It’s now official, the Pebble Time Kickstarter campaign is the most successful ever run on the site as it’s passed $16 million and more than 64,000 backers for the new e-paper colour smart watch.

Any time you have that amount of money being thrown at a product that’s not even shipping yet, you know someone in the marketing department has done something right. What’s more, Pebble has now demonstrated repeatable success, following up on its strong 2012 campaign that raised more than $10.2 million for the first Pebble.  Are there lessons for marketers to be learned here? Dave Knox thinks so, and explains in an article on AdvertisingAge.

  • By using Kickstarter to pre-emptively sell a product shipping in May, Pebble beat competitor Apple Inc. to the punch despite the fact the Apple Watch is expected to ship sooner. Here, Kickstarter has been proven as a salesplatform for a brand product launch, not just a place to raise some money for that creative project you dream about.
  • Just as brands relied upon direct response TV in the past to prove market demand and win space on retail shelves, Pebble has made use of Kickstarter to earn itself a spot on the shelves of retailers like Best Buy. Just as sales made via TV had a sense of urgency to them (“Call now to receive a one-time discounted price.”) Pebble offered discounts to the first people to jump on and back the campaign.
  • The fact that Pebble has had such success selling directly to consumers is trouble for retailers. With digital channels offering direct sales opportunities like never before, why do traditional retailers even need to be in the picture?

New business models place emphasis on marketing

To enjoy this record-breaking success, Pebble had to have an established brand that consumers were already familiar with. Thanks to its previous Kickstarter campaign, we all connected the brand name with “smart watch” and it wasn’t too much work from there to explain the benefits of a new device in that category. As more brands consider direct-to-consumer approaches,  marketers will find their roles even more important.