GoPro appears to be going nowhere

GoPro continues to freefall. The personal video camera company that made a splash with clever marketing and innovative options is riding the rapids of a long string of bad luck. Now the stock has fallen again, to what CNN calls the lowest level ever. While there was no clear reason – and thus no clear problem – why the stock fell again, this was scant consolation for a company that cannot seem to recapture the magic. How bad is it at GoPro? The company lost more than half its value in 2016, a precipitous drop that, were it one of the wingsuit rides that made the company famous, would prove great, if harrowing, entertainment. Unfortunately, this plummet is nothing but bad.

After being forced to announce plans to lay off 15 percent of its staff last month, the company followed that by effectively shutting down its entertainment unit, a promotional arm of the brand that showcased videos shot on its cameras. That move cut deep because GoPro is trying to live in two worlds as a brand. They want to be a way to capture the action and a way to broadcast it.

This twin vision began right out of the gate when the company set up a YouTube channel to broadcast its customers doing extreme sports and even more extreme sports while wearing their gear. From skydiving to big wave surfing to mud bogging and kayaking, if it looked cool – or goofy – people were filming it and sending it in. GoPro parlayed that endless stream of free media into a massive international marketing campaign. That worked … for a while. Users wanted to be in the video or see themselves in the videos they watched, and GoPro seemed the easiest way to make that happen.

For a few short years, GoPro was the hottest of hot tech commodities. But those salad days didn’t last. The company got too cute with the product line, confusing consumers with too many options and too many upgrades. They ended up flooding the market and competing against themselves. When sales began to slump, the company tried to right the ship, reducing the number of camera styles and sticking with the most popular models. But they didn’t want to miss out on the burgeoning drone craze. After all, this was the company almost assumed to be at the forefront of this technology.

After a lengthy – some said way too lengthy R&D process – GoPro’s Karma drone was released with major fanfare … that quickly turned into massive embarrassment when the drones had to be recalled. Apparently, they were losing power during flight, crashing ruining everyone’s fun. So, the late entry into the market combined with the, relatively literal, failure to launch, combined to bring the company to its proverbial low point. If they want to rebound, they need to find a way to get their customers excited again, because “GoPro” worked best when everyone believed they could.

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