14th of October 2012 – The world watches on as Austrian-born skydiver Felix Baumgartner attempts a world record. Perched 39km from the earth on a custom made hot air balloon, he prepares to jump.
He steps out to the edge of the capsule and jumps.
More than 8 million people tuned in live on YouTube, watching in awe as the skydiver plummeted towards the earth. The live event is labelled one the largest the world has seen.
This mission to the edge of the stratosphere was a Red Bull event. Red Bull advertising was splashed everywhere the eye could see from Baumgartner’s suit to the custom-made capsule he travelled up in. But when Baumgartner stepped off that ledge and began his descent towards the earth, breaking the speed of sound, it wasn’t a can of Red Bull strapped to his head, and it wasn’t a Red Bull camera.
Baumgartner had five GoPro cameras strapped to him as he hurtled his way toward the ground. The world had watched on as yet another GoPro testimonial, another GoPro advertisement, another GoPro marketing campaign unfolded.
A company which started from humble begins on the shores of an Australian beach has taken the content marketing world by storm, and it has little to do with their product. GoPro is not the first company to manufacture wearable cameras, nor will they be the last with Apple, Google and a whole host of other companies beginning to develop products. With competitors coming thick and fast, GoPro needed a strategy that would ensure they remained relevant, and in 2012, from either pure luck or genius marketing, that strategy came.
Through hiring professional stuntmen and extreme sports athletes to show off the capabilities of their small high-performance cameras, and then uploading the videos to the GoPro YouTube channel, the #gopro revolution had begun. In the hands of the right athletes, the footage that was being shot was pure viewing bliss for the weekend warrior, and the thought of filming their own three minutes of fame was too much to resist. Before long, the company had its customers to thank for helping it build a reputation; following the founders’ lead, they began flooding the internet with videos of their adventures. In 2013 alone, users uploaded nearly 3 years’ worth of content featuring GoPro in their title. But what did this mean for GoPro?
Each video uploaded served as a customer testimonial and doubled as practically free advertising for the versatile little cameras. This saw revenue skyrocketing. In 2011, the company generated $234 million US; come 2012 that had more than doubled to $526 million; and in 2013 the company generated $985 million, leading GoPro to go public in 2014 with revenues continuing to rise. It was clear that the content being uploaded was having a direct impact on sales. GoPro now boasts over 3 million YouTube subscribers, making it YouTube’s top brand channel earlier this year.
In hindsight, although GoPro has found a way to profit from the viral craze of its consumers, to date, they have generated basically all of their revenue through camera sales. Looking to the future, GoPro has come up with a way of cashing in on the treasure trove of videos their customers are creating. The company has developed a platform to allow content creators to licence videos to brands and media companies. The platform will see videos find their way into advertisements, with GoPro charging a fee of $1000 US dollars per video for a six-month term. This way, they can ensure the company transforms from a camera manufacturer to a fully-fledged media company.
Through involving their fans in the content curation process, GoPro has created a loyal and engaged audience. The authenticity of its channel allows the viewers to feel as though they have a connection to the brand. User generated content is not as much about the product as it is about showcasing the way your brand fits with your market. By sharing customer content across a range of platforms, from email to social media, you are able to make your consumer the hero. That’s exactly what GoPro has done…. Heck, it’s even their slogan.