045: Marketing for a Successful Kickstarter with the Co-creator of Trash Cult

There is much for our heroes to learn, so first they must seek out Hannah Strack – the Supreme Design Queen, creator of Trash Cult – and pay homage.

Things discussed in this episode:

  • 00:22 – Trash Cult
  • 01:07 – Starting FoxHen Creatives
  • 08:57 – Marketing a game
  • 12:53 – Talking numbers around marketing and ad spend
  • 17:53 – How to get in contact with FoxHen Creatives
  • 18:55 – D12

About this transcript: the following includes our verbal gaffes, but includes timestamps and subheadings to make it more convenient to find specific topics.

Hannah: Okay. I am the co-founder and co-owner of FoxHen Creatives, which started as a webcomic that turned into a shirt shop, which then became an illustration and design studio, and now we make games. We made our first game across the last eight months. It successfully funded on Kickstarter in 25 minutes.

It was Trash Cult.

That is a two to four, like, casual, pretty just like a fun game where you’re playing as little leaders of animals that collect trash food.

Whoever gets the most of their food that they need plus an animal to worship it, in the end, wins so that’s the kind of vibe we throw down as a studio: just like fun little games that you can play nothing too crunchy.

And that kind of vibes with me I’m not a I’m not a crunchy girl I like silly little things.

[00:00:56] Tim: I’m sure you’ve had people say to you many times, that sounds trashy.

[00:01:00] Hannah: oh yeah yeah Yeah, yeah. Look, I am here to make the trash games. I will claim that proudly.

Starting FoxHen Creatives

[00:01:07] Tim: Walk us through how you kind of got to making FoxHen Creatives.

[00:01:12] Hannah: I mean, when I was really young, I have vivid memories of playing Pretty Pretty Princess and getting overly competitive about it.

[00:01:21] Tim: It’s a good one. Yeah.

[00:01:23] Hannah: But after that, um, like I grew up with games in the family, so we played a lot of like Five Crowns, Quiddler, Scrabble, the classics, you know, like Monopoly, all that kind of stuff.

Um, I didn’t really get into indie games until we decided that Maybe we wanted to design a game. So I came at indie games from less a, Oh, this is just fun to do. And more of like intense research. We must dissect all of these games, figure out how they work, why people like them, why we like them, what’s, what we would do differently with them.

Um, I understand a lot of people in game design, I would say hobby. Um, come at indie games, like their origin story is a little different than that. Um, but since the two of us have a research background, I think it was the most natural take for us to get into games that way.

Joe is my co-designer, co-designer. business owner. Um, we’ve been working together since 2016. Uh, we started Foxton at the very end of it. We actually got into business together by starting a student agency together at the community college we were going to, where we oversaw like 12 designers, give or take, depending on what time of year.

Um, and through that process, we’re like, I think we actually really like working together and we should do more crazy stuff. Cause like who at 18 is like, you know, it’d be cool starting a design agency business in your college because we don’t have enough work to do.

[00:02:56] Tim: Students who just needed representation or work or defense or like, what is the thought?

[00:03:02] Hannah: So we started it as …, because it’s a community college and you’re generally there for two, sometimes three years and you’re getting an Associate’s out of it. There’s a lot of, you need a piece of paper to get a job. If you don’t have that four-year piece of paper, you need a lot of experience. But when you’re already balancing a full course load, trying to get through your associates, it’s hard to get that job.

It’s hard to get a paying job. Because everyone wants to do a free internship. So we came to this student agency with the mindset of let’s give people in our program, some actual hands-on experience with clients that they can put on their resume straight out of that two-year degree and get a job even without transferring.

So we did also internal stuff for the college, which is how we worked. It was, you build interdepartmentally. So it still counts as actual work experience, but we did have a slew of. Real-life clients that people would bring in from, whether it’s the invention kind of group that was there or local communities that were like, I have a small business, the budget is not all the way there, but I can still pay you guys.

And I think it’d be good for you to get some experience. So lots of branding. We made an art festival at one point that went horribly. Um,

[00:04:19] Tim: Art Festival gone wrong.

[00:04:21] Hannah: Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, the art festival is why I had any trepidation at all getting into a big project like You know, designing a game, because I’ve seen how if you don’t have control over the marketing and the marketing isn’t done right, how much impact that has over a large project, which is why we were very, very, like, cross all the T’s, dot all the I’s, on the marketing side of launching our game.

We like to chase the creative energy. Like, where it takes us is where we go. Um, and we’re storytellers at every stage of that. So, I mean, we started with a webcomic. There’s not much more direct storytelling than making a webcomic. And then we transitioned that, we’re like, Oh, we love all these illustrations, and what if we put them on things?

And people like that. And then we were like, well, what if we brought it to shows? And we started doing more of our illustrations. We just started leaning more that way. And we were like, well, COVID hit. And our illustrations at art shows,

[00:05:25] Hannah: you’re just looking at your four walls, you start collecting a lot of prints and running out of wall space.

So we would see more and more people. They’re like, I love your art, but I have nowhere to put it.

[00:05:38] Tim: Mm.

[00:05:38] Hannah: well, we really have to pivot in a way that people can still buy our user art because they like it. They just don’t have a space for it. So let’s, let’s make something that they can use and it’s easy to store away.

And we had gone to do portfolio reviews for someone in, um, Sinclair. University, Sinclair College, Sinclair Community College. That’s what it is. Um, and one of their alumni was speaking about how they worked with a game studio when they were working with their agency. I was like, you know, honestly, it’s still art.

It’s just playable art. And I think we could run with that. And that’s how we made our full transition from storytelling in the most literal sense to storytelling in a very interactive way.

[00:06:31] Tim: So you seem to be, and, correct me if I’m wrong here, um, Hannah, but you have a marketing strategy with kickstarting a game and the whole processes but, uh, generally, uh, have a background in marketing and that is your nine to five, right? So how does that work with FoxHen Creative, but then specifically, how does it work with trash cult?

[00:06:54] Hannah: Yeah. So I mean, while my degree was in graphic design and advertising, it very much leaned more on graphic design. So my marketing experience comes from working in marketing departments. I’ve been in the marketing department since 2019. So five years now of being in a marketing department proper, I would say would comfortably have seven years of experience in marketing if we include some previous stuff.

Um, But like 9 to 5, 40 hours a week marketing, 5 years. Uh, so, while my experience is directly in the food and restaurant industry, a lot of it transfers when you consider me making a game, you making a game, is just a giant product release. And considering you can make a kick-ass product, but if people don’t know about it, what are, what are we doing?

Like, is it just for us? That’s fine if it’s just for us, but if you want to bake. any amount of money, even just to break even on things. You got to get it in a lot of people’s faces, because the conversion rates? No. yeah, so for Trash Cult, I knew going in we needed probably Two months bare minimum of marketing this game pretty hardcore.

Three months is like, oh, that’s more comfy. Some people say six months is where they like to be. But for us, we did December 6th was the first day I started running ads. And we launched our campaign on January 30th. So right around two months.

Like every conversation with any new person I had, Oh, did you know that I’m making this game? You should check this out. Do you have anyone that likes games? Here’s, here’s a business card. Check out this QR code. Most of marketing is just Nonstop talking.

Marketing a game

[00:08:57] Schofield: I must admit that the idea of marketing. Really like overwhelms me , but I also acknowledge that it’s so critical and it just feels like this overwhelming wall.

[00:09:13] Hannah: Yeah, I mean, that is how most people feel about marketing. Um, especially if you are very comfortable in the game design space, like it is a very different side of your brain to now be like, okay, now I have to show it off to the world and get people to like, give me money for this thing. Um, So when I say it is two to three months of hardcore marketing, that does not mean you need to sit in front of a camera and shoot TikToks all day.

Uh, that could be managing an ad account through Facebook and making sure that your audiences are right, that you’re getting people through your funnel, um, understanding your sales funnel, and email contact funnel. That, that strategy can take you like 30 hours a week of just fine tuning things and making sure that things are like, As good as they can be.

And when it comes to content, honestly, I, we’ve been working on this game for eight months. I’ve been posting about this game for eight months on TikTok, but that’s because I wanted to network, not necessarily market. So the content that I was making in those two to three months, yeah, yes, there’s some, some of my content you can tell is like, please, please check out my Kickstarter.

[00:10:30] Tim: Please, sir, just a dollar to finish your bag.

[00:10:34] Hannah: But a lot of, a lot of the content’s not, a lot of it’s just talking about game design in general and like, you know, talking with my online friends to a bigger audience that other people just happen to see it. And people like to hear that kind of stuff. It’s not necessarily solicitous.

[00:10:50] Tim: it seems like from everyone we’re talking to, and basically what you just said with ads, you know.

Going to conventions, talking to people, influencers and newsletters. I mean, you kind of have to do it all. Uh, is that what you would think? .

[00:11:02] Hannah: Yeah, I would say it’s It’s a pretty big spread. So like 28. 7 percent of our email list of 1, 567 people backed the campaign. Um, so that is like A huge, that’s like a, that, that is a large conversion rate. So you can make those happen, um, 60 percent of our first 24 hour funds came from people who were on that, like, Kickstarter watch page that they chose, like, notify me about it.

And there’s going to be crossover between that email list and that Kickstarter page, because you’re, you’re normally telling people in your email list, go click that green button. That way, like, if I’m late to sending my email, you still get notified, but those percent, those 2 percentages are like insane numbers to be 38, 000 and 60 percent of like the first 24 hours, which I think was 12, 000 like that.

That’s. What, 7, 500 or something? It’s just people that were watching the page.

[00:12:04] Tim: Did you have a specific strategy or calendar for newsletters?

[00:12:09] Hannah: email list mostly as a we promise not to annoy you with emails. We will only give you updates about this game when it is coming out, when the Kickstarter is happening, and then the updates after, like, late pledges, um, major updates. So we try to be as the least amount tiresome as we possibly can with our emails. Um, And more only use it as a, this is a very important thing that you need to see. And then our socials are normally more of the, the, we’re going to post more regularly to them.

That’s where you’re going to hear from us because you’re going to come to us to listen to that rather than us just holding up a sign in front of your face. Like, hi, we have information.

[00:12:51] Tim: zoom out.

Talking numbers around marketing and ad spend

[00:12:53] Schofield: I don’t need like real numbers or whatever, but you’re an indie game designer, you’re doing this on the side, a hobby profession, right? You’re, you’re trying to do something you have end budget. How much of that should actually be reserved for like ad spend?

For marketing and, and things of that nature.

[00:13:11] Hannah: I’m happy to talk numbers. So we’ll, we’ll start at the win of like when to actually, you think you should be starting your marketing. The win is highly for us dependent on. We’re basically ready to launch. We, we have games that are ready to roll, um, which means I’m able to photograph games and have actual content of them.

Um, that is not the place for everybody. Some people still like to be doing development work when they’re doing their Kickstarter. It’s just what I felt most comfortable with, um, doing our first game. When it comes to how much to spend on your ads, most people say the 10%. of your, whatever you’re thinking of your Kickstarter fund is probably what you’re going to spend in ads.

This ranged pretty true for us. We ended up at around 38k and our ad cost, I’m not considering influencers, but our ad costs like Meta, Google, and a little bit of TikTok was I believe 3, 200. So that is including both prior to launch and during launch. Our influencer costs were another 1, 600 because we went very influencer heavy.

I had 17 influencers on my spreadsheet that we sent games to, and influencers was a large part of what made our campaign a success. We had a video from, um, Nick Sparkman who it got, you know, I think it ended up at like 750, 000 views or something on TikTok. Um, we ended up seeing spikes for the three days following that, that ended up.

Being like an extra 150 high quality leads, which we define a high quality lead as someone who did that dollar down like xseekers is doing. Um, versus someone who just put their email in and said, yes, notify me about the game, which I mean, we saw over 50 percent of our high quality leads end up converting.

. those having one video just pop off can be the difference between making 15k and 40k, because I’m pretty sure we would end up in that realm. And for us, that 15k point was actually our true break even. Our Kickstarter, what we set as our costs going into it, what we were sending as our funding goal was for our printing and then the shipping from China to the United States.

That’s where we got our 3, 500 from. And then we were, because we personally invested as a business, as I said, Joe and I have been working together on Fox since, since 2016, we had a nice little nest egg in order to invest in ourselves to do something fun. This was that the extra money that we made off of that is like, Ooh, We get our money back into the account, which is nice.

And we can further invest instead of like having to do other things to help make up for it and looking at our further sales.

[00:16:14] Schofield: Could you do this? Maybe not at the success, but could you, could you make a first game and get us funded on Kickstarter with the zero market spend,

[00:16:23] Tim: Yeah, also, how low was your, like, I’m just kind of curious, like, how low did you set the bars? Like, okay, if we made 7, 000, we’re happy. If we made 2, 000, we’re, because I know some people do, um, very modest kickstarters. And so what would have been the, you would have been happy with

[00:16:41] Hannah: I mean, I, okay, from the cheesy level, I would have been happy if, like, 50 people said, I love your game enough to buy it. That wouldn’t have funded us. So my true, like, financial happiness was, like, we are funded. We can actually pay for the games being printed and shipped over here without investing more into it.

Um, that’s my little happy point. But back to the, um, could you do it on zero, uh, marketing spend. It depends on how much you consider marketing spend. Because if you’re just saying, I don’t want to do ads, I don’t want to do influencers, but I’m willing to go to conventions and talk about my game, I would still consider that marketing spend.

But some may not. But I would think that would be very important if you’re not doing any real digital footprint outside of organic, to get your face in front of people in person then. But you’re still looking at. You know, 80, 100, 200 badges to do that. So it’s much lower than like, you know, 5k between influencers and ads.

[00:17:50] Schofield: But it’s not zero.

[00:17:52] Hannah: right, yeah.

How to get in contact with FoxHen Creatives

[00:17:53] Tim: If anyone wants to learn more about Fox and creative or trash called how can people learn more and get in contact with you?

[00:18:01] Hannah: Yeah, if you would like to learn more about FoxHen Creatives, you can go to FoxHenCreatives.com. You can also find any Trash Cult stuff at Trash Cult Game on pretty much any social, and you are more than welcome to email me and Joe. Just go through the contact form on FoxHenCreatives.com if you need help on marketing or game stuff or you just want to chat, tell us, or cool, you know.

We’ll take compliments.

[00:18:25] Tim: Or request possums or other animals to be. So how many people requested possums? Has it been more than one or?

[00:18:34] Hannah: Oh yeah. There’s, there’s been plenty. Um, as soon as we started running ads, people were like, why is there no possum? And I had, I had to make, I had to make posts showing off the possum card that we have in our deck to be like, look, look, there’s a possum. I swear we, we weren’t like shunning the possums.


[00:18:55] Schofield: I saw you shake some die around, whenever you’re ready, give us that first number.

[00:18:59] Hannah: I got it. Two. I

[00:19:01] Schofield: So you’re playing, so you’re, you’re a physical girly and you’re playing games. Do you prefer theater of the mind or maps and miniatures?

[00:19:12] Hannah: prefer The Mind. Very much, pretty much any Mind games. Big fan.

[00:19:17] Hannah: Do I roll it? Ooh, okay. Twelve.

[00:19:19] Schofield: What is the most usable or enjoyable game? That you could ever played

[00:19:25] Hannah: So, it’s not like the fan favorite game, but based on how my family interacts with it, the most useful game I have in my library to please my family is Garden Bough. It uh, it scratches the itch for people as far as like relatively quick, everyone in the family picks it up pretty well, new user friendly if we got someone that wants to jump in.

Overall, great game.

[00:19:50] Hannah: Uh, seven!

[00:19:52] Schofield: If you could make up any title to give yourself at work or whatever, what would be that title?

[00:19:58] Hannah: Um, my title that Joe sometimes gives me is the Supreme Design Leader, the Design Queen. I mean, all of these, that kind of realm.

[00:20:10] Schofield: like, Hey, yeah,

[00:20:11] Hannah: Yeah, something lofty that I don’t necessarily want other people to call me, but I just want to have. Just for like, My own self.

[00:20:19] Schofield: no, I like it. I’m going to intersperse like chanting now.

[00:20:23] Hannah: You know, it’s very on brand.

[00:20:25] Hannah: Five.

[00:20:27] Schofield: When you make an attack what attribute do you use? Do you use strength, dexterity, charisma?

[00:20:36] Hannah: It’s going to be brute strength. or the other. It’s either I’m sneaking up or like, it’s just in your face.

[00:20:43] Tim: I love that, strength or dexterity, and you’re like, both, I do

[00:20:47] Hannah: Yeah, it depends on the vibe. Ha ha ha ha ha!

[00:20:51] Hannah: Six.

[00:20:52] Schofield: What game is a guilty pleasure?

[00:20:54] Hannah: Uh, I was looking over at my games here. I still, I don’t know if it’s guilty, but like, the family one, as far as like, five crowns? Everyone else is like, it’s five crowns. But I love it. I love five crowns. Ha ha ha it’s not like a storytelling like indie game, you know, like where people are like, it’s not Everdell or,

it’s, it’s, yeah. It’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie. I think.

[00:21:21] Hannah: Did I say seven? I think I said seven.

[00:21:23] Schofield: What is your favorite card game?

[00:21:25] Hannah: Um. Can I say my own? Can I be that, like, narcissistic?

[00:21:31] Schofield: You can, every time someone’s plugs their own game, we have to take a shot.

[00:21:36] Hannah: Yeah, because I get, like, there’s plenty of good card games out there. There’s tons of silly ones, but I feel like if you make a card game, you get to say it’s your favorite for at least, like, six months after it launches.

I haven’t slept in five months.

[00:21:51] Schofield: Oh, this one. I don’t know. Um, what is your gut reaction when you hear the phrase UI slash UX?

[00:22:04] Hannah: Yeah, it’s, it’s fine. I mean, it’s like, I don’t deal with UI UX. I, like, I, I love human centered design, which normally should be related to UI UX. Um, I don’t think a lot of human design ends up in UI UX like it should,

[00:22:24] Hannah: eleven.

[00:22:26] Schofield: What is your genre, like alternate history, sci fi, cyberpunk,

[00:22:31] Hannah: I like Silly Little Animals. I just got Axolotl in the mail from, um, Is it, is it? Yeah, it’s Axolotl with the, um, A X E. I’m excited to play that one. I got Ninja Slothson recently. So like that’s, you know, silly little animals that are doing like, you know, maybe murder.

[00:22:50] Hannah: I’ll take nine. Okay.

[00:22:54] Schofield: In the most dramatic way possible, tell us what your favorite color mode is, RGB, hexadecimal, RGBA, Pantone, CMYK, favorite color mode.

[00:23:06] Hannah: I, I know it’s favorite, but I just got to say as a designer, I cannot stand Pantone.

[00:23:14] Tim: Yes.

[00:23:15] Hannah: Like their level of elitism to own colors, like own a whole color system and then have the nerve to charge Adobe so much that Adobe is like, no, we’re not paying for your colors anymore. And you need this as your industry.

So you’re gonna have to pay extra per month. But anyway, um, RGB is my favorite. The saturation levels normally, even going to print, because every printer has a different CMYK profile that no one wants to give you, so you end up actually reverting back to RGB to a different CMYK, so your colors end up different, whereas RGB Stands true.

It’s, it’s probably gonna print better anyway if you just give them the RGB file.

[00:23:52] Tim: Yeah.

But I just like. Crap on Pantone. I’m here for it. Drag him. Drag a

[00:23:58] Hannah: so much. . They get

[00:24:00] Schofield: because I’m thinking

games, the Pantone hating podcast, boo,

[00:24:05] Hannah: Pantone’s gonna come for me. I’m gonna get like some weird, just hit from Pantone.

[00:24:10] Schofield: You’re going to disappear just like that guy from Boeing. The Pantone whistleblower, gone.

[00:24:19] Hannah: Well, you guys know it’s recorded now. There’s evidence if I disappear after some Pantone trial.

[00:24:26] Tim: We have video that states otherwise.

[00:24:31] Hannah: Uh, I got seven, which I think I’ve had. I’m not sure.

[00:24:34] Schofield: Oh, well, we just go to the next one are you a Paragon or a Renegade? When you are choosing your own adventure, playing a game, do you take the moral path and you treat people well? Or do you, Punch people like, and, uh, like, are you, are you, are you the bad guy?

[00:24:51] Hannah: Do I like the people I’m playing with? Because I’m much more likely to punch the people I like.

[00:24:57] Tim: There

[00:24:58] Schofield: That’s interesting.

[00:24:59] Hannah: Like, I feel like they can take it. Like, they understand that I’m doing it with love, and not just because I can.

[00:25:05] Schofield: What is the most overrated game?

[00:25:09] Hannah: This one’s a hard one for me because normally I’m the type of person that will make a claim for Cards Against Humanity, for Monopoly, because I think any game has the power to bring people together. Which is the whole point of playing games.

[00:25:26] Tim: I agree.

[00:25:27] Schofield: boo, create drama, boo.

[00:25:30] Hannah: but, um, you know, I’m not the biggest Everdell person. I think there’s, yeah, I just, I get a little bored and I

[00:25:43] Schofield: never show your face at PAX unplugged.

[00:25:46] Hannah: I know I’m going to be there

[00:25:47] Schofield: the Everdell conference.

[00:25:49] Hannah: I know, like it’s, it’s fine. It’s just not my favorite. I, I, it’s great for people that love it. I own a copy. I’ve tried to get into it. It’s just not my thing. Yeah.

[00:26:01] Tim: I would never own it. Not my thing either, you know? But I, I can respect its beauty and its size and its architecture and everything, but I, I, um, I’m not gonna buy it . It’s not gonna be added to my collection, so,

[00:26:15] Hannah: I respect the product and marketing prowess behind that brand. I mean, the level of expansions that they have come out with and been able to sell. Kudos.

[00:26:25] Tim: All right. The final question. The ultimate question.

[00:26:29] Schofield: Roll the die and then say one, whatever it is.

[00:26:33] Hannah: One.

[00:26:36] Schofield: We’re all sitting around the table. We’re playing this like narrative, dark game, a cloud moves across the sun and everything gets a little darker. The camera turns on you and you just rolled a one. You have just failed your last death save. You are dying. What are your final words?

[00:26:56] Hannah: It has been a great adventure with you all, but I think death is my next exciting adventure. Go on without me.

[00:27:05] Schofield: Death is the greatest adventure.

[00:27:07] Tim: That’s good. That’s a good one.

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