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GoPro’s Digital Marketing Is Even More Extreme Than You Imagined

An adventurous strategy
  • September 8, 2015, 9:03 AM EDT
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Illustration: Textbook Example

From humble beginnings as a bulky 35mm camera to becoming one of the most successful tech gadgets in the marketplace, GoPro's rise has been as extreme as it's customers' need for adventure—well, except for this guy. Today, the top five best-selling digital cameras and camcorders are all GoPros, according to NPD Group. It's rare that we see a product completely change a category—let alone change how people travel and document their lives—but as one observer wrote last year, "GoPro has gone from being a niche tech brand to an almost unprecedented digital chronicler of life in all its forms."

For marketers, the biggest surprise is how GoPro got to where it is with a simple cross-channel strategy on a shoestring budget. Renowned as one of the Internet's most social brands, GoPro has only spent incrementally: $50k here, $40k there. Yet GoPro dominates YouTube's brand leaderboard, approaching one billion total views. So how did this camera brand get so far ahead of the pack?

GoPro relies on cross-channel marketing to bring together camera-brandishing customers, in-house curators and strategic partners. User-generated content (UGC) acts as the engine that powers the company's marketing, allowing it to easily engage with its massive social following—over 20 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter—like a media company rather than an electronics company. That may seem like circumstantial luck, but there's a lot for marketers to learn from GoPro and apply to their brand's think tank.

Thanks to this wealth of user content uploaded to social media—3.9 years worth in 2014 alone—GoPro receives a remarkable amount of data on its users and products, and relies on this to make channel-specific adjustments. For example, its Pinterest page leads with photos of "Family Time" and "Love", while its subreddit targets a more DIY-inclined audience with tips, tricks and guidance on how to get the most out of your camera. Even with its slogan, "Be a Hero", GoPro capitalizes on an opportunity to cast a wider net, including in its targeting not only the extreme daredevil but also the everyday curious consumer.

"We believe there's a strong correlation between viewership of GoPro content and sales of our products," GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said recently. "We refer to this as our virtuous cycle. Our investments and product development efforts center around reducing the friction associated with capturing, editing and sharing engaging content, which goes on to virally drive awareness of our brand and adoption of our products."

GoPro's stockpile of data has also helped it spread the data love through partnerships with Xbox, Roku, Vessel and Virgin America in-flight. Viewers on can easily click into information about the specific camera used in the creation of a video. Xbox viewers who watch 25 minutes of GoPro videos in an average session can buy cameras and equipment straight from their Xboxes.

Using the most popular and powerful marketing medium to date—consumers are 27 times more likely to click through online video ads than standard banners—GoPro reaches potential customers with a blitz of exciting and engaging content, all amplified by data-informed promotion across social channels. The brand effectively blurs the lines between what's created by them and what's created by their users, resulting in a seamless experience for customers in search of the extreme.   

Check out the entire cross-channel guide to pop culture