GoPro: When technology goes lifestyle

First, let’s start—as I like to do—with a quote.

Kevin Platshon, digital marketing manager of GoPro, said about his company, “We classify ourselves as a viral hardware company. Every time a piece of content is shared it’s inspiring someone, even if we don’t show the product at all.”

So basically, this guy markets his product without showing it? No wonder he made it to the finals at the first Cojones Awards, a worldwide competition that celebrates the most courageous marketers of our era.

GoPro is one of the most successful businesses of the decade. In 2014, it issued one of the largest consumer electronics IPOs ever witnessed by NASDAQ. Nicholas Woodman, 39, founded GoPro in 2004. Since then, the “world’s hottest camera company”—as it is often called—has developed one strength after the other. Originally selling 35mm film cameras, Woodman ranks amongst the youngest of self-made billionaires in the world.

So what is so new about GoPro? First, the company pioneered offering miniaturized, robust, high-definition cameras, which enabled easy first-person point of view filming and promised a whole new experience. Then GoPro became synonymous with an invitation to “be a hero” and to share the GoPro experience with users from all around the world.

One of the company’s first groundbreaking ideas was to accept losing control of its marketing content, and instead let users take the lead on the brand story. In the first quarter of 2014, the company counted an average of 6,000 daily YouTube uploads and more than 1 billion views of videos with “GoPro” in the title, file name, tags, or description. Those guys know how to make things go viral, don’t they?

Beyond tech

Now that GoPro has proven the quality of its innovative cameras, the brand is trying to position itself as more than hardware.

A year ago, nearly all GoPro videos published on the brand’s channels were produced by its in-house GoPro Original Productions. Now, half of the videos are user generated and the firm expects that proportion to grow. Here’s the virtuous cycle on which GoPro is betting: (1) share user-generated material; (2) make it part of the marketing plan; (3) get new users to feed the conversation. Indeed, GoPro sees social media as a web of connections that can be filled with content that inspires customers to share it with others.

GoPro positioned the brand to serve the customer from the get-go and allowed it to act as a platform. The company realized that users could really create magic. And that’s when the public’s imagination truly took ownership of the brand’s story.

As an incentive, users who contribute to the brand story are gifted with the latest GoPro cameras, which retail for $129 to $499, and accessories to shoot their videos. Of course, the actual filming is left to the user. GoPro makes final edits, including color correction and music, before distributing the video through its channels.

GoPro users might not all be reckless daredevils, performing a backflip on a bike over a 72-foot-high canyon, rescuing deer in hovercrafts on frozen lakes, nor riding great white sharks in the most remote lagoons of this world, but they do share one thing: the hope to live and share extraordinary experiences to pump up an ordinary life. This is the mission of GoPro, and this is why GoPro is so much more than a tech and content brand. GoPro is pounding on the door of the very private club of tech brands that went lifestyle, and the door is about to go ajar.

Since its June IPO, GoPro’s stock has surged 279 percent.