GoPro goes big – but is it a marketing necessity yet?

In Insight, video marketing by danny

You may not realise it, but GoPro released its first portable camera – the 35mm “All-Season Sports Camera” – ten years ago this year. To put that in perspective, it’s as old as YouTube, the Kyoto Protocol, and Cheaper by the Dozen 2, when the world came to terms with the fact Steve Martin would never get that ever-elusive Oscar nomination.

The HERO range – the series that started embracing the universal mounts that make the piece of kit truly flexible for most occasions – was launched in 2010, and the company hasn’t really looked back. A combination of weekly “get everything we make” giveaways, an incredible dedication to its YouTube account (three million subscribers), and an ever-expanding range of mounts, models and casings have pushed people into buying it “just because” – myself included.

But is it worth companies getting one – or more – as part of their corporate marketing efforts? We ask this the week that the GoPro once again came to the attention of the general public after a golfer did something altogether unsurprising to his shiny new device:

 

The latest series of GoPros cost anywhere between £250 and £400. That’s not out of any SME’s (or even start-up’s) technology budget, really, especially in a year which – as we’ve discussed – focuses very much on video marketing efforts.

I have a HERO 4 Silver – the mid-range offering with the LED screen on the back. The Black, GoPro’s current flagship model, shirks the miniature display for more power (notably, much better 4K performance). I’m a pretty dedicated amateur photographer and extremely itchy-footed globetrotter who bought the HERO 4 to add to these experiences. On the whole, I love it, but that’s not to say it’s without its flaws.

However much you’re seduced by GoPros, they simply may not offer what you’re looking for. Their beauty – and, sadly, their downfall – lies in the simplicity of the device. Indeed, to get the most out of it, the thing you mostly need to embrace as a personal or business user is your own creativity.

So, with that in mind, let’s strip down the GoPro to its bare bones. At such a low price, why should you not buy one?

They have a pretty horrendous battery life. Everyone who had one before me said “when you get one, get a spare battery, too”. The standard one will last, on average, an hour. Switch it on and off all you like – you’ll go from three to two to one power bar in no time.

It’s just too wide for photos. Unless you love a good selfie, or wide shots of a city square from the top of a tower, GoPro’s photo mode is extremely limited. You think you’ll get a building in the background, until you see the finished result that makes even a distant skyscraper look like a three-story block of flats. You may as well buy a Sigma 10-20mm lens and save yourself £100.

The photo quality’s not great, either. Sure, I prefer using an SLR for photos, but even at a 1/60 shutter speed, you’ll never get rough edges. The GoPro, despite being as HD as you need, can take incredibly-angled shots, but at the expense of noise – almost like shooting at ISO 1600 or higher. Sharp edges can also come out pixelated.

No-one cares for 4K, regardless of how good it is. I know that, in the realms of digital marketing, it’s a bad thing to warn people off pushing technology to its limits now and reaping the benefits of having high standards in the future, but 4K really isn’t a thing at the moment. HD still reigns supreme – even Blu-ray is still only just settling in. Don’t be seduced by 4K’s charms – and certainly don’t use that as a reason to buy the Black for £100 more than the more user-friendly Silver.

Point and shoot may be too simple for some. The range of controls offered by a GoPro is extremely small. Sure, you can change resolution, add a low-light mode and so on, but it still focuses on you pressing the same button to record and stop recording.

You’ll usually get a GoPro option if you’re taking things to the extreme. Last year, I quad-biked across the Mojave salt flats outside of Vegas, skydived over San Diego, and cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge. Outright bragging aside, every single activity offered GoPros for an extra price, and I happily paid. Ironically, I bought my GoPro after I’d thoroughly thrashed the GoPro-orientated activities on my bucket list. Point is, if you’re planning on doing something wacky on a personal or corporate level, you can probably just rent one.

Still, it’s worth looking at a couple of positives before you go back to your personal outlook on the GoPro.

It’ll spur you on to try new things out. I mentioned this earlier, but the GoPro really does make you think of things in a different way. Its simplicity sometimes means just clicking to record, and off you go. It may be on a head, chest or handlebar harness. You may try your hand at timelapsing, or get new perspectives on your city centre with a selfie stick.

…and sometimes, inspiration will hit you anywhere. The GoPro’s super-portability means that even inside its protective casing, it can fit in your pocket. I once attached mine to my selfie stick and filmed ducks having a fight with a swan under a bridge (the ducks rallied, but it wasn’t to be their day. No broken arms, at least), and viewed it all through the Wi-Fi live video option on my phone. Obviously, you can do better than that, but you get the idea.

And it’s about £300 for a good one. £300 really isn’t that much for a company. I mean, why not? Worst comes to the worst, employees can use it in their spare time – and you never know when their inspiration could lead to something better.

The brand-new Session model has just come out, as our golfer found – the positive PR machine at GoPro gave him one for free after seeing his video hit the big time on YouTube. As the simplest, lightest and most flexible camera it’s released, is it the time for you to try something new?