What happens when you shrink an image-stabilised, wide-angle, full HD video camera to the size of one of those disposable cameras you used to get at weddings? A stack of sales.
GoPro is the world's leading 'activity image-capture company'. It's in cars and planes, and on almost anything that moves, including people. If you ski, skateboard, snowboard, surf or skydive, you've probably seen a GoPro mounted on someone's helmet, board or chest.
GoPro produces the HD Hero line of wearable and gear-mountable cameras and accessories, with a stated aim to make it 'easy for people to capture and share their lives' most-exciting moments in high definition'.
Viral by nature
GoPro sold more than 800,000 cameras last year, and people want to share the videos that they create with them. A GoPro video is uploaded to YouTube every two-and-a-half minutes.
Often, people use the brand name in the title. Videos with titles like 'Go Pro HD Snowboarding - Jan 3rd 2011 Amazing Powder Day' create an immediate and positive brand impact. As GoPro founder/inventor Nick Woodman says: 'GoPro is now in the hands of the people, and the people say good things.'
As more people use the word 'GoPro' to describe activity image-capture, it is becoming the de facto generic name for the category. You don't see that brand affinity with equipment from its closest competitor, Contour, or the big names.
Social is 'baked-in'
GoPro has found a way to turn every video uploaded online into a potential ad for its product. It's simple and very smart. On the company's own YouTube page and social networks, it shares 'videos of the week', which highlight content created using its cameras.
GoPro has 3.7m very active fans on Facebook and 312,930 Twitter followers. On YouTube, it has 314,236 subscribers to its channel, which, as I write, counts 174,320,296 views.
One giant leap
Using a chest-mounted GoPro camera, skydiver Felix Baumgartner captured a unique and record-breaking video as he plummeted to Earth as part of Red Bull Stratos earlier this month. As far as I can tell, GoPro did not pay him to use it. The brand knows that enabling unique experiences and creating awe-inspiring content puts it at the centre of the action.
Its product is its marketing
GoPro sells hardware as well as enabling unique content production and distribution. You could compare its combination of high-quality hardware combined with killer software to Apple. I'm not suggesting that GoPro will become one of the biggest companies in the world, but it has certainly taken a page out of Steve Jobs' playbook.
Two ways marketers can learn from GoPro
Make the most of social engagement
Think beyond user-generated content and ask how you can encourage people to interact in authentic ways with your products or services. How can you help them engage with your brand and create interesting outcomes? Market with your customers, not at them.
Seek small groups
Big reach and broadcasting are the bread-and-butter of many marketers. Get your message out to enough people, and you'll find the ones you need. Perhaps one of GoPro's most valuable lessons is that seeking out and interacting with niche groups according to their needs is effective. As most skiers will tell you, vertical matters.
George Nimeh, aka @iboy, is a digital consultant