As technology expands and the entrepreneurial spirit of this tech-addicted generation grows with it, crowdfunding is more and more becoming the go-to means of funding products, services, and businesses. While it once might have seemed impossible to self-fund a business or product, aggregates like Kickstarter are making people’s dreams possible by allowing creators to turn to their friends - and the Internet community - to get their ideas off the ground.
Crowdfunding is great, there’s no doubt about that, but it can also be exploitative. As many great ideas as there are in nearly every field of product or service, there are just as many bizarre, strange, and downright stupid ones. Some of these campaigns are meant as jokes, some are meant to exemplify the non-regulatory nature of crowdfunding, and some are even meant to simply prey on the weak-willed who just like throwing money at things.
Either way, when the ultimate cost comes from a consumer who doesn’t know better, that’s when things can go askew. At the end of the day, though, it is the consumer’s money, and they can spend it on whatever they want, no matter how dumb or bizarre the idea or campaign might seem. Here are 10 bizarre Kickstarter campaigns that were successfully funded, but might have been better off failing.
10 Grilled Cheesus
When Rob Corso and Meg Sheehan set out to crowdfund their revolutionary product in 2012, they managed to combine two of the most irresistible things: the universal love of cheese, and the (somewhat) universal love of Jesus. These genius entrepreneurs realized that all things Jesus-related are a hit to 31.5% of the world’s population, while nearly 100% of the world’s population is crazy about cheese.
And they actually created a pretty spiffy looking product. The Grilled Cheesus is a George Foreman-esque electronic sandwich press that embeds the face of Jesus on your sandwich bread. As their Kickstarter campaign explains: “However you slice it, the GRILLED CHEESUS lets you bring little grilled miracles to mealtime, snack time, or anytime.” They asked for $25,000, and managed to squeeze out a successful $25,604 from crowdfunders.
9 5 O’clock Shadow
Tessa Rushton is the mastermind behind the 5 O’clock Shadow, which is described as a “hand-knitted, functional beard face mask.” We first assumed that Tessa created the product to nix her jealousy about not being able to grow her own beard, but then we realized there really is a functional use: to keep people’s faces warm during winter time.
She writes that the beards sell out very quickly every November, and since the successful campaign in 2012, she has started to get the beards into retail stores. The beards are made with cotton-poly lining and two elastic straps that go over your head to keep it in place. Tessa began with a modest goal of $3,000, and was able to get 25 backers to fund $3,119.
8 Meat Soap
Call me sexist, but I was a little surprised to find that Meat Soap was created by a woman, namely Alli Dryer. She firmly believed that “the aroma of freshly cooked bacon should linger long after breakfast,” and that “meaty and clean go hand in hand.” The product is made by rendered fats and animal byproducts typically used in bars of soap, to create a “rainbow of colors, scents, and flavors.”
Alli claims to want to spark a debate about personal hygiene and meat consumption - and she believes that “people should smell like bacon, not like mint or roses.” The soapy/meaty campaign launched in 2011, and raised $1,905 from 42 backers, making this campaign a sizzling success.
7 Crystal Bacon
Keeping with the bacon theme, this strange campaign was launched in 2012 by Greg Kiesow, as his “sculptural tribute to the most delicious of all meats, bacon.” Crystal Bacon is not - as some might think - edible, crystal-covered bacon (that might hurt the teeth a bit), but rather Christmas ornaments and jewelry.
Though not true crystal, it is sculpted from high-quality acrylic plastic by Greg, his wife Brittney, and daughter Quinn. The campaign was for a base inventory of acrylic, which is then sculpted by a CNC cutting machine into necklaces, earrings, and ornaments. After asking for $2,000, Greg ultimately raised $2,786 from 49 backers. Besides being rewarded with sets of earrings, necklaces, ornaments, high-end backers could also receive a “Crystal Bacon in Mahogany Frying Pan” sculpture, and a large, “Ultimate Crystal Bacon” sculpture on a polished aluminum stand.
6 POOP: The Game
POOP: The Game is a card game full of toilet humor, that managed to raise $11,696 from a goal of $4,500, thanks to 668 enthusiastic backers. As described by developer Feels Right Design, POOP: The Game, is a “kids’ game! It’s a drinking game! Just not a Kids’ Drinking Game” (there are even drinking game rules for adults). POOP is an Uno-like game where the first player to run out of cards wins.
Some of the cards make players perform funny acts, such as making a farting sound on your turn, or grunting. We can see why kids would like this game - and drunk adults, for that matter. As the Kickstarter explains, “Kids love it because of the silly designs and opportunity to make poop jokes.” They also say it’s educational, as it teaches children basic math.
5 Combat Kitchenware
For some, Combat Kitchenware may seem like a bizarre idea fit only for nerds and Game of Thrones addicts, but for 651 backers, it seemed like a superb idea. The campaign, created by James Brown of Morlock Enterprises, managed to raise $46,261 from a $7,000 goal, managing to go over its goal by 660%. The developers pride themselves on creating “fighting man frying pans” and “epic kitchenware to make your meals legendary.”
Combat Kitchenware takes regular pots and pans and makes them into nearly-functional battle weapons. (Although aren’t pans already functional battle weapons)? They add sword and axe handles to various frying pans, and turn others into mighty looking shields. As described on their Kickstarter, the Fighting Man’s Frying Pan (FMFP) is a “battle hardened piece of cookware ready to maul any meal you sling before it.”
4 Pi Pie Pan
On the other spectrum of geeky cookware for less-mighty and more cerebrally-inclined chefs out there, we have the Pi Pie Pan, created by Garrett H. The idea is one where many Pi enthusiasts must have been thinking, “How did I not think/create that?” Basically, the Pi Pie Pan is a simple baking pan built in the shape of Pi (that sentence was as confusing to write as I’m sure it was to read).
According to the Kickstarter, brownies, cornbread, and pie are all great to bake in the pan because of all the crispy edges that you get. Despite the seemingly simple design, Garrett had a mechnical engineer from MIT (Chris), and a manufacturer and distributing expert (Philip), to help his dream come to fruition. With a modest goal of $2,000, this product exploded on Kickstarter, raising $17,542 from 741 backers, or 877% of its goal.
3 Period Panties
This shameless, menstrual-themed panties line was created by Anthony of Harebrained Inc. The Kickstarter totes Period Panties as, “Fun underwear that high-fives you for having ovaries and serves as a friendly reminder to others!” The panties are exactly what they sound like: women’s underwear with period-based slogans and logos across them.
The product absolutely exploded when it hit Kickstarter, reaching $404,763 from a $10,000 goal pledge, from a whopping 9,550 backers. That’s over 4,000% of the pledged goal! Some of the subtle phrases on the panties include gems like, “Bleeder of the Pack,” “Captain Redbeard,” “Dawn of the Red,” “Sour Puss,” and “Evil Beaver.” As the description goes on to say, “Half the world menstruates, so why not have some fun with it?!”
2 A Chicken Burrito
Noboru Bitoy had the great idea to start a campaign to graph the deliciousness of a chicken burrito from Chipotle, and he wanted backers from Kickstarter to fund his work. And, just to exemplify the utter ridiculousness of what crowdfunders will spend their money on, Noboru’s campaign was met with great success. Of the meager $8 he was asking for, the campaign raised $1,050 from 258 backers, or over 13,000% of his goal, which was a record at the time in 2014.
After reaching stretch goals that included producing of video of himself eating a burrito while skydiving from 13,000 feet, Noboru ate 24 different Chipotle chicken burrito combinations and sent a “deliciousness graph” to each of his backers. The graph was on a scale of: “No. I don’t like this burrito at all,” “Meh. I’m not excited about this burrito,” “Hrm. I think this burrito is kind of good,” “Mmm. I think this burrito is pretty good,” “Yum! I think this burrito is very good,” to “Wow! Best burrito ever!”
1 Potato Salad
The potato salad campaign, created by Zack Danger Brown, became a global phenomenon and the most successful Kickstarter campaign in terms of percentage reached. When giving the simple description, “Basically I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet,” the world - both online and in the media - absolutely blew up. The campaign raised $55,492 from a pledged goal of $10, meaning it passed its goal mark by over 550,000%!
While many praised his clever idea, many also chastised Zack for exploiting crowdfunding people of their money - but that’s kind of the point - to show how much disregard people have for throwing money at things, in a humorous way. During its run, the Potato Salad campaign made national headlines, and was mentioned in media outlets over 2,500 times.
The good news, though, is that Brown plans to spend the majority of the money by throwing a potato festival called PotatoStock, which will sell hundreds of pounds of potato salad and then donate the proceeds to fight homelessness and hunger in Ohio. Good on ya, Mr Brown.