Published on 10 Jul 2024

Negative visuals spur crowdfunding

Effect observed for both images with and without people’s faces.


Crowdfunding videos usually depict smiling entrepreneurs pitching their products to potential funders, encouraging them to support their ventures. But could negative emotions in videos – conveyed by scenes with or without people – be more effective at drawing the audience’s attention and raising more funds?

Now, a recent study reports that videos with visuals evoking negative emotions performed seven to eight times better at attracting funding.

In the research headed by Assoc Prof Marilyn Ang Uy and NTU Entrepreneurship Academy Director Prof Foo Maw Der – both from NTU’s Nanyang Business School – the researchers analysed nearly 3,200 pitch videos from crowdfunding platform Indiegogo using machine learning tools.

They observed that videos evoking negative emotions received more funding compared to positive clips featuring human expressions, such as cheerful people, and those without discernible human faces, such as the sun rising.

The researchers believe that this could be due to negative emotions bringing problems to the attention of potential backers, which motivated them to remedy the situation by supporting the project.

The study also found that negative feelings conveyed through human faces had a stronger impact if they were presented in the first half of the crowdfunding pitch video instead of the second half.

Surprisingly, if negative sentiments were presented without human presence, the impact was stronger in the second half of the video and not the first. This suggests the value of reiterating the problem later in the pitch video using non-human elements.


Details of the study were reported in “Visual totality of rewards-based crowdfunding pitch videos: Disentangling the impact of peak negative affective visual expression on funding outcomes”, published in Journal of Business Venturing (2023), DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2023.106318.

The article appeared first in NTU's research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #23, March 2024).