Are joke campaigns (see previous post Crazy Kickstarter Campaigns That Succeeded) ruining the crowdfunding industry? Let’s start with the infamous Potato Salad Kickstarter campaign from 2014, created by Zach Brown.

That the campaign was ridiculous is a statement no one could argue with. However, the campaign was pretty much a success. How come? The goal was $10 yet the campaign raised over $5,000 times that amount. Brown was able to fulfil his goal and give people their rewards – something that far more significant and successful campaigns fail to do.

The humorous nature of the campaign enabled him to receive a huge amount of publicity from the press. Since then many have tried to replicate his success but have failed miserably.

The “Get Kanye Out of Debt” GoFundMe campaign from February 2016 was set up by Jeremy Piatt to help the rapper out his of personal debt, setting a rather enthusiastic goal of $53 million. The campaign received a substantial amount of press coverage and raised a sum. However, shortly after launch it was announced that the proceeds of the campaign would go to a non-profit organisation called “Notes for Notes” as Kanye reportedly declined the total funds from GoFundMe.

This becomes an issue when more worthwhile campaigns fail to receive this same recognition. For example, charitable campaigns on GoFundMe would benefit hugely from this type of coverage and most certainly almost reach their goal, if nothing else. However, it is the absurd nature of some campaigns that bring them into the public eye. One could question whether these campaigns are creating negative publicity for the crowdfunding site that they are originating from. But if there is no such thing as publicity, the awareness these campaigns create about the crowdfunding industry could help more worthwhile campaigns get funding.

In other ridiculous campaigns the impact may not have been as immense as the potato salad campaign but the ideas were just as daft. We have the “Thinking Cap” where over $2,500 was pledged to a hat that simply represents positive thinking, and “The 30 year T-Shirt”, guaranteed to last for (you guessed it) 30 years! Over £20,000 was raised for this particular campaign. In their simplest form these campaigns are just for a hat and t-shirt.

In February 2014, a campaign for Poop: The Game was launched and over $11,000 was pledged. And in 2012 someone raised almost $50,000 for a spatula. The question is whether these campaigns raise awareness for crowdfunding in general – and thereby help more worthwhile campaigns, or whether they take funding from causes that really need funding.

Perhaps we all just want to donate to a ridiculous campaign now and again – and this makes the whole sector more fun. Ridiculous campaigns will always reappear on crowdfunding sites but is there actually more to learn from these campaigns than we think? Almost two years on and the potato salad campaign is still one of the most viewed Kickstarter projects of all time. Beyond the silliness, maybe there is a lesson to be learned for the more serious campaigns.