Potato Salad: By the Numbers

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When you work at Kickstarter, you come across amazing projects all the time. But in the site’s five-year history we’ve never seen anything quite like Zack Brown’s potato salad project.

It wasn’t the project’s ambitions that blew us away, because... well, it wasn’t very ambitious, at least at first. It was the reaction Zack got from all corners of the Internet: head-scratching, laughter, loud harrumphing, pure delight. And it was Zack’s graceful handling of a project that quickly became far too big to fit in a bowl.

The potato salad project ended Saturday with $55,492 in pledges from 6,911 backers. Here’s a look at how it got there.

Zack’s project started popping up in the press almost immediately. On July 6th, three days after it went live, Zack was on local TV news in Columbus, Ohio, expressing amazement at how the thing had blown up. At the time he had fewer than 200 backers.

Traffic to the project page quickly took off and eventually reached 4.1 million visits.

That made it the fourth-most-viewed project page in Kickstarter’s history. The top ten:

  1. Ouya game console
  2. Pebble watch
  3. Veronica Mars movie
  4. Potato Salad
  5. Double Fine Adventure
  6. Project Eternity
  7. Penny Arcade
  8. Reading Rainbow
  9. Mighty No. 9
  10. Oculus Rift

It’s funny to think that more people have seen the potato salad project than Oculus Rift, but hey, the Internet is a crazy place.

Despite all the traffic, the project received fewer pledges than anything else on that list. Here's a breakdown of pledges by day, showing a big surge at the start and then a flurry of backers getting in just before the deadline:

Hunger for potato salad knows no borders: people in 74 countries supported the project. Here are the top ten:

Country Backers
United States 4,676
United Kingdom  419
Canada 363
Australia 220
Germany 179
France 107
Sweden 82
Denmark 54
Netherlands 53
Switzerland 46

Among countries with more than five backers, Norway had the highest average pledge at $12, followed by South Korea and Sweden.

About two-thirds of Zack’s backers were from the US, and they pledged a total of $41,166. Here is a breakdown showing what percentage of that total came from each state:

(We've omitted some states, including those contributing less than 0.5% of total money pledged to potato salad)
(We've omitted some states, including those contributing less than 0.5% of total money pledged to potato salad)

Ohio, California, and New York pledged the most to the project. Ohio was no surprise, as it’s Zack’s home state. In fact, if we zoom in on Ohio, there’s particular strength around Columbus, Zack’s hometown, where his friends and neighbors wanted to come along for the ride. More than 62% of the money in Ohio came from Franklin County, which includes Columbus. Columbus is now gearing up to host PotatoStock 2014 next month.

As you might expect, most pledges to this project were small. Backers averaged $8.03 per pledge, compared with a Kickstarter-wide average of $77.51.

Most of the project's backers were not new to Kickstarter: 72% were repeat backers. In fact, even when you include the newcomers, potato salad backers have backed an average of 15 projects on Kickstarter! So while this was a global joke on the Internet, backing the project became an inside joke among core Kickstarter fans.

Here are the projects that people backed the most before they backed the potato salad project:

  1. Reading Rainbow - 868 backers
  2. Double Fine Adventure - 437 backers
  3. Ouya - 343 backers
  4. Mighty No. 9 - 340 backers
  5. Torment: Tides of Numenera - 293 backers
  6. The Veronica Mars Movie Project - 276 backers
  7. Project Eternity - 262 backers
  8. Pebble - 245 backers
  9. Wasteland 2 - 239 backers
  10. Kung Fury - 230 backers

...and those they've backed since potato salad:

  1. Coolest Cooler - 101 backers
  2. Sense - 99 backers
  3. Bunch O Balloons - 95 backers
  4. Electric Objects - 39 backers
  5. Litographs Tattoos - 36 backers
  6. The Deer God - 36 backers
  7. Bibliotheca - 34 backers
  8. NudeAudio Super-M - 30 backers
  9. The Resistance - 29 backers
  10. Timespinner - 27 backers

The project also received an incredible amount of press. According to the media analytics service Meltwater, it got 2,068 media mentions in 54 countries.

Country Media Mentions
United States 1,319
Australia 272
Canada 95
United Kingdom  70
India 49
Singapore 29
Malaysia 24
Germany 20
New Zealand 20
China 18

Some of our favorite features were in The New Yorker, Good Morning America, Columbus Alive, and The Verge (and also The Verge).

Tons of people would have watched Zack’s project video — except that he didn’t make one. Here’s our favorite of his video updates:

Zack’s project inspired some handwringing about What It All Means. Here’s one take: Kickstarter is a good place to aim high and go big, but small projects are great too. If you want to make something to share with others, maybe you just need ten or 20 or 50 people to get your idea off the ground. And if it turns out that 6,911 people share your vision for potato salad… then you’re going to need some more potatoes.

We look forward to seeing your project! And maybe we’ll see you at PotatoStock 2014.

Got ideas for other fun things we could do with all the great data we have at Kickstarter? Write to us: stories@kickstarter.com.
    1. Missing avatar

      Beth Olson on

      I'm so curious to know what he ends up doing with the money. We were talking about it over drinks the other night (what we would do if we were in his place- a joke that ends up with completely unexpected level of monetary support) and thought it would be totally awesome to create a documentary about the situation including following him around the us as he delivers (or makes it with them in home) his salad to some of his backers, face to face. Meeting these people finding out who they are and maybe talking with them about their thoughts on the project, why they backed it, perhaps even collect people's own favorite recipes. I don't know, we felt like there is a lot of potential here for creativity and still keeping in the vein of the project.

    2. Erica on

      Count me in with those disappointed that this project was approved, but totally supporting KS in their right to approve what they like.

      It did give the site lots of publicity. It did create some new backers so hopefully down the line it will help another project. But so many deserving projects go unfunded because they don't get the exposure they need (possibly because they don't run good campaigns).

      As someone who has worked in the non-profit world for almost 6 years, that amount of money could be spent on what are in my opinion much more worthy causes. But it's not my money to spend and this guy has a right to ask for it just as much as anyone else.

    3. Missing avatar

      G. Brooks Arnold on

      Near the end of the campaign, I did a little number crunching myself, beginning with how many spammers were among the comments. They averaged about 10%, much lower than it felt like.

      I also figured out that about 2/3 of the total backers contributed just $1, $2, or $3, adding up to about 1/3 of the total funds raised. This, of course, means the remaining 1/3 of backers contributed about 2/3's of the money. (Kind of a weird set of statistics. What could it mean...?)

      I assumed all along that the majority of backers were first time participants on KS, who had jumped on board due to the viral aspect of the event which Potato Salad had become. I'm very happily surprised to learn that I was incorrect, and that nearly 3/4 of the backers were repeat KS members. To me THAT IN ITSELF legitimizes the campaign, de facto.

      The vast majority of backers "got it", knew exactly what they were doing and chose to join in.

      Kudos to all participants!

    4. Jo and Sean on

      @Tony Gruber was about to have a say which I don't normally do but the volume of negative comments here compelled me!
      Tony your comments reflect my and others exact feelings, so thanks the succinct view.
      We have control who we back and those that gain success, do so for the right reasons.

      Kickstarter is truly awesome! Keep up the great work!

    5. Joe Neill on

      After reading all the comments there is a raw nerve that non joke projects are diluted. The fact that this was a joke and was the KickStrater, "Pet Rock," offended those that felt their food project was harder to find because of the 8,000 copy cat projects. The solution could be in the search algorithm. Put a humor navigation button and those not interested in funny projects could filter them out.

    6. John thomas Oaks on

      Wow, there are a lot of sour grapes in this comment forum! If it works, and it makes the creator and Kickstarter tons of money, Go, Go, Go! Maybe there's no accounting for taste, but who cares? Potato Salad was a fantastic idea, and if others can't see it, let them come up with their own moneymaking idea. A lot of people seem to have gotten their feelings hurt by the success of Potato Salad, and I feel sorry for these people. It makes me sad to realize that some people have no sense of humor. Irony is a great thing to reward if for no other reason than the fact that irony is lost on such a large percentage of the population. If we have to work harder to get people to notice our creativity, so be it. It will just make the success that much sweeter when it finally does come around.

      Congratulations, Zack.

      Congratulations, Kickstarter.

    7. Missing avatar

      Chris Faiella on

      Im reading a lot of comments about how bad it is that KS let somebody in who did something creative, unusual, and kind of tongue-in-cheek and it blew out his and anyone elses expectations. Sounds like a crowd of jealousy out there by some who just possibly haven't made their goals on KS yet or havent figured out how to list a successful project. I'm a successful entrepreneur, and I can tell you, this kind of creativity and balls will get you what you want. Have you all forgotten the pet rock? And this unchained creativity is whre we'll go for ideas, investing, and a creative kickstart. And it will attract people who are serious investors to come see whats going on on KS. Quit your whining and get to work.

    8. KevinR

      It used to be that I would review the "Just Launched" projects (in all categories) a couple times per day and review the "Ending Soon" projects (in all categories) a couple times per week, so that I would look at (at least) the short description of every project twice.

      However, since the rash of copycat projects began the project lists have been swamped by joke projects -- at times legitimate projects seemed to comprise less than 25% of the new projects. I no longer have the time to look at new projects or ending soon projects except in very narrow categories.

      Kickstarter's lax review *is* hurting legitimate creators, because it is reducing the value of Kickstarter's project finding tools. If I cannot find a project, I cannot back it.

    9. Elizabeth Karr on

      As a Kickstarter creator of a successful project (Philip K. Dick film Radio Free Albemuth Theatrical Distribution), I would love to have this kind of geographic breakdown of backers. These graphics/ breakdowns would be a useful tool to many project creators. If there's a way to do this that I've missed, please point me in the right direction. And if it doesn't exist - please consider adding it to the dashboard.

    10. Missing avatar

      Jan on

      Compelled by this story hitting the newspaper in Townsville Australia, to read some of the other comments, most of which have some valid points for an against running a project like this.
      My view is that we are a sad society when so much can be raised for such a worthless 'cause' when I see many other really valuable projects - like one I ran successfully on another platform - struggle to make their goals.
      I - and many of my friends and family - worked really hard to get media coverage and keep the momentum up and I did get what I needed for a research project in a developing country, but it was near a full time job for about 3 months.
      It says a lot about where our priorities lie as a society that such a puerile project had this ridiculous amount of success.

    11. Marj Weir on

      this may be of interest to some, comments from people who did back this project. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/11/potato-salad-kickstarter_n_5573874.html

    12. T.J. Fuller, Jr.

      My only regret is that it looks I hadn't pitched in even a buck for potato salad. This whole project's course has just been golden like Idaho's best.

    13. Missing avatar

      Windsor Kasekende on

      I was part of the 4.1 million visits who was only interested enough to glance at the first page and not particularly pleased that entries like this (http://www.kicktraq.com/search/…) have doing better than projects which need the funding.

      That said, I really appreciate the number crunching and analysis presented and will probably keep on reading these in the future. It is good to know that most of the backers were repeat backers who didn't give it billions individually and they went on to fund projects which needed a push and/or already funded a good number of interesting stuff. Maybe in that sense, I could have given it a dollar before spotting something else worth more.

    14. Maurizio Imparato on

      "How much you will pay for a laugh"? Emotions are priceless and PS is showing us how, sometimes, relationship is more important than content. Here on KS "content is not always king". Thank you very much guys for the data "behind the scene", it's very important for understanding how world is changing real fast with CF.

    15. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    16. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    17. Missing avatar

      teguhbejo on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    18. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.