almost real-time. The point is data can help you have a very dynamic project and adapt to the rhythm of your campaign. For example, on Facebook, we learned that Thursdays were our most active day so we started release important updates and promptly saw higher engagement.