How GoPro Is Transforming Advertising As We Know It

Harnessing content created by the user is not just an affordable marketing strategy; it's also pretty powerful stuff.

GoPro’s rising stock prices after its initial public offering (IPO) last week just go to show how powerful and versatile user-generated content can be.

Some people still think of user-generated content as shaky videos or filtered photos, only good for sharing with family or friends on social media. But that is an outdated concept, and one which GoPro would dispel.

Many media platforms are proving that user-generated content has the quality to captivate audiences. Video cameras affixed to the helmets of skiers, snowboarders, and BASE jumpers generate footage for the slickest television commercials, and Instagram photos from fashion fans are now the center of online catalogues for major fashion brands.

User-generated value

Everyone got a glimpse of the power of user-generated content thanks to GoPro’s recent financial disclosures leading up to its public offering. The company more than doubled its net income from 2010 to 2011 to $24.6 million but only spent $50,000 more in marketing costs to do it, according to Wall St. Daily. And GoPro repeated the feat in 2013, increasing marketing costs by only $41,000, but making $28 million more in net income.

Embedded in those numbers is the multi-million-dollar marketing and advertising value of user-generated content. In place of an art director, acting cast, and team of videographers, GoPro simply hands a wearable camera to an amazing athlete and gets back advertising and marketing gold. Regular customers have become advertisers on a smaller scale, shooting high-quality video, loading it onto YouTube and social networks, and advertising the capabilities of the cameras to friends, family, and complete strangers.

The new media reality

But GoPro wants to be much more than a hardware-maker with a built-in, affordable marketing strategy.

The company wants to evolve into the user-generated media company of the future. And in that regard, GoPro is in the vanguard of a new media reality.

Viewers can tune in to a full GoPro channel on Virgin America Airlines or stream the video through an Xbox. What viewers see when they tune in is one of the most remarkable, branded video experiences available. Viewers get a front seat to the adventures of world-class skiers and snowboarders, BASE jumpers, and mountain bikers, not to mention a whole range of video outside of the world of extreme sports, like a stunning recent video of an African Pelican learning how to fly.

Technological advancements have made user-generated content both compelling and high-quality, and GoPro proves that a tiny camera, in the hands of the right people, can create captivating content that will gain an audience no matter what purpose it is used for: social media marketing, advertising, or television programming.

GoPro is just one high-profile example of this fast-growing trend. Fashion retailers and consumer-packaged goods companies are harnessing Instagram photos, Vine videos, and other forms of consumer content to spread their brand message on television, in online ads, and in marketing material.

User-generated content is the next marketing and advertising frontier for brands. Its wide acceptance is due to the fact that it is both powerful and affordable. But most of all, it is relatable in a way that polished, directed, scripted advertising is not.

GoPro’s valuation is based partly on the high-quality video camera that it makes. But even more than that, investors are intrigued by the potential of the video camera manufacturer to blossom into a full-fledged media company driven almost entirely by user-generated video.

For the brands that are spending big advertising budgets, the ascendance of GoPro is also a reminder of an evolution in marketing that they must adapt to: the attainable and largely untapped marketing and advertising potential of user-generated content.

Kevin Bobowski is vice president of marketing at Offerpop. The company creates a global social-marketing campaign platform that helps audiences connect with companies' brands.

[Image: Flickr user Axion23]

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