Thoughts on Stone’s IndieGoGo Campaign and it’s Detractors

Stone IndieGoGo

Stone is fundraising for their Berlin project, and people are kind of pissed

A lot has been said on the recent Stone Brewing crowd funding campaign, and while its unlikely to change a person’s perspective on an issue like this, I believe your stance largely comes down to a few factors:

  1. Your opinion on crowdfunding at large
  2. Your opinion on Stone Brewing
  3. Your definition and beliefs regarding what consitutes craft.

In terms of crowd-funding, I’m a fan of it as long as the campaigns are structured as a direct transaction between the funder and fundee (that can’t be correct English…) Recently, Zach Braff successfully funded his feature film WISH I WAS HERE through a 3 million dollar Kickstarter campaign and received a lot of negative criticism. While many people called foul because he is a multi-millionaire and should be able to fund a film himself, my criticism is more based on the fact that he doesn’t offer a copy of the film to his supporters. My belief is that crowdfunding should resemble a pre-sale, so that people that would be buying this product anyways get to pay for it early and the crowdfund is able to use that money as upfront cash to finance the project. Its a simple transaction, but Braff’s kickstarter campaign polluted that notion, and unless you paid over $100 for the film, you didn’t even get to attend a screening of the film you had a part in financing. This means that many of the supporters of the campaign ended up paying for the film twice, once via kickstarter, and a second time at the point of sale.

I bring this up mostly as a counter-point to what most critics are using for comparision – this godforsaken potato salad crowdfund, which to me is a lazy comparison and an ‘exception’ to the mostly legitimate world of indiegogo and kickstarter. But more importantly, it highlights why yesterday I decided to drop $30 on a special Stone/Baladin collaboration via the indie-gogo campaign in question.

While the initial price of $50 per bottle of a little high for my taste, yesterday’s revisions to the campaign made things much more palatable for me. The reality is, I would likely purchase one of these collaborations if they were released to the public, so the commitment of buying a bottle ahead of time certainly doesn’t rub me the wrong way. With the added perks of discounts at the Stone Bistro and store, I’m comfortable knowing that what I’m getting back feels balanced to what I’m putting in.

For me, the majority of criticism here is based on how Stone frames this campaign, which while it is in alignment with most of the company’s messaging, its also a little disingenuious. Their message is that by buying into this campaign, you are investing in this revolutionary, cross planetary craft movement, when the reality is, you are just pre-buying a beer you would buy anyways, and Stone is going to use that liquid capital to help them build their Berlin facilities more quickly (but, will exist regardles of the success of the fundraising). Is what they are doing insidious? Not in my mind, but the way they are framing it is a little manipulative.

But thats the Stone brand, and if you don’t support that, you don’t have to contribute (but don’t expect me to share my Stone/Baladin Collab with you either!).

There’s a pretty big wave of backlash in general against Stone these days and it reaks to me like they were a once-beloved underground punk band that suddenly hit the cover of Rolling Stone. The people that once raved about this SoCal upstart are now condemning them, and this move to make Stone a multi-national is certainly going to add fuel to that fire. Its going to be up to you, the consumer, to decide whether Stone still fits into your own definition of craft, or if they have become the very thing that they have raged against throughout their entire existence. For this blogger, I tend to believe there’s a number of ways to exist in this industry and with all the concern over this burstable craft bubble, companies like Stone need to expand in order to ensure their own survival.

This is not an attempt to try to get someone to throw down $30 for a bottle of a Stone Collaboration. Its an attempt to reframe this scenario to view it from another point of view. And to do so I think its worthwhile to view it from the following perspective: If Stone just hosted a ‘bottle pre-sale’ on their own site, claiming that it will assist in the construction of their new facility, but did so without the assistance of the Indiegogo framework, would there have been the same outrage?