GoPro: One of the Biggest YouTube Success Stories Ever

GoPro: One of the Biggest YouTube Success Stories Ever

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I’ve often visited the YouTube Success Stories page looking for case studies that I could use in one of the Mini-MBA classes that I teach at Rutgers or one of the training workshops that I teach at Market Motive. And up until very recently, I’ve skipped over the success story at the top of the page entitled, “GoPro discovers a global audience.” Now, I’d watched “GoPro YouTube Case Study,” which was published April 19, 2012.

But I had never incorporated it into one of my courses because it didn’t have a “teachable moment.” Despite having great visuals, the closest the video comes to explaining the business benefit of using YouTube is at the 2-minute mark when Lee Topar, the director of marketing at GoPro, says, “As our views increased, we immediately saw lift in direct sales.” He doesn’t say how much of a lift GoPro saw.

In contrast, the Rokenbok success story lower down on the YouTube Success Stories page includes a boffo ending right out of Hollywood. I first told the story of how the Rokenbok Toy Company is using YouTube to transform into an online business in ReelSEO back on Dec. 12, 2011. Then, on April 17, 2012, YouTube published the video, “Rokenbok Toys Case Study,” which features Paul Eichen, the owner of the company, who tells Rokenbok’s story better than I ever could. That’s why I’ve used it in marketing courses again and again. And after the video ends, I can reveal to the executives or marketers taking my course, “Rokenbok generates 50% of its customers from YouTube.” Now, that’s what I call a story worth retelling.

YouTube Success Stories

This symbiotic process worked so well that the PR people at Google started letting me know about other YouTube success stories. I’d write about them in ReelSEO or Search Engine Watch. They’d create videos about them. And I’d use these videos while teaching other courses. This series of case studies includes:

This symbiotic process worked fine for seven of the 10 case studies on the YouTube success stories page. But I wasn’t that interested in using “GoPro discovers a global audience” in one of my courses because it lacked hard numbers that I could turn into a teachable moment.

GoPro discovers a global audience

GoPro Goes Public

Then, on May 19, 2014, Reuters ran a very brief story entitled, “Wearable camera maker GoPro files to go public.” I made a note to myself to check out the company’s preliminary prospectus – not because I had any particular interest in GoPro’s initial public offering of common stock, but because I’d worked on the Ziff-Davis IPO back in 1998 and knew I’d find a lot of previously undisclosed marketing information in the prospectus.

GoPro Increases Revenue by 87% Between 2012 & 2013

I finally found the time to do that over the weekend and discovered that I’d been a damned idiot for not writing about GoPro two years ago and I was a doubled damned idiot for not reading their prospectus three weeks ago. Here’s what I discovered: In 2011, the company generated revenue of $234.2 million. In 2012, GoPro generated revenue of $526.0 million. And in 2013, the company generated revenue of $985.7 million.

In other words, I’d skipped over one of the top YouTube success stories because it lacked hard numbers. Damn! Double damn! If only I’d known that GoPro’s revenues had increased 124.6% between 2011 and 2012. Oh, and the company’s revenues increased another 87.4% between 2012 and 2013. Talk about a “lift in direct sales.”


GoPro – Not a Camera Company but a New Media Company!

In the company overview of the prospectus summary, GoPro says, “To date, we have generated substantially all of our revenue from the sale of our cameras and accessories and we believe that the growing adoption of our capture devices and the engaging content they enable, position GoPro to become an exciting new media company.”

Now, I’d gotten excited because the Rokenbok Toy Company was using YouTube to transform itself into an online business. But GoPro is using “leading social networks and content platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube” to transform itself into a media company. Talk about a teachable moment!

GoPro: Using YouTube for Earned Media Success

The prospectus also discloses that “Thousands of GoPro customer photos and videos are shared daily, driving awareness and enthusiasm for our customers’ content, as well as for GoPro’s own brand and products. In 2013, our customers uploaded to YouTube approximately 2.8 years’ worth of video featuring ‘GoPro’ in the title. Also on YouTube, in the first quarter of 2014, there was an average of 6,000 daily uploads and more than 1.0 billion views representing over 50.0 million watched hours of videos with ‘GoPro’ in the title, filename, tags or description.” Now, that’s a story worth retelling.

GoPro’s prospectus also says, “We distribute GoPro programming through what we refer to as the GoPro Network, a collection of GoPro Channels hosted on a variety of platforms, including the following:

  • Facebook: over 7.2 million ‘likes;’
  • Instagram: over 2.0 million followers;
  • Twitter: over 950,000 followers; and
  • YouTube: over 450 million video views, over 1.8 million subscribers and ranked #1 on the Brand Channel Leaderboard for January through March 2014.”

It adds:

As of December 31, 2013, we had not derived revenue from the distribution of, or social engagement with, our content on the GoPro Network. However, we plan to pursue new revenue opportunities from the distribution of engaging GoPro content in the near term. For example, in the first quarter of 2014, we entered into an agreement with Microsoft to develop and launch the GoPro Channel on Xbox Live. We expect to begin earning revenue from GoPro Channel advertising and sponsorship opportunities on Xbox Live and GoPro Channel advertising on YouTube and Virgin America in the second quarter of 2014.

Now, the information in this prospectus is not complete and may be changed. And GoPro is an “emerging growth company” as defined under the federal securities laws. So, potential investors will definitely want to read the “Risk factors” section that begins on page 17.

GoPro: Top YouTube Success Stories Rarely Told

But, internet marketers and video content producers will want to read GoPro’s prospectus because it’s one of the top YouTube success stories that’s rarely been told – until now. As “Welcome To The GoPro YouTube Channel” says, “From the depths of the sea to the edges of outer space, experience life’s most incredible moments as captured by GoPro—maker of the world’s most versatile camera.”

Or, as Nicholas Woodman, GoPro’s Founder and CEO, says:

GoPro helps people capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experiences with others – to celebrate them together. Like how a day on the mountain with friends is more meaningful than one spent alone, the sharing of our collective experiences makes our lives more fun.

All I can add is this: There are lots of lessons to learn from a company that was enabling people to make “mobile videos” years before mobile video apps came along. And there are lots of teachable moments to share with executives and marketers by studying a media company that’s successfully helped its customers put selfies on steroids.


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