The successful use of consumer-generated advertising in content marketing Revealing the secret formula of GoPro

Written by Anonymous

Entering the next stage: consumer-generated advertising

“People remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see and 70% of what they see and hear” (Knight, 2013). When it is the case of reaching the next stage of content marketing, video is the buzzword of user-generated advertising (Trimble, 2014). With the emergence of free video-hosting platforms such as YouTube, individual consumers can create content about the companies and brands they love, dislike, or just want to comment on (Campbell et al. 2011). As a consequence advertising cannot be fully controlled by marketers resulting in a shift in power from the marketer to the consumer (Labrecquea, 2013).

Unfortunately far too few businesses are aware of the value of audiovisual content created by consumers. GoPro, maker of the leading portable adventurous cameras, has redefined user-generated communication by letting customers create their advertisement. But are all forms of consumer-generated advertising a valuable form of content marketing? In this post you learn about the secret formula of GoPro and the different forms of consumer-generated advertising!

The case of GoPro

                   Image 1 & 2: GoPro HD Hero2 Campaign (Source:


GoPro was founded in 2004 by Nick Woodman (GoPro, 2014a). He had the mission to find a better solution for documenting and sharing his personal sport experience by selling small high-performance cameras and accessories.

Fast forward 11 years it is one the best-selling camera in the entire world, reporting revenues of $633.9m in the fourth quarter of 2014, an 75% increase in sales compared to 2013 (Dredge, 2015). The success story of GoPro has risen to unparalleled headlines regarding consumer-generated advertising in the context of content marketing. “They don’t just sell a video camera, they sell the memory of the wave or the ski trip down the slope,” says Ben Arnold, a consumer technology industry analyst at The NPD Group (cited in Murphy, 2014). 

YouTube is their key of success. With approximately 300 hours of uploaded videos each minute YouTube has developed to an enormous site within online-video platforms (YouTube, 2014a). Users can subscribe to channels, publish their own videos or comment on existing posts. Textual content is translated into moving images offering a variety of participatory opportunities. Within GoPro's YouTube channel, consumer-generated advertising has become the ultimate tool referring to their integrated content marketing strategy. After launching its YouTube Channel in 2010 the company was ranked number one brand channel by the YouTube Brand Channel Leaderboard in March 2014 representing a number of 2 million subscribers (Sloane, 2014). 

GoPro: The Pro of consumer-generated advertising

In the end of 2013 the Go Pro marketing strategy was completely redesigned (Watt, 2014). That means instead of dedicating large amounts of marketing expenditures to trendy promotional video productions, GoPro was handing over the power to customers. Dornbusch, GoPro's senior director of content distribution, realized that the high-quality stunts and breath-taking video clips generated and uploaded by users were superior in entertainment compared to the company’s produced ones (Landau, 2014). In order to enforce this consumer engagement, GoPro regularly gets involved in discussion on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter providing meaningful content for their target audience. Furthermore, GoPro uses celebrity endorsement by partnering with famous athletes in order to provide an authentic content (Watt, 2014).

To put it in other words: GoPro practically relies almost entirely on consumer-generated advertising in order to tell an engaging story within their content marketing strategy.

The buzz about consumer-generated advertising

The emergence of the Internet and social media have challenged marketers role of producing and distributing messages (Hautz et al., 2013). Today consumers are empowered to create or share user-generated content by producing intended or subconsciously promoted information about products and brands (Cheong and Morrison, 2008).

As a result, the traditional one-way communication triggered by companies has been replaced by a participatory co-creation. Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker & Bloching (2013) describe this new marketing environment as a Pinball system by underlining the active consumer role in combination with a high degree of network-like connectivity.

And yes, this has tremendous impact on marketing. The constant creation of information and content for a well-defined audience is the main aspect of content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute (2015) “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” 

Building on this development the concept of user-generated content (UGC) which describes a variety of created and publicly disseminated content published by individuals outside of professional routines has emerged (OECD, 2007). A related type of generating brand-related content is the advent of consumer-generated advertising (CGA). According to Berthon, Pitt & Campbell (2008) consumer-generated ads are created advertising messages by users which are publicly communicated capturing well-known brands. This advertising oriented perspective is enlarged by Ertimur & Gilly (2012) defining user-generated ads as a combination of advertising and word of mouth (WOM) communication. Within their work they stress the fact of ad-like peer-to-peer communication which is similar to electronic WOM but includes impressions of conventional advertising.

Berthon, Pitt & Campbell (2008) distinguish between three types of consumer-generated ads which may lead to different managerial marketing recommendations: 

The Hobbyist Ad, which is often produced by tech affine and creative consumers is the first type of consumer-generated advertising. It is based on high levels of consumer involvement and fun triggered by the process of producing an ad. If the message is based on positive connotations in regard of the brand, marketers should acknowledge it or promote. 

Secondly, the Me Ad represents a form of self-promotion using high profile brands like Apple. Often this form of advertising is used to get the attention for potential corporation and partnerships between consumers and companies focusing on the creator rather than the brand. In case of this, marketing managers should be indifferent, not mentioning anything.

Thirdly, the Activist Ad, often aimed at a specific issue-brands accompanied by a sharp humor may create a potential risk for marketers. Given the different forms of issue brands, marketers’ responses should be adaptive. Disruptive ads should be disapproved or actively defended. An example of an activist ad is the Boycott Procter & Gamble, a campaign against animal experiments (YouTube, 2014b).


Hobbyist and Me ads at GoPro

Within the content marketing strategy of GoPro hobbyist and me ads can be detected.

Hobbyist Ads: Tech-savvy athletes and sports enthusiasts create and share their own experience and passion about their sport activities in behalf of the product GoPro (Bobowski, 2014). They are interested in exploring the GoPro camera by producing breath-taking videos. Given the enthusiastic tone of the audience, GoPro is levering consumer-generated advertising to the next level by empowering their customers to publish their experiences. GoPro continuously searches for content to reshare on their on YouTube channel (Honigman, 2013).

Me Ads:

Additionally, some GoPro customers are eager about the opportunity to become the next GoPro super star within the community by creating and submitting extreme videos. In regard of this GoPro gives them a self-promoting platform in order to be part of their brand story. By hosting contests and giveaways that require content creation as a means of entry, users have to submit pictures, videos or artistic forms of content that in someway include the GoPro brand in order to succeed (Honigman, 2013). Prizes range from camera-related accessorize to monetary incentives (GoPro, 2014b). 

As a result an estimated amount of 6,000 videos shot with a GoPro Camera are posted every day with people displaying themselves while mentioning the company's cameras motivated by the opportunity of being the next GoPro hero (Landau, 2014). 

To sum up, by letting users generate content in combination with supportive activities initiated by the company, they build up the backbone of the company’s own content strategy (Honigman, 2013). This success story is smashing but leads to the question if brands in general should follow GoPro’s example by empowering their audience to become co-advertisers.



User generated advertising, not everyone’s fit!

The above mentioned framework by Berthon, Pitt & Campbell (2008) is intended to help marketers to manage the impact of consumer-generated advertising. On the one hand, it helps decision makers to categorize consumer-generated ads and deduce marketing implications. On the other hand, this model highlights the complexity of consumer-generated advertising eroding the traditional role of a marketer. This is particularly true when it comes to the three identified types of consumer-generated ads. Consumer-generated ads aren’t isolated entities, but rather hybrid constructs, which may influence and lead to each other demonstrated in the case of GoPro.

Even if consumer-generated ads about products may trigger higher levels of trust in comparison to corporate sources (Cheong and Morrison, 2008), consumer-generated advertising is not the wholly grail for content marketing in general. Cha et al. (2007) stress the lack of editorial control caused by consumer-generated ads. The plurality of varying consumer-generated contents may lead to brand inconsistency due to the lack of brand-leadership (Yohn, 2006). Furthermore, users don’t have full control over what is published and might be confused, even if a specific ad-related content is declared to be consumer-generated (van Dijck, 2009). 

As a consequence the usage of consumer-generated advertising has to be assessed case by case. Positive consumer-generated advertising can be a key to success but has to be integrated in a firm’s content marketing strategy in order to be profitable.

The next shot of consumer-generated advertising

GoPro is a pro in the interplay between real-live camera experiences combined with digital video content generated by customers within their content marketing strategy. Their integrated approach of consumer-generated ads includes contests, participatory engagement as well as celebrity endorsement. What might have started as a simple adventurous camera, became a leading community bridging the real and virtual world. GoPro follows this path successfully but using consumer-generated advertising in isolation might be difficult.

Due to the complexity of consumer-generated ads and its unpredictable character companies should integrate the voice of the customer, but in a conscious way. 

GoPro, the producer of cameras, and Youtube, a platform for video-based ads, are a perfect couple but can’t be seen as the solution for all companies. In order to succeed consumer-generated advertising has to be seen in the context of every specific industry which may lead to continuative questions.

Further studies could investigate the impact of consumer-generated advertising on non-technical-products. For instance, applying the concept of consumer-generated advertising to luxury brands, which are characterized by high levels of prestige and exclusivity might provide rich insights and a contrasting picture. 








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