TORONTO – What can a sense of humour, an Internet connection, and a desire to make potato salad for $10 get you in 2014?
Zack “Danger” Brown knows the answer, and it’s upwards of $40,000 in donations from “the Internet,” as he calls his group of donors.
His initial incentives were modest: A pledge of $1 or more earns a “thank you” posted to his website and his vow to “say your name out loud while making the potato salad.”
But things escalated quickly:
University of Waterloo associate professor of English Aimee Morrison said the project is appealing because of its sense of whimsy.
Brown’s spud story caught the attention of local news outlets, Buzzfeed, and grew to Monday’s appearance on Good Morning America. He hosted a Reddit AmA (Ask Me Anything) on Sunday, where he told Redditors he never thought the campaign would go so far.
“$10 seemed like a good, conservative goal. I think the people are responding to the opportunity to come together around something equal parts absurd and mundane. Potato Salad isn’t controversial, but it seems to unite us all.”
Or almost all of us.
Some Kickstarter users expressed dismay that their more philanthropic campaigns didn’t take off, while Brown’s elaborate joke rakes in thousands of dollars.
“Everyone who’s ever had a failed Kickstarter must be LIVID right now. Lol,” wrote user Steve Hanna.
When asked about concerns the potato salad campaign will turn Kickstarter into a joke, Kickstarter spokesperson Justin Kazmark replied their organization is a global community of millions of people who fund projects of all shapes and sizes.
“There’s no single recipe for inspiration.”
Watch a video of Brown thanking supporters for helping him live his dreams:
Lucky for Brown, most users appreciated the humour.
“The genius behind this campaign is that we are funding something completely benign, potato salad. Had Zach (sic) chosen world peace or any other societal issue everyone would have had their own hang up about donating,” wrote Beth Witte.
“Bringing people together on the neutral ground of potato salad is a beautiful thing. He has already done a world of good. I’ll be at the party!”
He compared the potato salad campaign to the Kony 2012 social media campaign that attempted to make “infamous” the war criminal and leader of Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army Joseph Kony.
“And with the Kony video, it’s absolutely no joke, it’s sort of the opposite. It’s really trying to get people to help, to donate, to fight Kony, to raise awareness with Obama and so on, and it reached its goals too.”
Gloor said Brown’s campaign also struck the right audience, suggesting it may not have worked as well in Ukraine or China.
The two facets popped up back-to-back in Brown’s AmA: First, someone asked him to donate the money to charity since it’s reached such heights. Then this:
Whether the campaign brings a smile to your face for its humour, or leaves you feeling empty and worried for the future of humanity, one thing’s for sure: Web marketer Brown has completed a “genius self-brand building exercise,” said University of Waterloo professor Morrison.
“At base, this is mostly appealing in the way that LOLcats are appealing: detached from the concerns of the real world, asking very little of us, offering smiles in return. And of course, the first person to exploit this vein is paid in riches of attention,” she wrote.
“Whether you consider this innovative or deplorable is going to depend on what happens next, to more legitimate funding campaigns.”