Ever since the Baby Bestiary Handbook Volume 1 (2014) success, I’ve wanted to expand the Baby Bestiary into a brand. One of the avenues that I felt was the most obvious to expand into was plushes. Surprisingly there are very few beast plushes on the tabletop marketplace and those that were on the market were very stylized and did not try to bring out the best (or the cute) in the beast.
When I first started I tried to approach the project as I did with artists, inspire those who were capable, and let them run with the concept. However in this case it did not work as well as I had wanted when approaching manufacturers. As I approached manufacturers, it became clear that they tried to make an owlbear within the tools they had (such as making it akin to a teddy bear), rather than its own thing, and led to uninspiring results
It was only during a trip into Japan Town (Los Angeles), where my wife and I went into one of the plush stores, and it clicked with me that I should try stylizing the design. After taking a bunch of pictures and doing some research, I asked one of our artists (Vincent Yau), to try illustrating an owlbear in the style of these plushes.
This yielded a design that I was really looking for. I also approached a specialist (Soft Toy Designs) who would be able to develop a prototype and produce the patterns that I could use for taking pictures as well as for funding a crowdfunding campaign.
The first design wasn’t quite what I saw in the illustration, but you could see potential there. The designer asked for turnaround art to help better understand the shape and while discussing with the artist, he produced the following turnaround sketches, to provide more clarity on the edges and shape we were looking for.
First Pass Prototype
Second Pass Prototype
Crowdfunding & Advertising
We knew the design was a hit, so the next challenge was “how to get it out there”, Kickstarter campaigns are much like a video game launch, in where you only have a few moments to shine before getting lost in the sea of noise. In addition, since I had other project obligations and couldn’t immediately launch the project, I took the time to build hype and knowledge for the campaign.
We first announced the plush to our fans using our mailing list, which immediately got a good reception, this also extended to our prior Kickstarter backing audience. Since we didn’t know when we were going to launch yet, we started doing photoshoots of the owlbear and used the hashtag #OwlbearPlush and #OwlbearAdventures in combination with other, more popular tags, to gain notice. Having a decent-sized audience at this point on social also helped in getting noticed.
As the blocking projects completed, and the crowdfunding campaign launch date was set, we did an open call and hired several artists to illustrate their version of the owlbear plush. Artists retained the rights to their pieces but granted us the right to use for marketing as well as the rights to use it in an Owlbear Artbook, if one was to be created.
And finally, notify-on-launch, is absolutely the most important part to launching the campaign. Almost every week, I would post the pre-launch campaign page to get more followers for the project. When it came time to launch we had over 800 project followers.
Running a crowdfunding campaign is always a flurry. There are always a million things to do, from updating the crowdfunding page, responding to backer comments and questions, promoting social media, and working on advertising.
The campaign funded within the first 30 minutes, which is great, but we needed to keep the steam going. About a week into the project, we finalized an agreement with Backerkit Marketing, to help boost and support the project (they work as an advertiser for the project by fronting advertising costs, with a royalty commission on converted backers).
When the campaign came to a close we had raised over $385,000 from 7000 backers!
Once all the funds were collected and advertising was reimbursed, it came time to working with a manufacturer. From the prototyping days, I had reached out to numerous manufacturers to see what the cost of production would be for various quantities of plushes, this served as a baseline in estimating the backer costs. We initially had a low production bar set. But since the explosion of backers we were able to work with a higher quality/more-reputable manufacturer (Happy Worker).
Production story. To be added.