Being 'the brand'
And then it struck me: Being "the brand" in a given space is a huge asset. You need to have a great product but you also need to have a brand that stands for the uses of that product and its aspirations. GoPro, whose S1 dropped last Tuesday, does this perfectly with its association with active sports and even its tag line "Be a hero." Even CEO Nick Woodman is an active surfer who embodies the GoPro user. his could also be said of Under Armour in a very similar space.
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We also saw this with Snapchat, where, in addition to the product, the brand of the hip Southern California firm located on Venice Beach allowed it to beat out Facebook's disappearing image competitor Poke. And now, we hear Facebook is taking a second crack at this market as Snapchat's growth seems to be soaring. Even WhatsApp's brand, almost a nonbrand that stood for functional reliability and almost nothing else, played a role in its leadership position.
Many leading companies that come to mind have an element of owning the brand in their given space. Whether this comes as a result of leadership or plays a role in creating leadership is difficult to judge, but there is most certainly a correlation. And it often explains a significant part of the goodwill value that many companies hold on their balance sheets.
With that said, there are key risks in the defensibility of the core product and in the brand's growth possibilities. The first risk is that of the functionality of GoPro being built into phones, as happened with Flip video camera. This is less likely given the durability and housing requirements of GoPro, but it's possible. Who knows how durable cellphones could conceivably get or the housings and mounts that could be built for them.
A larger concern is GoPro's aspirations of becoming a media company. Other than the brand—which is a substantial media asset—I'm not sure of the other leverage points.
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The company could add one-button upload functionality to GoPro camera software so that users can easily send in their content to the GoPro media company for broadcast on TV or the Web. This would make the cameras and software a pipeline for an ongoing supply of extreme sports footage. However, user-generated content is likely to be much less compelling than that of pro athletes and professional creators.