Why Restraint Was The Key To GoPro’s Success

The IPO of GoPro this week was an enormous success with the share price jumping 36 percent from its 24-dollar début. This is yet another successful milestone for a company that has gone from strength to strength under the guidance of its self-made billionaire founder, but while many point towards the brand’s over-the-top videos as the core of their success, there is a larger branding lesson to be learned that turns on its skill of restraint.

1. Stay focused on your core audience 
The miniaturized high definition cameras have allowed all manner of action sport heroes to document their most death defying feats. Yet, what GoPro did so well was to remain squarely focused on the most extreme examples of those videos, constantly resisting the temptation to dilute its brand by sharing videos that would actually make its products more accessible to a wider audience. Instead, they focused on their core constituency, those athletes who live on the extreme edge of every sport, and let the natural dynamics of those influencers propagate the brand amongst those who admire them. It was through this dynamic that GoPro brought life to their tagline, ‘Be a HERO,’ because these videos functioned as something to which the everyday athlete could aspire. Too often, we see brands enjoy initial success, then try to capture an ever-wider market share by diluting or broadening their brand voice, only to find that it loses the appeal which ignited success in the first place.

2. Allow your brand to become your customers’ platform 
What GoPro did so well was to position the brand in the service of the customer from the get-go. We almost take these extreme videos for granted now, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that GoPro, like so many other camera or personal manufacturers, must have been sorely tempted to talk about its products and its functions. Instead, it let the product speak for itself by celebrating its customers and allowing the brand to be a platform. In doing so, the company engineered enormous goodwill because customers truly felt that GoPro existed to give them the tool to earn social currency and inspire others by sharing the videos of their extreme activities. So much so, that even to wear a GoPro, quickly became a badge of honor, whether or not that customer was an extreme athlete.

3. Celebrate user-generated content 
The final thing GoPro did so well was to recognize that the true power of social technology is not the ability to promote and sell your product to an individual, but rather to inspire a customer to talk about your product to somebody else. By focusing its brand message on the ability to capture and share a user’s experience, the brand created a seemingly endless stream of content that so many fans wanted to share. In fact, this dynamic elevated to the point where people started to compete to create the most extreme video in their category and we immediately started to see the emergence of top ten lists and global engagement around videos created by GoPro products. That is when the public’s imagination truly took ownership of the brand’s story and these miniaturized cameras became a signature artifact for a life lived at its most outer edge.

It was the combination of these three sound strategies propelling the success of GoPro that captured investors’ imaginations and underscored its successful IPO this week. Every veteran marketer would do well to learn some lessons from the founder of GoPro whose company and product was born out of an authentic commitment to bring new life to sports’ most memorable moments. The company’s focus on celebrating their users’ experiences rather than selling a product is what ultimately drove the success of the company. These dynamics are what continue to distinguish GoPro from a growing crop of competitors who have failed to leverage these powerful human dynamics to build their brand and product success.

Join us Oct 7-8 at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit for two days of hands-on training on social branding, community architecture, and cultural leadership.